The Braves and Dodgers have been the premier rivalry in the National League for the last five years, giving us some monumental moments in the postseason, and we got another wrinkle this year in a May regular season series.
A heated confrontation ensued after a Marcell Ozuna backswing connected with Will Smith‘s head. The LA catcher told Ozuna to clean it up because this wasn’t the first time Ozuna’s long backswing hit a backstop. The two met face-to-face at home plate, bullpens emptied, but they were separated without any escalation.
Ozuna said before Tuesday’s contest that he told Smith that he isn’t going to change his swing and that he should just move back. It was met with harsh criticism, but I don’t know how wrong he really is. Is he supposed to change his approach at the plate after a decade in the big leagues? I’m not sure how much moving back six inches affects Will Smith’s game, but that seems like the most logical solution, and the Braves’ veteran coaching staff sees it similarly.
“I used to kill catchers, too.” Kevin Seitzer said, via The Athletic. “I had the same finish (backswing), and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. But you better back up.’ I mean, that’s the bottom line. Guys swing the way they swing; he’s not trying to hurt him. But when hitters have a big finish like that, catchers have got to be careful. I mean, they just can’t get up underneath there to try to steal strikes; they’ve got to be careful and protect their dome and protect their left arm. I used to hit catchers in the elbow all the time.”
The Braves hitting coach noted that Smith moved back during Ozuna’s at-bats.
“He wasn’t leaning in there quite so much,” Seitzer said, via The Athletic. “Anyway, it’s just an accident. It’s a tough deal. But he can’t get mad at Ozuna. He’s just trying to have a good at-bat and doing his thing, and that’s just the way he finishes. (Ozuna) will say, ‘Well, I don’t want to hit the catcher,’ and I’m like, ‘Dadgum, dude, you can’t worry about changing your swing to not hit the catcher. You’ve got to get your swing off. And if you hit him, he needs to back up. That’s not your fault. He’s too close.’”
Braves skipper Brian Snitker went as far as to reveal that the club’s catching coach Sal Fasano instructs his backstops to avoid those big backswings.
“Sal is always moving our guys back,” said Snitker, via The Athletic. “You see a few guys who have that long backswing. They don’t want to hit the catcher; they’re not trying to do that. Like I said, we move our guys back some on a particular hitter. Not many of them, but there are guys that are like that. Rather than get hit, we just move them back.”
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
You must log in to post a comment.