Story showing improvement at the plate

Story showing improvement at the plate

DENVER -- Mired below the Mendoza line and perhaps with aspirations of matching his meteoric rise in 2016, Trevor Story was candid about his recent stint on the disabled list, saying it offered "a little mental break" that allowed him to hone his preparation with patience.

Story went 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored in Tuesday's 10-4 loss to the Mariners, elevating his average to .201, his highest since the opening series of the season in Milwaukee. He's now 7-for-23 with three doubles, two homers and just five strikeouts to go with four walks since coming off the DL.

"I feel more in control of myself, more balanced," Story said. "My BP has been better. My cage work has been better. I'm confident in that. It carries over to the game for sure."

While shelved, Story kept his preparation consistent, with the focal point of finding more balance in his stance. Hitting coaches Duane Espy and Jeff Salazar diagnosed a direct correlation between Story's struggles -- he had a National-League worst 48 strikeouts when placed on the DL on May 11 -- and movement with the shortstop's head through his swing, which in turn, thwarts his timing.

"Everything speeds up and then it, for lack of a better term, becomes guessing," Salazar said. "You hope that a pitcher leaves a hittable pitch in a good spot, whereas curveballs and changeups, you find yourself chasing them more because you're forced to make a decision on a pitch a fraction earlier, or a little bit late on a good fastball. So you get caught in between."

One telling trouble was Story's 21.7 swing-and-miss rate on pitches inside the zone at the time he strained his shoulder on a check swing against the Cubs on May 9, which was the second-highest in MLB at the time, according to Statcast™.

That lofty miss rate also indicated Story was identifying strikes, but may have mistimed them on his stroke. However, adjusting swings at the big-league level is "like the fifth or sixth thing down the list of things" to tailor, Salazar says, because it's what got that player to the Majors.

"You don't tinker with that," Salazar said. "You don't try to reinvent the wheel when it's already working. So you usually start with a mental approach."

Entering Tuesday, Story had a 10.9 percent swing-and-miss rate in the zone since coming off the DL. For context, that mark tied teammate and NL Player of the Week Charlie Blackmon for that same period, 115th in MLB among 225 batters who had seen at least 25 pitches in the strike zone. Story swung and missed at just one of the 15 total pitches he saw against the Mariners.

"Mentally, when you see that, that's a good thing," manager Bud Black said. "I think where he is in the batter's box, as far as his stance, his setup, what he's doing after working with Duane and [Salazar] on some things, he's in a better spot."

And Story's burgeoning self-assurance is resonating with his coaches.

"I'll take a bad swing from a guy who's really confident over a really great swing that doesn't trust it at all," Salazar said.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.