Derek Jeter is already working on hitting mechanics with Kevin Long

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Ben Shpigel of the New York Times has an excellent, must-read piece about Derek Jeter’s work with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long this week.

Interestingly, Long told Shpigel that Jeter has always has always had a slightly flawed swing, due to the familiar stride that he takes towards the mound with his left leg. Coming off the worst season of his career, Jeter is now willing to make some changes.

“It would have been asinine for me to go in and try to change him before,” Long said. “He’s been so good for so long, what really needed to be done?”

But that stride grew longer and drifted toward the plate, which caused Jeter to lean over. It altered Jeter’s bat path, and his timing suffered.

“Now,” Long said, “he starts to get jammed a little more. Maybe his bat slows down just a hair, but that’s significant. We can say age all we want, but I’m not buying into that. I think if we fix this, that age factor dissipates.”

Long is optimistic that Jeter will find similar results to Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, perhaps the most prominent example of someone who shortened his stride as he got older. Molitor adopted changes and batted .312/.362/.432 over his age 39-41 seasons, retiring with 3,319 hits, ninth all-time.

Sure, there may be some distractions about his Jeter’s contract and the talk of him eventually switching positions, but I’m far more interested to see his new approach at the plate during spring training.

Report: Mets close to a deal with Jose Bautista

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SNY’s Andy Martino reports that the Mets are close to a deal with free agent Jose Bautista. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the Mets were rumored to be interested in him on Monday, a day after the Braves released him.

Bautista, 37, struggled to a .593 OPS in 40 plate appearances with the Braves. He’s coming off of his worst season as a regular, as he hit .203 in 157 games last year with the Blue Jays.

Bautista mostly played in the outfield for the Jays, but played third base for the Braves. The Mets need depth at both third base and in the outfield due to injuries to Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares.

It will be interesting to see who loses their roster spot to accomodate Bautista. I suggested earlier it should be Jose Reyes.