Blue Jays grip it and rip it

MIKE RUTSEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- There was one motto the Blue Jays didn't have under former hitting coach Gary Denbo -- Pull Together.

In fact, pulling the ball was something the Jays rarely managed under Denbo's up-the-middle, go-the-other-way philosophy.

While the Jays didn't hit much under Denbo, their absolute lack of power was the most shocking aspect.

Just how often have Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios been punching balls to left and right, respectively, this season? How long has it been since they have driven the ball with any authority?

The other day, new hitting coach Gene Tenace dumped on what he perceived as a passive hitting approach the current Jays possess. It could be taken as an indirect shot at Denbo and his philosophy.

Under Tenace the new philosophy will be "Grip It And Rip It," to borrow a phrase from the John Daly school of golf.

They practised what he preached yesterday in an 11-hit attack -- including two home runs -- in an 8-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, salvaging the final game of the weekend series and a disastrous interleague road swing.

The Jays don't know much about Tenace but what he has preached over the past three days has been like a cool spring shower.

"He called just a short meeting and told us to go out and swing the bats, get your pitch and let it go," Vernon Wells said. "He told us to just start swinging and don't think about taking pitches for the sake of taking pitches. Go out there and swing our way out of this.

"He's kind of got that old-school mentality," Wells said with a smile. "It's just go up there and let 'er rip and see what happens."

Not to keep pounding on Denbo, but part of the problem was that the Jays hitters were thinking so much at the plate, you could almost see the smoke coming out of their ears.

"I think the problem was, and it's definitely true in hitting, is that the more you think the more trouble you're going to get yourself into," Wells said. "It's good to go up there and just not try to figure out what they're going to do. You need to just worry about yourself and worry about getting a pitch -- whether you're looking for a certain pitch or what -- look for something that you can drive and just let it go.

"If you swing and miss, you swing and miss. That's why you get three strikes."

The power outage on this club is as mystifying to Wells as to anyone and Denbo's philosophy didn't do much to flick that particular switch.

BETTER PATH

"Our power numbers have been down across the board," Wells said. "Now, we've got to go out and do things the right way. That doesn't mean necessarily go out and pull everything, but we have to have a better path to the ball that allows you hit balls to both side and do damage that way and we haven't been able to do that.

"Who would have thought our power numbers would be this down coming out of spring training? But they've brought new people in here, new minds. They've basically brought in three hitting coaches (if you include Cito Gaston and first base coach Dwayne Murphy).

"After this series and when we get back home and really start working with the new guys, picking each other's brains, we'll try and figure out a way to get out of this."

Keep it simple, stupid. It's the mantra that has been preached in this game for decades, whether it comes from a pitching coach or a hitting coach. It's old school and that is where Tenace resides.

"We've got to get more aggressive at the plate and let it go," Tenace reiterated yesterday. "I know how difficult it is to hit on a day-to-day basis. If you can keep things simple and not get too over-confusing, then I found over my career that you'll see a whole lot better positive things out of that."

"Hopefully I have the key to the answer but I don't know."

Clearly, Denbo didn't.

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JAYS BUZZ

EARLY BREAKOUT

When the Blue Jays scored two runs in the first inning yesterday, it marked the first tme on their just-completed six-game road swing that they had taken a lead. It also marked the first time they had scored runs in the first inning of a game since June 7 versus Baltimore.

LYLE THUMBED

1B Lyle Overbay had his right hand X-rayed following Saturday's game for precautuionary reasons. He said he hurt his hand while sliding hard into second while breaking up a double play in the fourth inning.

"I kind of snagged it on the bag," Overbay said. "I just jammed it a little bit. I'm okay."

Overbay was back in the lineup yesterday but instead of batting second, he batted fifth, contributing a two-out, two-run double in the sixth.

VOODOO JOE

Joe Inglett got the catchy nickname "Voodoo Joe" from outgoing manager John Gibbons for his penchant of being recalled the day after being sent back to Syracuse following yet another Blue Jays injury.

But when Inglett gets into a game, he usually produces. Yesterday, he was at second and went 3-for-4 with a run scored and a sacrifice bunt.

LINEUP SHUFFLE

Manager Cito Gaston said the other day he favours a set lineup and also wants to make sure he gets all his players into the games. He doesn't want anyone to rust on the bench.

Yesterday, he had Marco Scutaro at short with Inglett at second. Gregg Zaun was behind the plate for the first time under Gaston's regime while in left field, for now and the foreseeable future, was Adam Lind, who batted eighth and went 2-for-3 with a homer.

NEXT UP

The Jays have today off before opening a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at the Rogers Centre starting tomorrow night.


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