Howard has spent time working with Charlie Manuel during camp. Manuel was brought in as spring training hitting instructor. Manager Ryan Sandberg has noticed the change in Howard's approach already. "As far as making some adjustments there, to really zone in to something that can really be productive for him and a little bit more consistent," Sandberg said. "I think there has been a little tweaking going on there."
Howard apparently has looked different at the plate. His stance has been described as "looser" and his hands are much lower when he starts his swing.
The 35-year-old hit .223/.310/.380 over 569 at-bats last year.
"He's swinging the bat really well," Francona said. "He's under control and he probably has to be (because of his knees). But he's using the whole field. He really looks good."
Swisher has been working with the team's hitting coaches on trying to go up the middle more often. Francona said that strategy has already translated to his batting practice sessions.
Running still remains an issue for Swisher, however. He was able to do some drills on Thursday, but reportedly looked uncomfortable during the session. The club expects he'll be ready for games in mid-March.
Swisher, 34, hit .208/.278/.331 over 360 at-bats last year.
“I think I’m a little more educated about my body,” he said. “He’s given me a program to do -- whether it’s a warm-up every day or a three-day-a-week workout program. Hopefully, that will keep me healthy.”
Morrison is confident he will be a valuable part of the lineup, as long as he can stay healthy.
“Just put me in the lineup every day,” he vowed, “and I’ll produce. It’s up to me to stay in the lineup, but if I’m in the lineup every day, I know I’m going to hit, and I know I’m going to hit well and be a force in the lineup.”
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is optimistic Morrison can reach his full potential.
“LoMo is relatively young as far as active years under his belt,” McClendon said. “He’s still maturing from that standpoint. He’s still learning. I think his ceiling is very high.
“I think, all in all, he’s got a chance to be a guy who can hit 25 home runs for us and drive in 100. He’s a good hitter. He hits left-handers and right-handers. He takes his walks."
Apparently, however, Davis couldn't live with a 2012 report citing the Mets were concerned about his nightlife habits. Davis had to encounter the topic when he met with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle after he was traded last year.
“Clint asked me about it when I first got over there,” Davis said, per the New York Daily News. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what to tell you, but a guy made up an article.’
“He was like, ‘I heard you’ve had issues.” And I was like, ‘Issues with what? I’ve never gotten in trouble. I’ve never gotten in a fight. I’ve never done anything to anyone. Yeah, I’ve gone out and had beers and stuff, but who hasn’t done that?’ I don’t know why I got singled out.”
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Davis at the end of last season he would squash any rumors regarding the issue, calling the report "ridiculous" after Davis proved to be a model teammate in 2014.
Even Athletics manager Bob Melviin said Davis’ reputation in the game is now sound and is glad to have him on the roster after Oakland picked him up in November.
Still, Davis remains bothered the accusations are connected to his tenure with the Mets.
“That’s really the only thing that I still have a dirty taste in my mouth about," he said. "Because everything else, you could see it in numbers. What, am I going to argue? I didn’t play well. But as far as calling me out for drinking problems, and being a bad influence -- that was a joke. It’s ridiculous. But you can use it as a learning experience: You can’t trust people.”
"They told me I'm going to be playing more first base," Encarnacion said, per MLB.com. "I've worked hard this offseason [because] I knew I'm going to get more time at first. But I'm ready for whatever they need me, if they need more at first base, or if they need me at DH, I'm ready."
Encarnacion was plagued by a quad injury in the second half of the 2014 season. He put a lot of work in this offseason to help improve his durability, and he hopes the added effort will pay off.
"I worked a lot on my back and my stomach because I know have to get it stronger to get my back right," Encarnacion said. "And working a lot with my leg. Right now I'm 230 [pounds], that's where I want to be, under 230, that's when I feel good and I can be away from the injuries."
"I've toyed with how different things might shake, but it's hard to be presumptuous because we have a few positions where we don't know who that will be," Molitor said, per MLB.com. "It might influence what happens. I don't think he's going to have to worry about being anywhere on the backside of three.
"We have some people who can do things at the top of our lineup with Brian (Dozier) and Danny (Santana) up top. But I'm going to try to give some guys different opportunities to hit in different spots just to see how it goes. I think as we get to closer to the end, I'll have more of an idea of who I want to hit where."
In his career, Valencia played left field in only five games in the minors. Colabello has logged 30 career games in the majors at left field.
"I don't want him to show it more. I want him to execute it more," Matheny said. "He showed it. It just wasn't very effective. He's going to have to lay it down and lay it down fair.
"The guys have to buy into it. If he wants to keep hitting into the shift, don't try to beat it. The only way to beat it is what (Cubs first baseman Anthony) Rizzo did to us. He's got to make us think when he says, 'I'll take a single all day long.' It's smart, in my opinion.
"He's got to be confident. He worked a lot last year. We'll continue to work on it this year to see if he can become more comfortable with it."
Manager Terry Collins said Duda will not swing for at least a week. He has done fielding drills all week.