TAMPA – Josh Donaldson had his first multi-homer game as a Yankee on Tuesday.
It was something he didn’t accomplish in his disappointing 2022 season in The Bronx, and came during a Grapefruit League game at Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees are counting on more of that kind of performance during the regular season – and the adjustments he debuted Tuesday may be key.
Donaldson and hitting coach Dillon Lawson acknowledged that the 37-year-old had to modify his approach at the plate to become more consistent.
So far, that’s resulted in a more streamlined swing – but both also said Donaldson needs to keep at least some of what made him a feared hitter for most of the last decade.
“It was a grind last year, trying to figure out stuff at the plate and how I needed to move,’’ Donaldson said. “I’ve always moved [during my swing]. I’m a believer in moving in the batter’s box and I had success with that for a long time. Last year, I never got a grip on it consistently.”
There was less of a leg kick on Tuesday, which resulted in a more streamlined swing the Yankees hope lets Donaldson get to the ball faster.
“There’s still movement and he still has his rhythm,’’ Lawson said of the alterations. “He still has all the building blocks that made him the hitter he has been his entire career. It isn’t about changing his identity. It’s trying to ensure that he can get to certain spots more consistently.”
Part of that evolution is getting accustomed to the pitch clock and the different ways pitchers will try to take advantage of the new rules, like using a quick pitch.
Donaldson, who is expected to play again on Friday for the first time since his two-homer game, again declined to get into too many specifics of his new swing, referring to “making it simple.”
“I think if you look at what he did at other points of his career before he got here, some of the movement he had that felt big to him wasn’t quite that big,’’ Lawson said. “But time goes by and maybe the movement does become bigger or other parts of your swing change and now you might be on time, but you’re in a different position and that throws off your swing. We’re trying to simplify things and make them more concise without having him lose who he is as a hitter.’’
One National League scout who has seen Donaldson multiple times this spring – including on Tuesday – said the new swing looked good, but noted that Donaldson also showed signs of power and consistently at times last year, but was never able to maintain it.
Donaldson is well aware of that fact.
And it’s brought him back to something he dealt with during the early stages of his career, when he was sent back down to the minors after starting the season in Oakland in 2012.
He returned to the majors the following season and finished fourth in the AL MVP voting.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve had to figure it out,’’ Donaldson said. “So it’s not something I’m unfamiliar with, it’s just been awhile. I went back to the drawing board and had an honest assessment with myself of where I’m at. It’s in my DNA. I’m not gonna stop until I figure it out.”
“He doesn’t take any of this lightly,’’ Lawson said. “He could have rolled over last year when it didn’t come together. But he’s worked his ass off since he’s been here. Last year, it didn’t work out, but the work he’s put in, it’s got to come together. There’s no way that it won’t.”