SARASOTA, Fla. -- Often praised solely for his defensive ability, first baseman Lyle Overbay has quietly put up a strong offensive showing since the start of spring games.
With a two-run homer in Thursday's 11-7 loss to the Orioles, Overbay still shares the team lead in spring hits with Andrew McCutchen. Both have 18, though Overbay has his in seven fewer at-bats.
Overbay spoke early in camp about being more aggressive in his approach this season. That, he hoped, would boost his average and cut down on the strikeouts one year after batting just .243 and striking out 131 times.
By being freer with his swing early, Overbay found that it took less time than usual to get his fastball timing down. It's taken a little longer to get comfortable hitting off-speed pitches, though he is seeing those much better now, too.
"I don't think I've ever felt this good," Overbay said. "I remember in '06, the last week I was really feeling good and that helped. The balls are finding holes right now, so that's part of it, too. I have been taking advantage of the pitches, but hopefully it will kind of progress right on to the season in terms of being ready from pitch one. I don't think I've done that in the past."
Any comparison to 2006 is a good one for Overbay. He hit .302 in 157 games with the Blue Jays that season and established career bests in home runs (22) and RBIs (92). He also struck out only 92 times.
"He's had a good eye," said manager Clint Hurdle, who will likely slot Overbay into the fifth or sixth spot in the order. "Last season, we talked about the reason for some of the numbers. I think last season was more of an aberration. This man is determined this spring. He has made a conscious effort of getting out of the blocks clean. The confidence should have been built up. I think he's found an approach that is going to work."