Eckstein Excited to Work With Bucs Bats Growth Potential

Pirates hitting coach says Josh Bell has 'huge upside'

Jeff Hathhorn
March 26, 2019 - 5:00 am

93.7 the Fan

BRADENTON, FL (93.7 the Fan) – First year Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein says he’s been blessed to have a very passionate, talented and hard-working group as he has with his new team.  A 12 year coach, Eckstein believes the upside is there for every player to improve.

“Growth doesn’t happen on a straight line,” Eckstein said.  “It takes twists and turns.  You have to know where the player is mentally, physically and emotionally and know when to step in and when to step out.”

Eckstein believes a competitive spirit that is relentless is key to being a good hitter and for the most part he’s seen that with the Pirates.  Saying their comradery is outstanding and that he’s excited to come to work every day.

“Challenge them and try to give them reps as we are competing against each other,” Eckstein said of his style.  “Because I believe that environment is where a lot of growth does happen.  There is a feel good time in the hitting day and there is a get-good time.”

Eckstein said he prepared before their first meeting by studying their careers.  He would then asked them questions and eventually open it up to a conversation.  Eckstein said he’s not trying to flush all they have previously learned, just bring it together to a solid plan and then repeat it, over and over.

That has been a challenge for first baseman Josh Bell-hitting just .200 for the spring with a pair of homers and four RBI.

“Josh is a very talented guy man, his ability and talent scream huge upside,” Eckstein said.  “What we’ve tried to do is get on the same page together, create some common ground towards moving forward.  That starts with positioning in the box, repeating positioning in the box that is optimal for him and then tying in the rhythm and timing component to that.  So that way he sets his body and position in a timely fashion so the repeatability becomes more consistent.”

“I think we’ve seen, in a small sample, some good at bats where he’s been able to do things that he himself will tell you ‘that was it, that’s it, that’s what I’m looking for’.  Now it’s just the work to repeat it.  To understand how a practice setting can drive that nail home even harder.  I feel really good about the page he is on and the growth that we are looking forward to seeing.”

While Eckstein believes his previous work as a strength-and-conditioning coach, he understands how to create leverage and tap into more power.  The Bucs best power bat likely comes from Jung-Ho Kang, who has six at bats in the last three MLB seasons.

“He’s a very talented young man that has missed some time,” Eckstein said.  “Making that time up in the box, for most, is going to be challenging.  The way he has gone about his day and his preparation has been very good.  He’s really been very open to a good dialogue to push himself to make up for some of that lost time.”

“In the end, I think everyone sees the power he possesses.  As he continues to get more and more comfortable in the box, he will allow himself to position himself to be himself.  That is what we are working towards, that comfort level that comes with at bats.

Eckstein also has a sounding board in his brother, two-time All-Star and World Series MVP David Eckstein and Clint Hurdle, who spent many seasons as a hitting instructor himself.

“Having followed his (Hurdle’s) career for many years, especially his time as a hitting coach,” Eckstein said.  “I bounce things off him.  I tell him things on my mind and I love him sharing his insights.  He has experiences that so few in this world have.  I love it.  He’s been a fantastic resource to me to this point.  I look forward to tapping into him as much as I can.”

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