After getting off to a hot start in the season’s first three weeks, Derek Dietrich cooled off significantly and saw his average dip into the low .200’s. For a player with 106 games and 373 at-bats under his belt in the major leagues, Dietrich knew that he needed to just stay the course and his bat would come back to him.
He closed May with a bang, racking up five extra-base hits and seven RBI over the final week of the month, getting his average back near his career minor league mark of .280.
“I think I’m usually a pretty good starter into the season and I got off to a good start here, but I just had to battle there for a few weeks,” Dietrich said. “I never panicked once and I trusted my ability to hit and I’ve just been a little bit more aggressive and really looking to drive the ball and use the opposite field.”
From May 23-27, Dietrich went on a tear, picking up three straight two-hit games, with five of those hits being doubles. He sprayed the ball to left field helped lengthen a lineup that dipped as the month went on. But when the club went on its first West Coast trip of the season, Dietrich’s bat exploded even more, culminating with a 3-for-4 night in Reno, in which he homered and drove in five runs as part of a 14-3 Zephyrs victory.
“Some days you get 10, 12, 15 hits and the runs come easy and other nights you get two or three and win or lose by one,” he said. “Those are tough games, but the defense has been huge for us and our pitching as well, but I don’t think anyone is worried about our lineup. We’ve shuffled around, but when we get the guys in there, everyone trusts we’re going to get it done at the plate.”
New Orleans finished the month of May with the Pacific Coast League’s best ERA at 2.73 and has committed a PCL-low 27 errors on the season, with Dietrich at the center of the defensive renaissance.
He has been involved in the most double plays at second base and leads all PCL second basemen with a .994 fielding percentage (one error in 160 chances), despite playing seven games at third base and one in left field. Dietrich said that shifting around with his glove isn’t too much of an adjustment.
“Third base comes naturally to me, just being an infielder in general, but I also played third a little bit for the USA team in college and in summer baseball, so I played a little bit on that side of the diamond and it’s always been a spot that I feel comfortable at,” he said.
But he knows that showing flexibility and playing multiple positions is a good way to get his resurgent bat into the lineup and show the Marlins that he is more than a one-trick pony in an effort to get back to the big leagues.
After hitting his team-high sixth home run in Tuesday’s loss at Tacoma, Dietrich is batting .276 and has moved into a tie for the club lead with 24 RBI. He has 10 doubles to equal his season total from all of last year.
“I’m just playing anywhere I can to get my bat in the lineup and give our club here and the Marlins an opportunity to use my bat,” he said.