Hannahan more confident at the plate

Hannahan more confident at the plate

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jack Hannahan is known throughout baseball as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game right now. That is all well and good, but the Indians' veteran infielder also wants to be respected as a hitter.

Hannahan firmly believes he turned a corner along those lines last season.

"Absolutely," Hannahan said on Monday morning at the Indians player development complex. "I figured something out last year, and I'm excited to start right where I finished. This game is all about confidence. If you get mentally strong and confident, it can take you a long way."

This spring, Hannahan is competing against Lonnie Chisenhall for the right to begin this season as Cleveland's starting third baseman. The Indians know Hannahan's glove can play at the big league level on a regular basis, but the team will use Spring Training to see if Hannahan's progress at the plate makes him the best choice.

In the second half last season, Hannahan switched to a heavier bat -- he went to a 35 1/2-inch, 33 1/2-ounce model after using a 34-inch, 31-ounce bat previously -- and it aided in some mechanical adjustments. The new bat forced Hannahan to start his swing earlier, and it made him rely more on using his hands.

"It forced me to get my foot down earlier and get in a position to hit," Hannahan explained. "It just never really clicked before. I've always been told that, but it never really clicked until I got that heavy bat in my hands to really feel it.

"I knew what I had to do. I just wasn't doing it until I got that big bat in my hands."

For his career, Hannahan has hit .231 in parts of five season in the Majors. Overall in 2011, he hit .250 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 110 games with the Tribe, but those numbers do not tell the true tale of his season.

Through July 6, the 32-year-old Hannahan was hitting just .213 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in his first 70 games with the Indians last season. Over his final 40 games, however, he hit at a .327 clip with three homers and 19 RBIs. Hannahan's performance was even greater in his last 25 games, in which he hit .368 down the stretch.

That strong finish gave Hannahan a great feeling heading into the winter months.

"It was huge," Hannahan said. "It's a huge confidence thing for me, as far as being inconsitent offensively and then being able to put together a good, solid second half. Hitting is all confidence. I had a lot of confidence going in that second half, and it carried over into the offseason. I'm expecting the same results this year."