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Menechino determined to drive home message

First-year hitting coach preaching importance of approach in practice and games

Menechino determined to drive home message

JUPITER, Fla. -- The line drives up the middle, the balls blistered into the gaps and the majestic home runs are things of beauty in batting practice. But the hard work in the cages and on the back fields in Spring Training means little if the process doesn't carry over to the games.

The mission in Marlins' camp is getting the players to replicate and duplicate. Copy the good points, and repeat them when the swings matter.

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This is a message first-year hitting coach Frank Menechino is driving home every day.

"I want to see them take their cage swing into the game," Menechino said. "That's the ultimate right there. That's the goal of every Major League hitter. Do what we do in the cage, and once game time comes, we're on auto pilot."

Easier said than done. But if players have sound game plans, and solid approaches, it is a start.

Vocal around the cages, Menechino is quick to make an observation or suggestion. He's energetic. He's active, moving around to check out as many swings and sequences as possible.

"This is a guy who has a lot of passion for hitting," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think the players feel that, and feed off that. He's not afraid to say something to these guys about situations, and our situational hitting. He's big on approach. Your approach at the plate. Seeing pitches. Working counts. Team at-bats. Getting on base. All that stuff that is essential offensively."

In the first half of Spring Training, Menechino is getting a read on the players, and they on him.

It's no secret the hitting coach spot hasn't been the most stable in Miami. Menechino is the fifth since 2010.

A Staten Island, N.Y., native, he came to the Marlins highly recommended after working in the Yankees' system the past few years.

"Hitting coach, for me, it's the toughest job, because you have so many guys, and very rarely do you have them all going at the same time," Redmond said. "It's a tough job. You're in that cage for hours and hours."

After finishing last in the Majors in runs scored, batting average and home runs last year, the Marlins are desperately seeking a plan of attack that works.

In the offseason, they used free agency to add Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, Rafael Furcal and Jeff Baker.

They offer veteran experience to a young core that features Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria.

"I don't need to look at film right now," Menechino said. "I'm looking at what they're doing in the cage, the way they go about their way. The way they go about their work.

"I'm impressed with the way they're working. I'm impressed with the way they're doing their things. I feel, with a solid approach, we're going to surprise some people."

One of the themes in Marlins camp is placing "team first."

Besides Stanton, the club doesn't have an prototypical power hitter. So, to make the offense click, the club will be looking to band together as one, with each piece of the lineup doing its part, without trying to do too much.

"So far right now, everyone is feeding off everybody, which is good," Menechino said. "Everybody is working hard. That's half the battle."

Collectively, they share a common goal. But they all operate individually, which means they each have their own routine, and way of going about their business.

"It's very simplified," Stanton said. "You're your own, man. You just need tweaks and a little guide to put you back on the right path. He has some good little points and tidbits to stay on that track. It's good stuff."

The players are receiving instant feedback. Around the cages, when something is spotted, Menechino is quick to point things out.

"It's right on you with knowledge," Stanton said. "It's not on you with, 'Hey, I got this new idea today, this new idea tomorrow.' Pretty much what he says is usually what you feel when something is going astray."

Menechino has been around the players since camp opened, and he is still getting to know what makes each batter click.

In the cages, no two players are alike.

"A guy like Jeff Baker, he's there 20 swings and is gone," Menechino said. "Then you get a guy like McGehee in there, who really needs to get a feel. He takes a little more."

From his short time being around the club, Menechino offers these observations:

Yelich? "His timing, his tempo. When he's slow to the ball, everything works together, and he's fine. He doesn't have to manipulate himself to hit the ball."

Stanton? "Rhythm. If he stays with good rhythm, he allows himself time to recognize and see the pitch and hit it. If he gets that time, he's fine. If he gets disconnected, where his rhythm is off, he's too fast. Then he gets disconnected and works out front."

If a player needs a little push, Menechino is quick to oblige.

"I love the fact that he is not afraid to say something, and get on guys too, when he sees a game when we're not doing what we need to do," Redmond said. "That's important. I think the guys like that, too. They want to be pushed, and they want to make sure they're successful.

"Sometimes the worst thing you can do in the big leagues is just let a guy go, and say, 'He's going to be fine.' I know as a player, you still want to get better. It doesn't matter how many years you have in the big leagues."

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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