Ian Gac and K.C. Herren helped account for half of West Oahu's hits on Sunday afternoon. Lone Star…
Herren finds comfort with new bat size
Clinton LumberKings outfielder K.C. Herren enjoyed a breakout season in 2007. The Rangers' second round pick in the 2004 draft, Herren had struggled through his first three professional seasons as he was unable to stay consistent at the plate.
The 22-year-old outfielder came out firing on all cylinders with Single-A Clinton this season, as he batted .331 with 21 doubles, eight triples, and five home runs in the season's first three months.
But like many of his Clinton teammates, Herren struggled after the Midwest League All-Star break. The Washington native hit only .214 in July and August, but showed signs of life as the season wound down.
Herren is currently playing in Hawaii Winter Baseball, a league for prospects at the Single-A level. He has appeared in each of his club's first two games and is currently 2-for-7 with a double and a walk.
Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the outfield prospect about his season as a whole, his second-half struggles, and his current role in Hawaii Winter Baseball.
Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your season with Clinton?
K.C. Herren: I was real excited about the way I played, generally speaking. I was a little disappointed about the finish. Down the stretch – July and middle of August – I hit a little rough patch and got a little tired. I fought to find some consistency, but around the last two weeks of the season and in the playoffs I really turned it on. I actually ended up dropping a bat size. That really helped me come around and get going.
Cole: How long did you use the old bat size for?
Herren: I used it up through the middle of July and then I switched. I've been using that size bat forever. But I've never played 135 games before. I think the most I had played was like 89 games or something.
Cole: So you felt the new bat size helped you out as you began to tire down?
Herren: Absolutely. As soon as I made the change I didn't change anything with my swing. But all of the sudden I had the same bat speed and barrel control I had at the beginning of the year.
Cole: Are you planning on doing anything over the offseason or during next year to make sure you don't wear down again?
Herren: The weight training program really comes into affect there. You've got to do a better job at trying to make your body last a little longer. It comes with getting to play that many games too. You learn to pace yourself a little bit better. If you're not tired at the end of the year – if you don't have some little nagging injury or whatnot – you probably didn't play hard enough. You've got to get accustomed to wearing down and try to limit the strength loss and deterioration of your body in offseason weight training.
Cole: Are you still using the lighter bat in Hawaii?
Herren: Yeah. I'm probably not going to use the bigger bats until I go back to spring training. If I just feel better with the lighter bat then I might just stick with them.
Cole: Did you feel the bat size was the only reason for your second half struggles?
Herren: I racked my brain and I was thinking there has got to be something wrong with the swing. I'm kind of a technician when it comes to that. But I really don't believe there was. I truly believe that my legs got tired and I just couldn't carry the bat the way I had at the beginning of the year. I think that paid a major toll on why I scuffled in July and August.
Cole: Despite your average being down, you walked quite a bit more and struck out a good deal less in the second half. Did you feel that was a reason for that?
Herren: I would probably have to say the consistency of Mauro Gomez. In reality he was hitting behind me for awhile and people didn't want to pitch to him. I got a lot of pitches during that month. I didn't take advantage of it as much with putting the ball in play and getting hits, but it made it so I could be more patient, look for better pitches, and put more balls in play. On top of that, like I said, you just get into a groove where – I wasn't taking bad swings – but my bat was a little bit slow and so I wasn't putting it in play the way I wanted. I was still making contact and really cutting down on my strikeouts, but I didn't come up with a lot of hits.
Cole: Were you working on anything at the plate during your time in Clinton?
Herren: We didn't adjust too much after the first month. It was little stuff here and there in terms of getting your balance and getting timing correct, but there was not much tweaking of the swing. There was a lot of theoretical stuff, a lot of pre at-bat stuff. Those were the only changes we would make – going in with a plan, staying inside the ball the other way, and things like that, but nothing real mechanical.
Cole: A lot of guys talk about how much [Clinton manager] Mike Micucci helped them, especially in the field. How do you feel he helped you in the field this season?
Herren: I think the biggest difference Mike makes is pre-pitch preparation, pre-game preparation, and being ready for every scenario. Just being prepared before things happen so you have an idea of what you're doing. We took infield and outfield more than I ever have in my life and my arm felt stronger. That's kind of his thing with four or five days per week of going out there, getting the arms cranked up, and making a lot of throws from the outfield. I think that helped me tremendously with my throwing. I had struggled with that in past years.
Cole: What are your impressions of Hawaii Winter Baseball so far?
Herren: It's tough to say, I've been here for five days and we've played two games. It is nothing short of paradise, but the competition is fantastic. It's like playing in an All-Star game every day. It's really exciting getting to face guys – especially guys you would never play until you made it to the big leagues because their team doesn't have teams in your league. Like the Yankees aren't in the Midwest League, things like that. It's a lot of fun. What's also great is getting able to play with players from other teams and get experiences and trying to get a feel for how other organizations like to do things. Everybody's got their own little quirks, dress codes, and rules. You learn about a lot of other organizations this way too.
Cole: Are there any coaches there from the Rangers organization?
Herren: Yeah, Scott Coolbaugh is here. He was the Double-A hitting coach this year, at Frisco. He is the West Oahu CaneFires hitting coach, so he's the hitting coach for our team.
Cole: Had you ever worked with him before?
Herren: I met him briefly in spring training, but I've never worked with him before.
Cole: Have you had a chance to work with him since you arrived in Hawaii?
Herren: This league isn't really about fine-tuning, getting work in, early work, tee work, and all that stuff. It's more about game preparation, pre-game prep, going out with a plan, and just competing. He has mentioned some stuff in terms of a plan at the plate, but we really haven't talked mechanics at all. This is not the venue – I guess you could say – for that type of instruction.
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