Balentien's approach drastically different
Outfielder's pull tendency noticeably absent early in 2009
ARLINGTON -- The scouting report on Wladimir Balentien this season compared to a year ago is noticeably different.The Mariners outfielder has gone from being a pull hitter to someone getting hits to all fields. The run-scoring double Balentien drove into the right-field corner that gave the Mariners a one-run lead in the 11th inning of Wednesday night's eventual one-run loss to the Rangers, was more typical of his new approach. "This is going to make this guy a pretty good player if he stays with that approach," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "[Rangers third baseman Michael Young] does that extremely well." Balentien acknowledged after Wednesday night's game that he was too pull-happy last season during his two stints with the Mariners. "It was tough," Balentien said. "The team was struggling and I tried too hard. I tried to pull everything." That approach pulled his batting average down to .202 and instead of hitting home runs the way he did at Tacoma -- 18 in 62 games -- Balentien hit just seven home runs in 71 games with Seattle. One of the first things Wakamatsu did when Balentien finally reported for Spring Training following a week-long absence because of Passport issues, was plant the thought in the young hitter's mind to hit the ball in all directions. "I have been working on going the other way from the first day of camp," Balentien said. "I see the ball better, so I guess going the other way is good for me. By staying back longer, I can recognize the pitches better." That's what happened in the 11th inning on Wednesday night. "They were pitching me away the entire game and having success," Balentien said. "I was 0-for-4, but didn't change my approach and got a big base-hit that might have decided the game." After averaging more than 20 home runs in each of his past four Minor League seasons, Balentien has plenty of power and could become a 20-something home run hitter for the Mariners down the road. "He has the power to hit balls out to all fields," Wakamatsu said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.