Alonso finding his stroke, shakes off slow start

Alonso finding his stroke, shakes off slow start

Alonso finding his stroke, shakes off slow start
PEORIA, Ariz. -- There wasn't a tangible moment this spring when Yonder Alonso's swing came together for him, though the Padres first baseman is quite certain that moment has passed.

He's glad that it has.

After scuffling early, hitting .194 in his first 31 at-bats in Cactus League play, Alonso hit .452 over his next 31 at-bats, with his first home run of the spring in Wednesday's victory over the White Sox.

So what gives?

It's nothing specific that he and hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell have worked on in those morning hitting sessions in the cage. It has nothing really to do with the mental side of hitting, approach and such.

Instead, Alonso said, it's his body telling him that it's time to hit.

"Your body will let you know when it's time to go," Alonso said. "Your body will let you know when it's time to put good swings on the ball, that it's time to have good at-bats. You can sense it coming ... like your golf swing or your basketball shot. You sense that everything is smoother.

"You hope that at some point it will turn."

It certainly has for Alonso, who is pegged to be the Padres' Opening Day starting first baseman. He went into Thursday's game against the Cubs with a team-leading 20 hits and 62 at-bats, tying him for the 10th most this spring among Major League players.

The Padres have wanted him to play a lot this spring, especially against teams from the National League West -- as San Diego will face its divisional foes 18 times each in 2012. Alonso, who spent parts of last season with the Reds, wanted to see as much divisional pitching as possible.

"I think that it's natural for a guy who comes to a new team in a trade that was pretty high-profile trade in our industry to maybe try too hard to impress," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That might have been part of it. He's smoothed some things out now and as each day goes on, he's more comfortable with our environment."

That he was hitting .194 on March 15 didn't faze Alonzo. That he's hitting .452 since then hasn't either.

"I think you can get too caught up in the first 25 at-bats or first 100 at-bats. The bigger picture is the 500 at-bats you get during the season," he said. "For me, I worry about the three, four at-bats I'm getting that day.

"I have high standards, higher goals. It's a long year, man. If I'm hitting .320, I want to be hitting .360."

Alonso said he spent the first part of games in Arizona trying to track the fastball and recognize pitches. Since then he's moved into attack mode, where he's trying to do damage each at-bat.

In doing so, he has shown the Padres what they expected when they traded for him as part of the five-player deal with the Reds in December -- a player who will use the entire field.

"That's what we have seen," Black said. "I do think there are more hits to left field coming. A lot of his hits have been up the middle, to the right side, the right-field line. I do think in time you'll see the opposite-field hit, the ball down the left-field line."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.