Logan a defensive specialist in center
Speedy outfielder working hard to improve his offensive game
VIERA, Fla. -- It's 12:50 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Nationals center fielder Nook Logan is eating a sandwich and talking to reliever Chris Booker in the Space Coast Stadium locker room.
A couple of members of the media are waiting to talk to Logan, but he says he will talk to them later. He realizes that he has a 1 p.m. appointment with hitting coach Mitchell Page at the cage located in the back of the stadium.
Logan, 27, rushes to put his hitting shoes on, and says, "I don't want Mitch to get mad at me."
Maybe Logan should have also said he doesn't want to disappoint manager Manny Acta, because it was the skipper who announced back in January that Logan would be his everyday center fielder entering Spring Training. Logan's spectacular defense is the primary reason.
"For a change, it's good to be in a situation where you feel you got off to a good start with the guy in charge," Logan said. "When he was with the Mets, [Acta] saw me make a couple of plays last year. He didn't get to see every game. ... Now he wants to see it first hand.
"I pride myself in my defense. I try to be the pitcher's best friend. They are on the mound working hard. I see Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones take pride in what they do defensively. And I'm like, 'I'm out here anyway, you might as well play defense the best way you can.' Everywhere I've gone, I've earned the respect of my pitchers."
But spectacular defense can only go so far for Logan.
Although Logan hit .300 (27-for-90) after being acquired in a trade with the Tigers last September, there are those who feel he still needs to learn about the art of hitting. Page's job is to make sure that the switch-hitting Logan can hit from the left side with consistency, and that's something he hasn't been able to do during his brief career in the Major Leagues. Logan is a lifetime .249 hitter (98-for-393) from the left side, and his batting average is 73 points higher from the right side.
To many, Logan is not fundamentally sound batting lefty. He is a good bunter, but has problems hitting offspeed pitches. Logan is a natural right-handed hitter and didn't start switch-hitting until he was 21 years old, his first season in the Tigers organization.
"He has to get in position more on the left side and be a little more disciplined," Page said. "He has to be able to hit with two strikes."
Logan enters the cage with the bat in hand. He practices only from the left side. Page tosses a few balls to him. At first, Logan is not swinging properly and hits several weak pop ups and grounders. Page tells him that he is not using the lower half of his body enough, especially his left leg. Logan then starts bending the left leg and line drives begin flying off the bat.
"That's a double," Page said.
"That's another hit." Page added.
"Whatever Mitch is bringing, I'm trying to do," Logan said. "Anything helps. He has been around the game a long time."
Acta has set high goals for his center fielder. Logan will bat near the bottom of the order to begin the season, but after the All-Star break, Acta would like to put Logan in the second hole, so the team can take advantage of his speed.
"You have to shoot high," Acta said. "We are not talking about a 19-year-old guy here. This could also be a make-or-break year."
Logan has his own goals. He not only wants to hit .300, but he wants to improve his on-base percentage. He currently has a .319 career OBP.
"I want to get on base as much as possible," Logan said. "You can look at some players' averages. It can look deceiving. They have the same on-base percentage and batting average. I want my on-base percentage [to be higher]."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.