BRADENTON, Fla. -- He's added a leg kick and made a subtle change in his hands in terms of a more efficient path to the ball, and already outfielder Jake Marisnick is seeing results. Marisnick walloped his first homer of the spring in Sunday's 11-8 win over the Pirates at McKechnie Stadium, turning on an inside pitch and lofting it over the left-field wall.
The early returns are good, but an improved Marisnick at the plate could be a dangerous weapon for the Astros. He already is blessed with speed, terrific defensive skills and arm strength -- he threw out a runner at the plate in the first inning -- and offense remains a work in progress.
• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs
"I don't think a year ago I'm able to get to that pitch," Marisnick said of his homer. "There's a lot of stuff I've been doing with [hitting coach Dave Hudgens and assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell] and they've been big. I've been working hard and trying to get it to translate right."
Marisnick, 25, started on Opening Day for the Astros last year and wound up hitting .236 with nine homers, 36 RBIs and 24 steals in 133 games. He hit .379 with a .422 on-base percentage in April and later took his knocks at the plate. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Marisnick's timing is noticeably better.
"He's doing his leg kick and getting into a hitting position at a good time to be able to read the pitch a little bit," Hinch said. "So it's good to see he gets rewarded. He's in the middle of trying to fight for playing time a little bit, and he's not taking camp too lightly, but yet he's trying to nudge himself forward a little bit offensively. That was a good reward for him for a lot of work that's gone on the last couple of weeks."
Cracking the Opening Day lineup for the second year in a row figures to be a tough task for Marisnick after Colby Rasmus re-signed, but he figures to get plenty of playing time, especially if he starts hitting more consistently.
"You've got to make sure you separate the work so you know what's translating, so I know I'm not thinking about my swing and not thinking about where my hands are," Marisnick said. "I just have to think about where the pitch is."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.