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Friday, April 4
Durazo in transition: from NL to AL, DH

By Tony Gwynn
Special to

Any time you switch teams, it's difficult -- and Erubiel Durazo's move from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Oakland Athletics will be hard. But two other transitions loom larger for him this season. He's going from playing in the field to being a designated hitter and from the National League to the American League.

Erubiel Durazo
Erubiel Durazo hit a home run in his first Oakland at-bat.
Durazo should be able to overcome these difficulties because he's such a good hitter. We haven't been able to evaluate him fully, though, because he's never had 300 at-bats in a season. In fact, in his four seasons in Arizona, his at-bat high was 222 (last season).

Durazo has a good eye and hits the ball to all fields. He doesn't chase many balls out of the strike zone, and he does a good job of zoning in and waiting to do something with a pitch he can handle.

Durazo's mechanics make him such a solid hitter. He goes to the plate and does the same thing every time, very fluidly.

He puts his foot up, places it down, puts his hands up and gets ready for the pitch. He's proven as a young guy that he can hit the long ball and handle left-handers well.

In the AL, Durazo needs to learn some new pitchers, but his mechanics are good enough to allow him to be successful. He's also a smart, attentive hitter who doesn't just go to the plate and swing at anything a pitcher throws. If the pitcher is getting hitters out going away, he won't look for the ball in -- he'll look for it away and take it the other way.

He's more of a low-ball hitter than a high-ball hitter. He can handle the ball up, but he likes the ball down in the zone so can ride his backside through the baseball to generate more power.

Another transition for Durazo will be hitting in the A's lineup with Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. It'll be interesting to see how pitchers approach him -- they'll probably attack him until he shows he can handle good stuff. If he has success right away, he might have a big year for Oakland.

The DH is a tough role. Some guys have the mentality for it and some don't. I know I never did. But Durazo likes to hit, and the DH spot might allow him to work on his stroke. He was a decent first baseman, so maybe he'll also get some starts at first.

Durazo can be more than a standard power hitter. He's a good hitter who's capable of hitting over .300 and driving in runs. He's also patient, so he'll get his share of walks. What separates him from a lot of hitters is that when he gets into ruts, he stays disciplined. I'm anxious to see how he fares in the American League.

Tony Gwynn, a career .338 hitter with the Padres, is the head baseball coach at San Diego State and an ESPN analyst.

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