CINCINNATI -- Earlier this season, before his 17-game streak of reaching base had begun, Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno's approach at the plate would change constantly each time he stepped into the box.
With Cedeno's batting average dropping -- it got as low as .203 earlier this month -- Pittsburgh's coaching staff knew a change needed to be made. Enter hitting coach Don Long, who taught Cedeno a new tactic to employ during his at-bats.
"Donny has been trying to get him in a more solid position at the plate, in his set-up and the way he goes to the ball," Russell said. "Ronny had a tendency of changing from at-bat to at-bat and sometimes pitch to pitch. He'd put his hands different or put his feet different and was just very inconsistent.
"They've worked really hard on trying to find that one setup, that one approach where he sees the ball the same way and his approach to the inner-half and the outer-half stay the same. Instead of having to do something different every at-bat, he's keeping the same approach. Now, his bat head is getting to the ball more consistently. It's really paid off for him."
Since May 1, Cedeno's average has risen 49 points to .252, and during the period where he's reached base in 17 straight games, he's hitting .306 with an on-base percentage of .383. It's clear Cedeno, with his new stance, is feeling more comfortable in the batter's box.
"I'm playing more consistently and recognizing the strike zone," said Cedeno, who was scheduled to bat in the leadoff position Thursday for the first time this season. "Donny is trying to put me in a real strong position to hit with not too much movement. Just right to the ball. That's what he wants me to do, and it's helped me out a lot. I've dropped my hands a little bit and dropped my body down, too. I just go right to the ball and attack the ball."
He's also seeing breaking balls more clearly, and when he's batting with two strikes, he's even more effective.
"All year, he's been very good with two strikes," Russell said. "Whether he's gotten a hit or not, he's really battled. Now, being in a better position, he's not panicking when he gets there. He feels like he's still in it, and that he can still get a hit."