Friday, May 24, 2013
By MIKE DRAGO Special to the Telegram
READING, Pa. - Jeremy Hazelbaker took a step back to take a step forward.
Mired in a slump in early July, the Portland Sea Dogs' 24-year-old outfielder went back to the approach that worked for him last season and has turned his season around.
He had four more hits and stole three bases Saturday as the Sea Dogs split an Eastern League doubleheader in Reading , taking the second game 4-2 after dropping the first 6-2.
Alex Hassan and Mark Wagner homered for the Sea Dogs (56-78) in the second game, helping them take three of four in the series.
Hazelbaker homered twice and drove in five runs in Thursday's win over the Phillies (68-66), and homered again in Friday's win.
Hazelbaker went 9 for 15 in the four-game series, lifting his average to .268, nearly 35 points higher than it was when he huddled with Sea Dogs batting coach Dave Joppie and studied video from last season.
They notice that Hazelbaker had opened his stance too much, and had too much movement with his feet. A calmer approach has taken him back to a comfort zone he enjoyed while batting .267 with 12 homers for Class A Salem of the South Atlantic League in 2010.
"I was trying to do a little too much," Hazelbaker said. "I don't know if I was searching for more power or what."
He said as soon as he made adjustments in his stance: "I remembered exactly how it was last year. I knew the feeling as soon as I started taking some extra work and getting back in the hitting position. I got right back into it. Luckily it's proven to work again."
Hazelbaker has enjoyed a torrid month of August. He's batting .349 with five homers and 14 RBI in 21 games, with a .590 slugging percentage.
"Ever since (making those changes) I've been putting some hits together and feeling really comfortable at the plate," he said. "I'm seeing the ball a lot better now. So, it's working out for me."
Hazelbaker was the only batter in the Sea Dogs lineup to enjoy success off Game 1 starter J.C. Ramirez, who opened with four shutout innings before allowing two runs in the fifth, in part because of his own poor fielding.
Ramirez couldn't handle Ryan Dent's squibber back to the mound, letting it roll past him. Reynaldo Rodriguez scored from third on the hit, and Ronald Bermudez scored from second when shortstop Ozzie Chavez picked up the ball and threw it past first base for an error.
After the Sea Dogs pulled within 4-2 in the fifth, the Phillies scored twice in the sixth.
In the second game, Hassan cracked a three-run homer in the fifth, giving the Sea Dogs a 3-1 lead. It was his 12th home run of the year.
Wagner hit a solo shot, his sixth of the season, in the seventh for a 4-1 lead.
The Phillies got to closer Blake Maxwell for three hits and a run in the seventh before he retired the final two batters for his 13th save.
NOTES: Rather than play a split doubleheader, as announced Friday, the Phillies opted instead to play a regulation doubleheader, with games back-to-back in order to avoid bad weather generated by Hurricane Irene. The second game was played in a light rain. ... Reading's Michael Spidale collected six hits, three in each game. ... After snapping a two-season, 11-game losing streak in Reading on Aug. 17, the Sea Dogs closed by winning five of their final seven games in Reading.