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New hitting coach Menechino stressing approach

New hitting coach Menechino stressing approach

New hitting coach Menechino stressing approach

MIAMI -- To get the Marlins' bats going, new hitting coach Frank Menechino first plans to get into the players' minds. The Miami batters can expect to hear a lot about the importance of a strong mental approach.

"I'm interested in getting into these guys' heads and talking to them about their approach, and what they feel their strengths and weaknesses are, and just helping them with that," Menechino said. "To me, it's the mental approach that I'm going to be consumed with for a lot of my players."

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A former big league infielder with the A's and Blue Jays, Menechino joins manager Mike Redmond's staff after he spent the past few seasons coaching in the Yankees' farm system.

When it comes to instructing, Menechino will focus more on approach than mechanics.

"For me, I'm not into mechanics that much," Menechino said. "As far as I'm concerned, mechanics, you tweak them here and there. A bad approach will make bad mechanics. They just have to know their approach -- what they want to hit, when they want to hit. It's the game within the game."

The 42-year-old from Staten Island, N.Y., came highly recommended. But he really didn't have strong ties to the Marlins organization, so he was mildly surprised to get called to interview.

In recent years, Menechino exchanged some thoughts and ideas with Greg Norton, a former Minor League hitting coach with the Marlins. Impressed, Norton at the time told Menechino he would pass his name along if any hitting jobs opened.

Now, Menechino becomes Miami's fifth hitting coach since Opening Day 2010. Tino Martinez took over the job in 2013, but he was dismissed in late July and replaced by John Pierson on an interim basis.

Menechino brings energy and intensity to the job. He's also working with a young squad that finished last in the Majors in runs scored (513), home runs (95), batting average (.231), on-base percentage (.293) and slugging percentage (.335).

"I'm anxious to talk to my guys, see what they want to do," Menechino said. "See what their plans are. See what they think about themselves. And I'll help them along. I'm going to be their eyes."

As a player in Oakland, Menechino regularly talked with the better players about hitting. He had a locker next to David Justice, and he would constantly pick his brain. Menechino would watch Jason Giambi and pick up any pointers he could.

"We used to talk about hitting all the time," Menechino said. "A lot of the stuff that used to drive me crazy, Justice was like, 'What are you doing, man? You are driving yourself crazy. You were looking for the ball in, and you swung at the ball away.' That's it. It's that simple.

"Giambi is huge on approach. He will be the first guy to admit it. When he went to New York, he kind of lost his approach because all he had on his mind was driving in runs. When you get out of your approach, you're in trouble."

Being part of the building process is a challenge Menechino embraces. Growing pains are natural for young players, but the ones who succeed make the necessary adjustments.

"When you're molding the clay, their egos and their pride and their ability and their confidence is getting crushed," Menechino said. "It's our job to say, 'Hey, guys, it's not OK to play like garbage. But you're going to have to take these lumps and learn fast. You've got to learn from your mistakes, and you've got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.'"

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is vital. With all the advanced scouting, the opposition constantly is looking to take away a player's strength and exploit a weakness.

"Because of the technology and the scouting reports, they know your mother's mother's maiden name," Menechino said. "They know everything about you that you don't even know."

From what Menechino senses since accepting the job, the culture is changing around an organization that has finished last in the National League East the past three seasons.

"I have a feeling that this new crew that is in here, it's not going to accept losing," Menechino said. "If you're a player and you're going to accept losing, then you won't be around long here.

"Urgency is the key word. We're going to have fun. We're going to work hard, and we're going to let the other team know that we're in town."

One of the challenges Menechino will take on is generating runs at spacious Marlins Park. Several Miami players, including Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison, have spoken out about how big the stadium plays.

The organization has no immediate plans to move the fences in, so the team will have to find ways to manufacture runs. In 2013, the Marlins hit just 36 of their 95 home runs at home. Stanton had 15 of them, and no other Miami player had more than three.

Menechino's thoughts on addressing Marlins Park?

"We'll be road warriors. Not a big deal," Menechino said. "We'll take our hits and doubles at home, and on the road, when we take our hits and doubles approach, those line drives that are going off the wall are going out of the park.

"Those fly balls that are on the track are going out of the park. It's a mindset. We have a big yard at home. So what? Let's line drive them -- doubles and singles. We'll move runners, and we'll score runs the way we can at home, and then on the road, we'll make our money. Not a problem."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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