NEW YORK - Jayson Werth has an explanation for his improved performance of late: more photographs.
"When I'm seeing the ball well, it's almost like taking 1,000 still pictures of the ball from the time it is pitched to the time it gets to the plate," he said. "When I'm not seeing the ball well, it's like two pictures."
After a slump in which he admitted to feeling "totally lost," the Phillies rightfielder began last night batting .303 (10 for 33) in the first nine games of a 10-game road trip. The stretch lifted his average to .261 and showed evidence of recovery from a sharp downturn. Batting .294 on May 17, Werth saw his average fall to .254 just 15 days later, when the road trip began.
How many pictures is he seeing right now? "I don't know, but at least it's in the hundreds again," he said.
Werth has identified some mechanical issues with his swing, which he prefers not to divulge in order to keep the information away from opposing pitchers.
Werth made a game-saving catch in the 10th inning Wednesday night, diving to snag a David Wright line drive in the gap in right-center. He said that the confidence gleaned from a sharp defensive play can help at the plate. "How many times do you see a guy make a great play and then get a hit in the next inning? Confidence could play a role in that."
He realized what he was doing wrong during the slump but needed time to make changes. "It's tough to adjust on the fly, during games against big-league pitching," he said. "Everybody gets stuck in ruts, no matter what they're doing. If you get lost driving to the store, you try to find a different way."
Pedro Feliz's improvement in batting average this season has been well-documented, but the third baseman has also seen an uptick in walks. Never known for his on-base skills (his OBP in 10 major-league seasons is .294), Feliz had his career high in walks with 38 in 2005. Through 56 games this season, Feliz drew 18 walks and sported an OBP of .355.
"He's been going deep into counts," said manager Charlie Manuel. "He's looking at pitches, not chasing bad balls. . . . That's how you become a better hitter when you're older, becoming selective and getting balls to hit."
"The longer you're in the game, you learn a little bit more," said Feliz, 34. "When you stop learning, you're done."
Greg Dobbs was another Phillie who enjoyed a productive road trip, batting .417 to lift his average from .135 to .200 entering last night. Dobbs, generally a pinch-hitter, said that consecutive starts in San Diego last week made him more comfortable than he had been this season.
"When you get the opportunity to start, there is no question that helps," Dobbs said. "There is a direct correlation between me starting in San Diego and having better at-bats after that. You feel more comfortable as a pinch-hitter [with] the more at-bats you can get, and Charlie understands that."
The Phillies made 20 selections on the third day of the amateur draft. They signed centerfielder Kelly Dugan, their first pick in amateur draft. The 18-year-old Californian was chosen in the second round (75th overall). Dugan's father is film director Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, Big Daddy).
Asked why Scott Eyre faced only one batter in the ninth inning last night, Manuel said: "He was going to stay out there, but he blew out his calf. I think he'll be out a while."
Eyre declined comment and no further information was available.