Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
So, is it time for the 'Free Ronny Cedeno' movement yet? I swear, I never thought I'd write those words - that is, unless Cedeno were wrongly accused of a crime that I'd been a witness to, seeing it wasn't he that pulled the trigger, knowing with my eyes and heart that it was, in fact, the one-armed-man who'd done the deed. Ask me at the beginning of the year, and the fantastic scenario above would have been rated at approximately 217% more likely to spur a liberty campaign on Ronny's behalf than his play on the field.
Yet, here we are, a week into May, and I've come around to thinking that Ronny Effin Cedeno needs to be in the lineup everyday until he plays his way out of it. Next thing you know, I'll be buying Clay Aiken albums and putting ketchup on my hot dogs.
It's not just the results, either, it's way he's gotten them. His approach at the plate is so different as to call into question his identity. He's not a masked man, but perhaps someone with discipline and bat control has made himself a lovely Ronny Suit. Stranger things have happened. Last night's two-out, two-run single is an excellent example:
Down a strike, Harang throws Cedeno a breaking ball, but coming out of his hand it doesn't necessarily look like one. It's a pretty nice pitch, so it initially appears to be a fastball on the outer half, at least judging by Cedeno's reaction. Based on what he's seeing he has to swing, because he can't reasonably sit on a pitch that looks like a good one to drive up the line and let himself get down two strikes. Up to this point, what we're seeing is exactly what we'd see in years previous. What's changed isn't the choice to swing, but rather, the choice of how to swing.
Think back to days of yore - 2006, to be precise - and imagine a similar situation. Men on second and third in a one-run game, two-out, and Ronny Cedeno is at the plate. He sees what looks like a good pitch to hit hard up the line and - zoom! - out go his hands, his bat flies over the ball, and around on his front heel he spins, wondering why that pill done moved so much.
This time around, instead of letting his hands lead, he starts to shift his weight but keeps his grab-nabbers back because he's down 0-1, and with Harang having already tossed a slider for a strike, he might just come with another. What this does is put him in position to punch a fastball into right - because his weight has shifted, the most time consuming part of the swing - while giving him the time he needs to react to the flight and spin of the ball. Watching the replay, Cedeno clearly sees as his weight shifts that it is not, in fact, a fastball - you can see as you view the footage a little hitch in his swing, a small delay as he holds back to time the pitch he now sees is a breaker - adjusts accordingly, and dumps the ball into right.
It's these sort of adjustments, along with the fact that he's been able to both foul off tough pitches all year, while managing to draw his share of free passes, that make me think he's finally turned a corner. Probably not to the tune of .373/.458/.549, but certainly enough to justify putting him in the lineup every day. Perhaps even at shortstop. Perhaps even - hold onto your hats when I say this folks - in the leadoff spot. He's seeing a lot of pitches, he has good speed, and he seems to have mastered the art of bat control. More and more, he's looking like someone that, at least in the short term, you can put in that top spot and get a boost out of, which again, I can't honestly believe I'm saying.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to run to the store. I think I'm out of ketchup.