Seager, Bellinger grateful for hit guru Wooten

Seager, Bellinger grateful for hit guru Wooten

PHOENIX -- After each at-bat in a Thursday night simulated game, Corey Seager retreated to the Dodgers' dugout to watch an instant replay of his swing on Shawn Wooten's smartphone. With Cody Bellinger 1-for-10 with six strikeouts in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, the likely NL Rookie of the Year surely is working long and hard with Wooten.

So who is this Shawn Wooten and why is he the hit doctor to some of the Dodgers' best young boppers?

Wooten is one of three Dodgers hitting coaches. Yasiel Puig ends every home run trot with a kiss on the cheek of main man Turner Ward, the former D-backs hitting coach who has connected with the Wild Horse in ways no other coach has. Assistant Tim Hyers is lower profile than Ward -- or at least the kisses are more discreet -- as he's assigned most days to the indoor batting cage.

Game Date Results Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 LAD 9, ARI 5 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 7 LAD 8, ARI 5 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 9 LAD 3, ARI 1 Watch

Officially, the 45-year-old Wooten isn't even a big league coach, listed instead as the Triple-A batting coach. But he tends to resurface with the Dodgers whenever the young All-Stars stop hitting like All-Stars. He's been around a lot lately.

Wooten, who as a player spent two full seasons with the Angels and three more bouncing between the Majors and Minors for seven organizations, is the one that reconfigured Bellinger's swing near the end of a rough Spring Training. By the end of April, Bellinger was in the big leagues, where he figures to stay for a decade or so.

"You're talking about two elite players," Wooten said. "These guys are hitter-ish, they understand what their bodies are doing. They know how to play."

Generally, the only time you hear about a hitting coach is when he is fired. Bellinger explained why Wooten succeeds.

"He's gifted at looking at video and noticing a centimeter if your foot is tilting this way or that way," Bellinger said. "That can make a world of difference in your swing. He'll put the videos side by side, and it's just an easier way to learn for the younger generation. He's really good at that, he's very good at explaining what it is, what it's causing and how to fix it."

Seager became a disciple the last month of the 2014 season at Double-A.

"I kind of got to know him a little bit then," he said. "Knew I had some stuff to make adjustments on. And the next Spring Training was a really big Spring Training for me. He made some adjustments and we got to where I thought I needed to be, and ever since then it's been a constant dialogue, constant video sent to him pretty much every night. The relationship has grown over the years."

Through the video, the pair dusted off an old, awkward batting stance with a front-foot toe-in that Seager said helped him out of his September megafunk. Although he made little contact during the Thursday night sim game, he's 3-for-8 with a triple and two RBIs in the NLDS.

"Those simulated games really helped," Seager said. "I wasn't really worried about results. Wasn't really worried about hitting the ball. Was just trying to get in the spots I wanted to be at the right times, and it paid off."

If Wooten doesn't energize Seager's bat for tonight, maybe the sight of Zack Greinke on the mound for Arizona will. In 16 plate appearances, Seager is 6-for-11 with two homers and five walks against Greinke, for a slash line of .545/.688/1.182.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.