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Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jason Botts
When the 2006 season came to an end, slugging switch-hitter Jason Botts was slated to step in as the Rangers' full-time designated hitter in the 2007 season. Over the offseason, the Rangers signed Sammy Sosa to a minor league contract, setting the stage for a spring training battle.
Sosa went on to have a phenomenal spring training, hitting .408 with five home runs in just 17 games. Though Botts also performed well, going 13-for-38 at the plate, the left fielder was optioned back to Triple-A Oklahoma just before camp broke.
Beginning his third season with the RedHawks, Botts decided to make some adjustments in order to become a better all-around hitter. Though the 26-year-old struggled at the outset, hitting just .200 with one home run in 24 April contests, he has performed extremely well since.
The left fielder has hit .370 with 26 doubles and 10 home runs since the season's first month. Currently hitting .320 on the season, Botts is leading the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in doubles (32) and walks (60). He is also fourth in runs batted in with 65.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Botts at the end of Oklahoma's last homestand, shortly before his current home run barrage.
Jason Cole: Where you disappointed to start the season in Triple-A again?
Jason Botts: Going into spring training obviously my goal was to make the team and play in the big leagues. That's still my goal. I took it as an opportunity to work on some weaknesses of mine, so when I get back to the big leagues I'll be a better all-around player.
Cole: There has been a lot of talk about the changes you've made to your offensive game. Can you talk about what you've done?
Botts: When it comes down to the swing aspect, it's not too much different. It is more my timing and my rhythm. I used to get down really early, almost too early sometimes. It made my swing a little long. Now I'm just trying to get down a little bit later and I added a leg kick to take up some time. It makes my swing a little shorter and I'm able to get to more pitches.
Cole: Whose idea was it to make those adjustments?
Botts: When I found out I was coming here, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to do some things differently and approach the game differently. That was just one of the handful of things I wanted to do differently and everything has been going really well.
Cole: Have any coaches been helping you work on it?
Botts: Everybody has really helped me out. They've been patient, especially through the month of April when things got off a little slow. The whole coaching staff, including all the roving coordinators that come into town, have been very helpful. They've offered suggestions when I was ready to hear some. I really have to thank everybody.
Cole: When did you start making the changes?
Botts: It started in the last two or three days of spring training. Coming into the season here, by no means had I made any strides in getting better at it. Even though I finally feel like I'm getting comfortable doing it from the left side of the plate, right-handed has been going very well for a long time. I finally feel like the adjustments I'm making are starting to kick in left-handed.
Cole: You've hit a lot of doubles this season but your home run numbers are a bit down. Do you feel that's from the changes you've made at the plate and do you think you'll get it back?
Botts: That's just the timing of being able to catch the ball in a little bit deeper spot and being able to get it up in the air. It is something that I feel like will really start kicking in very soon from the left side. I might not hit as many as I have in the past, but there's going to be a good stretch where I get things going. Hopefully I'll be able to get to the big leagues and hit home runs up there. I know going into next year, all these sacrifices will start kicking in.
Cole: Do you feel the changes will help you make more contact?
Botts: It's already starting to show that. I know my strikeout numbers are still pretty high, but over the last four-to-six weeks the walks have definitely been more than the strikeouts. Being a power hitter, strikeouts are kind of ok, but I want to be a good hitter as well. I think eliminating some strikeouts and getting some extra base hits is definitely helping.
Cole: You're hitting .390 with runners in scoring position this year. Do you change your approach in those situations?
Botts: I'm pretty much just thinking I need to do whatever I can do to get the runner in. People talk about the home runs being down, but at the same time, I look at it as my job and my responsibility on the team is to drive runs in and score runs. That's what wins ballgames. Home runs are great, but at the same time, I feel like I've done a great job of driving runners in and that is basically my job. I feel very comfortable up there with runners in scoring position and I'm glad I could do a good job of it.
Cole: There are currently a lot of rumors about Mark Teixeira possibly getting traded. If he does get traded, is there any chance you could move back to first base?
Botts: As far as what I've been told, it is not really a possibility. You never know until it happens, but I'm starting to feel really comfortable in the outfield and I'm still getting a lot of time at designated hitter. It sounds pretty easy, but it's mentally challenging to just sit in the dugout and then walk up there four times and try to hit. I even take the DHing here seriously as far as looking to improve upon it. Whatever happens, happens. I've been bounced around a lot and if it happens again, I'll deal with it then.
Cole: You mentioned your defense in the outfield. Can you talk about how your defense out there has developed since moving there last year?
Botts: It is funny because I've kind of been labeled as a bad defensive player. It's something that I think was true early on. In baseball, labels are very difficult to break. I feel like I'm very comfortable out there and I'm very confident for the first time this year. Hopefully people are taking notice and I'll get more opportunities out there.
Cole: Would you rather play in the field or be a designated hitter?
Botts: Definitely playing in the outfield. I've always enjoyed being a baseball player and that's the total package. My opportunity to get up to the major leagues might be as a DH, but I definitely want to make a career somewhere in the field.
Cole: Are you happy with your season so far?
Botts: Definitely. I think I've made a lot of strides towards where I want to be. I took this opportunity of being in Triple-A again as a chance to fully become the player that I want to be when I get up to the big leagues. I'm well on my way to getting there.
Cole: Do you have any goals for the rest of the year?
Botts: Just to keep making progress on what I'm doing. I have a clear vision of where I want to be and how I want to feel and I feel awfully close to that. I'm sure when I finally get to what's in my vision, I'm going to want to step up the bar. I think that's how baseball is. You're always trying to improve yourself. I've spent a lot of time with Michael Young and that guy has done so many unbelievable things. Each year he raises the bar on what he wants to do and what he wants to accomplish. That's kind of how baseball is.
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