After being around Lars Anderson for the last season-and-a-half, I thought that I knew him well.
(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
After all, I know his favorite author…that he has a batting cage in his backyard…and that he knows how to knit and crochet. But until recently, I had no idea that the 23-year-old first baseman is a skilled juggler.
“I’m pretty much self-taught,” Anderson said. “I started juggling with two balls when I was in first or second grade, and then I graduated to three. My brother Leif is actually a very impressive juggler – the type of person that could juggle sticks with fire on the end. Maybe it runs in the family a little bit.”
Juggling balls is undoubtedly fun, but Lars would rather be slugging them out of the park.
After 88 games, Anderson is batting .252 (.744 OPS) with 20 2B, 2 3B, and 7 HR. In his last 16 games, Lars is batting .288 (17-for-59) with 3 HR.
“I felt like my swing was getting kind of long, so I worked with (hitting coach) Chili Davis on shortening it,” Anderson said. “I was getting tired of reaching out and rolling over (ground balls) to the first or second basemen, so I’m trying to let the ball travel a little more while staying short to the ball with my bat path. I don’t have to swing hard to hit it hard. I think I fall into the trap of thinking, ‘OK, it’s a 2-and-0 count, I need to take a big swing and try to do damage.’ I’m strong enough and I have enough leverage that if I just try to make contact the ball is going to jump. My dad has been telling me that since I was about three years old, but I guess I was too hardheaded to listen.”
One thing that Lars has always grasped is the importance of swinging at good pitches. Anderson is tied for third in the league in walks (50) and has a .354 OBP.
“If I look at my at-bats, the balls that I hit well are strikes and more specifically good strikes to hit,”Andersonsaid. “Not the sinker at the knees on the outside black – that’s a tough pitch to hit. When you swing at good strikes the results are better and when you swing at balls, more often than not, you get yourself out. My goal is not to go up there and walk. My goal is to get a good pitch to hit and drive it. Walking is a by-product of that.”
Anderson’s home runs have come in the following spurts:
0 HR in first 127 at-bats, then 2 HR in next 3 at-bats…
Followed by 0 HR in 52 at-bats, then 2 HR in next 4 at-bats…
Followed by 0 HR in 91 at-bats, then 3 HR in next 16 at-bats
“Sometimes when you’re hitting well you’re just spraying line drives all over the field and sometimes you get in a groove where you find that bat path where the ball starts jumping and gets into the air with backspin,”Anderson said. “I think there are different kinds of rolls that you get on. In the beginning of the year when I couldn’t hit a home run, I still had streaks where I was able to drive the ball but it just wasn’t going in the air.”
After heading home to California for three days during the All-Star break, Anderson had a key RBI double in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Durham and says he’s feeling confident going into the final month-and-a-half of the minor league season.
“(My confidence) is pretty good, but I don’t think it’s because of results,”Anderson said. “A lot of times this year I’ve put pressure on myself to perform and you’re inevitably going to fall short of those expectations with this game. I’ve been trying to make it so it’s not life-and-death every time where you’re so upset that you can’t even have a conversation. That’s something that I’ll probably always have to work on and improve upon, but it’s something that I’ve been focusing on.”
You might say that it’s all part of the juggling act of being a highly-touted prospect.
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Friday night figures to be a big one at McCoy Stadium. For starters, it’s PawSox Replica Jersey Night as the first 5,000 fans will receive a replica road gray Pawtucket #31 jersey.
Additionally, Carl Crawford will be in Pawtucket’s lineup as he begins a 2-game injury rehab assignment. The 4-time All-Star has been on the disabled list since June 18th with a hamstring injury.
Friday’s game begins at 7:05. If you can’t make it out to McCoy, I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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