PEORIA, Ariz. — San Diego Padres center fielder Travis Jankowski is one of the fastest players in baseball.
However, in order to capitalize in areas that he was less than proficient in a year ago, he will need to slow things down in the batter’s box.
“The first thing to nitpick is I don’t like where my strikeouts are,” Jankowski said. “Some adjustments I made this offseason, I really worked on hitting the inside pitch. Figuring out how to pull that inside pitch. Obviously all of that work has been paying off and it’s been a good spring so far.”
Jankowski is hitting .359 in 39 at-bats, which leads the team in batting average with at least 25 at-bats, but has 11 strikeouts in 13 games. He said that early in his career, and continuing into spring this year, he was chasing pitches and having a hard time producing in unfavorable hitting situations.
“I would say a lot of it’s just kind of having that anxiety with two strikes, like ‘oh I got to protect, I got to put the ball in play’,” Jankowski said. “Of course pitchers made a few good pitches on me too that I took for strikes. A lot of it’s just kind of being over-anxious right now but I feel like that is typical in spring.”
Manager Andy Green has addressed this with Jankowski and believes it’s more of a mentality thing with him than anything else.
“He gets two strikes, feels he’s got to go to protect mode and ends up chasing more often than he should,” Green said. “He understands that. It’s one thing to understand, it’s another thing to accomplish it — to make a change. I’d love for him to put more balls in play. Anybody that runs like that, you want to put balls in play.”
Jankowski is a speedster on the bases and has fielding range that is up there with the best in the game. Aside from those positives, another benefit of the spry Jankowski is his versatility, which gives the Padres endless options on where to put him in the lineup.
“He’s a guy that can be a catalyst at the top of the batting order,” Green said. “He can be a dynamic, game-changing outfielder in center, left or right. There’s a whole lot to like about him and we’re happy he’s with us.”
Jankowski has spent the majority of his major league career in center field, tallying 110 games there. It’s expected that Jankowski will be the primary player to man the middle for San Diego this season.
Other than putting the right foot forward everyday to prepare for a 162-game grind, spring training is also the time of year where bonds are enhanced with pre-existing teammates or new relationships are built with first-time faces in the clubhouse.
For Jankowski, an easy icebreaker for the new guys to get to know him, or just a classic joke for the veterans in the Padres’ clubhouse to poke fun of him with, is his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“I’m probably 15 minutes away from like the heart of Amish country,” Jankowski said. “A lot of guys in the clubhouse joke around, they call me Amish. They’re good people, they’re harmless people.”
Regardless of where he’s from, regardless of where manager Green and his coaching staff put him in the lineup, don’t be shocked if Jankowski has a big year with more experience in his corner, with more of the spotlight coming his way.
“It’s definitely a lot easier the second time around,” Jankowski said. “At least you know what to expect everyday, you know how your body is going to feel, and just the comfort level is drastically different.”