Former Astros third baseman and current hitting coach Sean Berry was the Astroline guest tonight from Orlando, Florida. Berry said the transition from player to coach was pretty difficult for him. The hours are much longer and he now has to worry about how 25 guys hit versus just himself. He loves his job though, even the long hours watching tape and making charts for each player.
Berry was asked about his opinion on Jason Lane and Hunter Pence. He believes Lane will bounce back because he’s worked hard this off season. He said he wasn’t sure if Lane would get the majority of the playing time in right field or if he’d platoon with Luke Scott. On Hunter Pence’s situation, Berry said right now, Garner and Purpura say he’ll start at Class AAA Round Rock, but cautioned that the situation can change suddenly. Sean believes Pence is a special player and that’s one of the main reasons for being cautious with him. He has incredible bat speed, even though his approach is a bit unconventional. He runs well, has solid defense and speed to play center field at the major league level. Hunter Pence will definitely be a part of the Astros long term plans.
I asked him what his strategy for keeping bench players productive was. Berry said most managers try to get their bench players a start at least every ten days, more often if possible. He said bench players need to be ready to be called into a game in a critical situation so they need to remain sharp all the time. Some times, they won’t bat for over a week and other times, they’ll be getting an at bat every day for 4 or 5 days.
A member of the audience asked if he advocates hitters going up the middle versus pulling the ball. Berry said all the best hitters in baseball use the entire field, and try to hit up the middle of the diamond and opposite field. He said he was very pleased with Adam Everett’s efforts in the 2nd half of 2006 and so far this spring training in trying to get hits up the middle of the field.
A Yankees fan from Virginia in the audience asked Berry where he thought Clemens would pitch this year. Immediately both Milo and Berry said jokingly, "He ain’t going anywhere, he’s playing for us." Then Berry answered the question more seriously. He believes if Roger decides to pitch at all this year, he will pitch for the Astros. Everything he’s seen so far seems to show that Clemens is leaning Astros.
Another Yankees fan asked Berry if he had to choose a non-Astros hitter as the best hitter today, who would he pick? Without hesitation, Berry said Albert Pujols. He added that Berkman and Pujols are among the most elite hitters today and Berkman, like his teammate Roy Oswalt is very underrated by the national media.
Asked about the Astros chances this season by a Detroit Tigers fan, Berry said the offense has improved tremendously with the additions of Carlos Lee and Mark Loretta. There is no reason to think the Astros won’t be in the playoffs again in 2007. The Astros are one of the most resilient teams around and their 3-4-5-6 guys in the lineup are going to be among the best in the National League. Carlos Lee is a very good clutch hitter who takes what the pitchers give him in a tough situation just like Berkman does.
Asked about what the most common rookie mistake he sees, Berry said too many rookies try to swing big for the homeruns too much–controlling the adrenalin is the biggest thing rookies can do to be successful in the majors. The old cliche of not using all the hits up in spring training definitely is true. Hitters don’t have to deal much with adrenalin in spring training so tend to be more relaxed and hit better. When the regular season starts, the adrenalin starts pumping and younger players tend to try to do too much. Spring training in Berry’s view is mainly for getting in shape.
Final question of the evening was about steroid use in baseball. Berry said he sees no use for them in any sport. There is no place for steroids or HGH in baseball and the sport needs to be cleaned up. He said in his 11 years in the majors, he never saw anyone use them, but he knew there were players who used them. Eventually baseball and all sports will get rid of steroids and other performance enhancers like HGH.