Nats tweaking Kearns' swing
By TODD JACOBSON
WASHINGTON--The Austin Kearns that has played 27 games for the Nationals this season isn't quite the Austin Kearns the team traded for, and manager Frank Robinson and hitting coach Mitchell Page recently set out to correct that.
Robinson and Page have been working with the right fielder to correct a small mechanical flaw in his swing that affects his timing at the plate.
Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez were acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in an eight-player trade July 13, and in the 27 games since the trade, Kearns was hitting .245 with just one home run, six extra-base hits and 10 RBIs.
"When you are in a slump it's really nothing major," Robinson said. "It's usually just something very simple you are doing but the longer you are in that slump and the more things you keep trying, or tinkering with your stance and your mechanics, the worse it gets and the tougher it is to get out of it."
Kearns entered yesterday's game hitting .179 in August, but singled home a run in the first inning.
"You know when you feel good and you don't," Kearns said. "There are times when you are battling to find it and there are times when you are up there in a 2-0 count and you feel like you are battling. It's a long season. You have your highs and you just try to keep your lows at a minimum. You've got to work at it and try to be consistent."
The trade affected Kearns perhaps harder than anyone. He grew up in Lexington, Ky., and had known no other team but the Reds since Cincinnati drafted him in the first round of the 1999 draft.
He and his wife, Abby, recently had their first child, a boy named Aubrey.
"I felt kind of lost almost," Kearns said last month. "It's just an adjustment that has to be made."
Slowly, he's making it. Robinson said Kearns was "very" receptive to his suggestions, and his first-inning RBI was his third of the month.
That, Robinson said, was a good start.
"There is a certain production we expect out of him and a certain production he can give us and right now he is struggling a little bit," Robinson said.