The promotion of Wil Myers required a player to be cut from the 25-man roster.
At the time, this was a contested decision, which really came down to three or four players: the players with options (Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Roberts) and the players that were struggling (Luke Scott, maybe Sam Fuld).
After breaking down the choices, we asked you the readers, on June 11th, who you would choose -- and the majority of readers (43%) voted in favor of cutting Luke Scott in some capacity.
At the time of that article, Scott had batted career low numbers, despite a decent walk rate, and many were wondering if he could still even hit for power, or at all.
Luckily for Scott, the decision wouldn't come for seven more days, and by that time he was hitting .240/.340/.388 -- a bit more calming, but not great.
If the Rays had opted to cut Luke Scott from the starting roster, he would have needed to be traded, released, or have accepted an option to Triple-A Durham, which the Collective Bargaining Agreement gave him permission to deny, based on service time.
The Rays did none of those things, opting to burn Ryan Roberts's last option and sending him to the minors. It was the most logical move in terms of maintaining depth. Using an option kept all of the Rays players in house, providing quality depth. Rodriguez could have been optioned, but he has the ability to play every position on the field, so his versatility kept him at the big league level.
If Scott had been cut from the roster entirely, it's not a stretch to imagine he would have requested release and would have landed with a desperate competitive team with a short right field porch (the Yankees come to mind). And where would the Rays be now? Without one of their best hitters of late, to say the least.
Since the promotion of Wil Myers, the Wolverine is sporting a .319/.347/.617 batting line, with a 16% strikeout rate and nine extra base hits (matching his season total thus far). He's pulling just about everything, but it's been met with great success.
Luke Scott has been exceptionally hot at the plate ever since he cut his hair...
Luke Scott is 6-for-10 with 2 doubles & a triple wearing the "traditional '80s rat tail." He's batting 2nd tonight. pic.twitter.com/sLayiXuldn— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 8, 2013
... but a better answer may be a change in approach at the plate.
Hitting coach Derek Shelton talked about some recent changes Scott has made before last night's game, and it all sounds simple enough. The new approach has two priorities: swing for contact, as opposed to focusing on power, and getting back spin on the ball.
For Luke Scott, as the Designated Hitter, there's a high expectation on batting well and hitting for power. Tempering that expectation for better results is okay in my book anytime.
Ben Zobrist, All Star Bullpen use vs. Performance
Taking some heat off the swing is a similar change in approach that may have helped James Loney this season. After he signed with the Rays, I remember watching tape and thinking he was always swinging for power. Now Loney is experiencing a career year at the plate.
Joe Maddon responded to Scott's resurgent hitting by moving him to second in the line up, a rotating slot since Zobrist was moved down to hitting third. Scott responded with a line-drive home run over the center-right field wall.
So is it all just swinging with less strength? Scott's most recent home run hit with plenty of power (102 MPH off the bat, according to reports), but it was an easy swing, and indicative of a better approach.
Retooling the Swing
For comparison, let's start with this plate appearance on June 8th, which netted Scott his first triple on the season:
This is the old swing: power hungry, erratic. From here, Scott will made three or four adjustments to retool his swing, and with Wil Myers knocking, it was less about success and more about survival.
"Keep digging," Scott had advertised about his work with Shelton, "and eventually you find gold." True to his proverb there's been some noticeable differences, and the first thing we find involves his feet.
Luke begins the above at bat with his front leg about a foot back from where he intends to plant it on his swing. He's already a bit jittery at the plate, rocking before each swing, so this change in direction might have been over-complicating his balance, giving an inconsistent center of gravity on his powerful swing.
After the swing, Luke was lifting and then replanting his back leg. This bit has not been as consistent in recent weeks, but there seems to be a move toward staying on the ball of his left foot as he turns, keeping his swing motion from rocking backward. In the photo for this article, you can see just how high Scott lifts his back foot, often turning his foot onto the toe of his cleat. Simplifying this movement adds to an easier swing.
Luke's second big adjustment involves his follow through. In the June 8 at bat, Scott finishes with his arms outstretched, even letting go of the bat with his left hand to stretch his right arm a bit farther. In his new and improved swing, Scott keeps both hands firmly gripped on the bat, and finishes by bringing his arms in and pulling the lumber up by his ear.
For a line drive hitter, this improved motion may be the biggest contributing factor to getting that desired backspin on the ball. And for a slugger having issues swinging under pitches, which was a rampant problem for Scott early in the season, shortening his swing ever so slightly has certainly improved his contact.
With those changes in mind, try this at bat from June 15, seven days later, which netted a home run similar to last night's liner over the right-center wall:
His front foot stays forward before the swing, his back foot stays bent as he turns through the swing, and the bat is controlled as he swings through. One other note is that Scott is clearly using a different bat (stained as opposed to raw wood).
Shelton claims that all these adjustments are attempts to bring him back to 2010 Scott, the 27 HR monster the Rays were hoping to resurrect from shoulder surgery. They were enough to keep him on the major league roster when Myers was promoted, and since then have produced some incredible results. Who knew that the key to hitting with more power might be to swing less hard?
Perhaps these changes will lead to far better numbers than Rays fans have grown accustomed to over the past two seasons.