MILWAUKEE -- The Big Piece has made a rather big change to his hitting mechanics.
Ryan Howard’s hands were noticeably lower in his batting stance during Monday night’s game against the Brewers at Miller Park.
Howard contributed an important RBI single in the third inning of the Phils’ 3-2 win. It was just his second RBI in the last 18 games and it helped the Phils win for just the second time in the last 11 games.
“It’s a game of adjustments,” the 34-year-old first baseman said after the game.
Howard said he actually used the new hand positioning in his pinch-hitting appearance against Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke on Sunday. He grounded out to first base in that at-bat.
Howard used it in all his at-bats Monday night and said he plans to ride it for a while.
“I guess my hands have crept up over the years,” Howard said. “I think when I first came up, they were lower. It’s a weird feeling but, you know, I’m trying something new. I’m trying to get my hands in the zone faster and keep them in the zone.”
Howard said he tried the new technique on a suggestion from teammate Marlon Byrd, a devout student of hitting.
“I talked to Byrdie a little bit and he kind of noticed my hands were up a little bit and he said, 'Drop ‘em and see how it feels,' ” Howard said. “So I’m dropping ‘em and working on it.
“I’m just working on trying to get my hands in a good slot, get my hands in the zone quicker. If I can get my hands in the that slot or find that happy place then we’ll be able to do some damage.
"In high school, I had them real high. In college, my coach had me lower them. It allowed me to be quicker in the zone. Over the years they crept back up."
Manager Ryne Sandberg said Howard talked about the adjustment with hitting coach Steve Henderson.
“It could help him,” Sandberg said. “It could help him get underneath the ball a little bit more and not be on top of the ball with ground balls so that’s what he’s going for. It could be a good thing for him.”
Howard went on a tear last month and the Phillies won five in a row. But over the last 18 games, he’s hitting just .185 with one double, no homers, two RBIs and a .484 OPS. He has 16 strikeouts and eight walks in that span.
These struggles have led a rather dramatic change in Howard’s setup at the plate.
Will it work?
Time will tell.