PEORIA, Ariz. - Jedd Gyorko was a pleasant surprise in a mostly forgettable 2013 season for the San Diego Padres.
Gyorko not only made the team coming out of spring training, he earned the starting job at second base. He then led all National League rookies with 23 home runs and his 63 RBIs were the most on the team.
"When I was getting a good pitch to hit," the former West Virginia University standout said Monday, "I wasn't missing it."
The problem was Gyorko was also swinging at bad pitches in San Diego's 76-86 season. He struck out 123 times and drew only 33 walks in 525 plate appearances. That largely accounted for his .249 average and .301 on-base percentage.
The key this spring for the 25-year-old Morgantown product is inserting some patience into his fearless persona.
"I think it's pitch selection with Jedd," manager Bud Black said. "The beauty of Jedd is his intent is to hit. He's an aggressive hitter. He goes into the box hitting from the first pitch. I think with Jedd, for the most part, that works.
"But I think major league pitchers will, at times, take advantage of that aggressiveness."
Black noted pitchers started throwing Gyorko more first-pitch breaking balls below the strike zone and high fastballs.
But when Gyorko laid off those pitches, he went on hot streaks.
Gyorko hit 15 of his homers over the final two months of the season. His 23 homers were four more than Bret Boone's old team record for a second baseman.