By Steve Hunt/Special to the Journal
ARLINGTON, Texas – After Mitch Moreland hit .377 in spring training, some thought the Amory native would carry that strong form at the plate into start of the regular season.
However, the Texas first baseman struggled, hitting .157 (8-for-51) through the season’s first 17 games.
But while some wondered what was wrong with the former Amory and Mississippi State standout, he knew no changes were needed to his approach at the dish. As long as he stuck with that same mindset, the hits would start coming.
Well, he was right. Moreland was 21-for-52 (.404)in the 14 games through Sunday since his slow start. His average has risen to .282 and his OPS – on-base plus slugging percentage – climbed from .522 to .806 as he stayed the course.
“I stuck with my approach. I stuck with my plan. Just because they weren’t falling, you can’t sit on the results,” he said. “I was doing exactly what I wanted to do at the plate, just wasn’t getting the results from it. That’s where you have to keep your head down and keep working. It’s come back to where it should be.”
Fixture at first
Now in his fourth big-league season, Moreland, 27, has become a fixture at first base for the Rangers and in a sign of his rising stature within the club, his clubhouse stall now sits in a corner reserved for veterans, a space he shares with Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, currently the longest-tenured Ranger, and newcomer A.J. Pierzynski.
He has spent his entire big-league career playing for Texas manager Ron Washington, who he credits for giving him some sage advice earlier this year, advice which has already paid dividends. “He keeps reminding me to have fun because sometimes I get a little too into it and get a little too fired up about it,” Moreland admitted. “And I’ve really tried to approach this year with more of that mentality. I think it’s showed so far. I’ve been out there and had a good time with it. That’s the way I’ve tried to play the game.”
Washington remains among Moreland’s biggest fans, something that definitely came through when asked about his young first baseman. “Well, Mitch is the kind of guy that wants to do well so bad sometimes he gets in his own way,” he said. “I just try to make him understand that this is a game and you talk game, you talk fun. You talk laughter. You talk relaxation.”
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.