PHILADELPHIA — After three games off with back soreness, Rockies left fielder Kris Bryant hopes to return to the lineup Friday night against the Reds at Coors Field. He believes he has a plan for better health and flexibility, and a better hitting approach after a lengthy slump.
Bryant was hitless in his previous 16 at-bats before delivering a single late in Monday’s 8-2 loss to the Phillies. He was then scratched Tuesday and held out of the lineup Wednesday and Thursday. The injury, Bryant said, did not happen suddenly.
“Just over time, standing, playing, sleeping on different beds — I know a lot of guys have problems with that, too,” Bryant said after the Rockies’ 7-1 loss at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon left them empty in a four-game series with the Phillies. “Thankfully, it was only a couple of days and I hope to get back out there tomorrow.”
Bryant has spent extensive time in the weight room and treatment areas while not in the game. Between sliding out of whack with his swing and playing the outfield exclusively, Bryant developed some muscle inefficiencies that he has been working to correct with the Rockies’ performance coaches and athletic training staff.
“My hips are a little off,” he said. “When you’re rotating one way your whole life — and I’m swinging [right-handed] constantly — you develop these deficiencies, where your body isn’t moving as well as it could. So we diagnosed that and are getting a plan each and every day to get both my hips able to rotate easier and better.”
The most expensive free-agent signing in Rockies history (seven years, $182 million), Bryant had hits in 10 of his first 11 games and was batting .349 entering Colorado’s seven-game road trip. But his slump has pulled his average down to .281. Also, he was brought in as a home run threat but he has not gone deep this season.
Bryant’s swing is not connecting with the pitches he’s getting over the heart of the plate. His “meatball” rate — a measurement Bryant said he had never heard of “until the other day” — is 7.8 percent, actually slightly higher than last year’s 7 percent.
While during the slump he has been getting himself out on pitchers’ pitches, his chase rate (swings outside the zone) is down slightly overall this year. The difference has been the quality of Bryant’s contact. His hard-hit rate has dropped from 40 percent last season (and 37.4 percent for his career) to 25.5 percent.
With improved health and timing, and with his body getting used to the altitude and into the swing of the season, Bryant is looking for the big swing that will unlock his power.
“Everybody wants to see numbers go up super-fast,” he said. “It’s important to be patient, not get too emotional about it one way or the other. You could be hitting a bunch, then have three games where you’re not hitting a bunch, and that is a downward spiral and you don’t want to get in that position, either.
“Stay with the process, knowing things will happen when they happen.”