ANAHEIM, Calif. — The excitement Ryan Fuller heard through the phone this offseason was encouraging. He called Jordan Westburg for his usual check-in, and the infielder’s voice on the other end — one so often level, poised, calm — held the fervor of a player who felt as though he had unlocked a breakthrough.

“I’m trying to blend Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson, almost,” Westburg told Fuller, Baltimore’s co-hitting coach, over the winter.

And then the videos arrived on Fuller’s phone, one after another, showing Westburg’s adjustments. That’s when the sentiment made sense to Fuller — and when he became just as excited.

Westburg didn’t talk through the changes to his batting stance and starting hand position with Henderson, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, but he watched Henderson work.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

He noticed how Henderson stood more upright in the box, how his hands were higher, and how Henderson could reach the high fastball more easily because of it. Westburg watched video of himself by comparison and noticed what he calls “bat wiggle,” in which he moves the barrel up and down. He was more crouched, had a wider stance and his hands started at a lower position.

Westburg saw all this and got into the cage one day with a mission. He would blend what he does best with what Henderson does best, and the result is an American League Player of the Week Award as part of his torrid start at the plate.

View post on Twitter

“It’s so cool to have these guys be able to look at players on their team and get inspiration,” Fuller said. “These guys are high-level hitters, so to have those conversations and to be able to say, ‘I’m going to try this out.’ If it fits, keep going with it. And we’re seeing it was a really good choice.”

By adjusting his stance and pre-swing mechanics, Westburg helped unlock another level of his game. He didn’t struggle as a rookie — in 68 games, Westburg hit .260 — but he realized there were tweaks he could make to better adjust to the major league level.

So Westburg drew himself more upright. He raised his hands. He cut out the bat wiggle that would sometimes leave his timing off kilter if the pitcher unleashed an offering when Westburg wasn’t best positioned. And by standing taller in the box, Westburg feels he can better cover the top-of-the-zone fastballs that he sees Henderson turn on for hits.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Jordan Westburg's stance during a game against the Oakland A's on Aug. 18, 2023, left, and his new stance on April 22 against the Los Angeles Angels, right. (Andy Kostka)

“With the way velocity is right now, you need to be able to swing when you want to swing, you need to be able to cover the top of the zone,” Westburg said. “[Ryan] O’Hearn and Gunnar do that very well. So I was kind of trying to model a little bit after them.”

He brought all this to Fuller, who in turn brought the adjustments to Matt Borgschulte and Cody Asche, Baltimore’s two other hitting instructors. They saw the reasoning behind Westburg’s changes and were fully on board — they’re not in the business of micromanaging when a player has a well-thought-out plan.

“It was Jordan Westburg inspired,” Fuller said. “He was very excited about it and excited to show us, and it matched up with what we want.”

And the results have been unquestionable. For as strong a rookie year as Westburg compiled, the power numbers weren’t there. Westburg maintained a belief that the power he showed in the minors (with 18 homers in 67 Triple-A games last year before his promotion) would eventually translate to the majors.

Much of that belief was rooted in the adjustments he made throughout the winter, and it’s paying off. He has five homers and a .316 batting average in 22 games.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“He feels it’s just a really simple move to get his swing to the spot where he can launch at all times,” Fuller said. “It’s been so impressive. Good heaters that he can turn around like we saw at Fenway, like we just saw in Kansas City, but then be adjustable on breaking ball stuff, where he has to delay a little bit too.”

The excitement in Westburg’s voice in the winter was with this in mind. By borrowing some insight from Henderson, Westburg has positioned himself for a breakout year of his own.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

More From The Banner