In second year, Gyorko practicing patience at plate
Second baseman seeks to balance selection with aggressiveness as maturing hitter
PEORIA, Ariz. -- No one is more aware of the fact that Jedd Gyorko needs to take more walks more than, well, Jedd Gyorko, who is taking steps this spring toward being a more patient hitter than he was a year ago as a rookie second baseman for the Padres.
But there's a catch, Gyorko said.
"Working on being more patient and seeing more pitches is going to be a goal, but I want to keep that aggressiveness. That led to some good power numbers last season. But there's no doubt that in certain situations, I want to see more pitches," Gyorko said.
Gyorko's 23 home runs were the third-most in Major League history by a rookie second baseman. Not bad, considering he missed close to a month with a groin injury.
But Gyorko posted a .301 on-base percentage, and after walking 10 times in April, he combined for just 12 walks over the next four months of the regular season. That was a far cry from his Minor League on-base percentages of .373 in 2012 and .400 in '11.
"I think it's something that will gradually get better," Gyorko said.
Once his groin injury healed, Gyorko fared much better offensively in the final two months of the year, as he posted wOBA (weighted on-base percentage) marks of .356 in August and .343 in September.
"I thought Jedd did a nice job of keeping what he did pretty simple," said manager Bud Black. "There were some stretches in there, some hitless games, a point where he didn't walk in a number of games, where he expanded the strike zone."
So what's a reasonable expectation for Gyorko in 2014?
"His challenge is going to be little more strike zone control without taking away his aggressiveness," Black said. "He'll be the first to tell you he's got to do a little better job of not chasing the ball out of the strike zone, the high fastball. But I see Jedd, as a second-year player, continuing to get better. I don't see him declining."
Gyorko has also been working diligently on his defense this spring, particularly his work with shortstop Everth Cabrera. Gyorko enjoyed working with Cabrera a year ago, even though the two weren't in the lineup together as often as they would have liked.
Gyorko went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin on June 10 and didn't return until July 12. Cabrera missed three weeks with a strained left hamstring between June 19 and July 5. He was then suspended for the final 50 games of the season on Aug. 5 after violating baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"Toward the middle of last season, we were getting pretty comfortable with each other," Gyorko said. "Then I got hurt, he got hurt and then he had his situation and we lost all of that cohesiveness."
Gyorko, who had walked once in his first seven games of the spring heading into Tuesday's game against the A's, is confident his walk rate will increase this season while his strikeout rate -- which was 23.4 percent in 2013 -- will fall.
"I'm making a conscious effort so far in Spring Training to swing at more pitches in the zone," Gyorko said. "I know the walks haven't really been there, but I'm trying to get my timing down. As the spring goes on, I'll try to really focus more on being in the zone."