Bill Baer

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Socrates Brito undergoes surgery for dislocated finger

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The Diamondbacks announced on Wednesday night that outfielder Socrates Brito underwent surgery to repair an open dislocation of his left ring finger. The 24-year-old suffered the injury while running the bases during Wednesday afternoon’s Cactus League game against Team Mexico.

Brito played all three outfield positions for the D-Backs last season, but didn’t do much with the bat as he hit .179/.196/.358 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 97 plate appearances. He was hoping to make the opening day roster but the injury will likely cost him that opportunity. The team does not yet have a timetable for Brito’s recovery.

Cody Decker used Team Israel’s “Mensch on a Bench” to get into the carpool lane

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Team Israel needed only two games to advance to the next round in the World Baseball Classic. The players will tell you that the feat is in no small part due to its mascot, the “Mensch on a Bench.”

Israel’s DH, Cody Decker, likened the Mensch to “Jobu,” the voodoo idol of slugger Pedro Cerrano in the movie Major League.

Not only does the Mensch help Team Israel win ballgames, but it also helps the players get into the carpool lane.

Sounds like the Phillie Phanatic has some competition for the title of “best mascot.”

J.D. Martinez: “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.”

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Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs has an interesting article up today in which he spoke with Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez. Martinez, of course, has become one of baseball’s most feared hitters, especially after putting up an .879 OPS with 38 home runs in 2015. He used to be a weak, below-average hitter with only occasional power, but as Sawchik illustrates, Martinez made some mechanical changes that put a focus not on hitting line drives and ground balls, but on hitting the ball in the air.

People talk to me and I tell them straight up. I don’t bull[crap]. In the cage, I talk about it all the time. I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball. I’m trying to hit the ball in the air. I feel like the ball in the air is my strength and has a chance to go anywhere in the park. So why am I trying to hit a ground ball? That’s what I believe in.

The change happened when he was studying tape of then-teammate Jason Castro in 2013, who made the AL All-Star team. He later saw footage of Ryan Braun‘s swing and noticed the similarities it had with Castro’s swing. That made him dig into footage of other successful hitters like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and he realized they were all trying to hit the ball in the air.

After the 2013 season, Martinez worked with a private hitting instructor who had also worked with Castro. As Martinez tells it, “We changed the whole foundation.” In his first season with the Tigers in 2014, Martinez broke out with a .912 OPS and 23 home runs in 480 PA. He repeated the performance and then some in ’15 and, of course, continued to swing a hot bat when he was healthy last year.

Martinez spoke about other hitters slowly catching onto the philosophy of hitting fly balls, not line drives or ground balls.

Hitting takes a while to catch up because of your old-school coaching, old-school mentality. Trying to hit down on the ball. Stuff like that. Once all that starts to go, I feel like the philosophies on hitting will trend forward. But everyone is so caught up on ‘I have to hire someone who has played in the big leagues because he knows what he’s talking about.’ But, to me, that’s not what it is about. It’s more about knowing your shit. You can tell when you talk to someone and they sit down there and they break it down and they show you every little move that the great hitters make and then the moves you make.

As Sawchik notes, there are still hitters who haven’t bought in yet. Twins outfielder Max Kepler, who hit .235 with 17 homers last year, said the philosophy is “completely bogus.” He added, “Whenever I’m in doubt, I try to hit long ground balls to level my swing back out. I’m the opposite of what I hear people saying nowadays.”

Sawchik’s entire column is worth a read, so go check it out at FanGraphs.