Hoiles' comeback road mixes a little patience . . .


On the surface, it was a meaningless at-bat. Under normal circumstances, a two-out walk with first base open would be routine for Chris Hoiles.

But the circumstances haven't been normal for Hoiles all season, so his plate appearance in the second inning Tuesday night was far from routine.

In fact, it was one of his more impressive efforts recently. The night before, against Melido Perez, Hoiles missed a pitch he should've driven, then was frozen by a middle-of-the-plate fastball that said "hit me hard."

Hoiles admitted after the game that at-bat epitomized what he's been going through.

"The 2-and-0 pitch was one that I hit over the right-field fence if I'm going good," he said. "The next one, I just didn't pull the trigger."

What happened after that was almost predictable -- Hoiles chased a pitch up and out of the zone and struck out. The reaction from the audience was predictable.

Slumps don't end with one at-bat, or one game. But Hoiles' first at-bat the next night was an indication that maybe things were about to change.

After Kevin Bass singled and stole second base, New York Yankees starter Sterling Hitchcock obviously wasn't going to give Hoiles a pitch he could drive. Instead, Hitchcock worked around the plate, figuring to take his chances with Manny Alexander if necessary.

As recently as the day before, Hoiles probably would've made Hitchcock's task easier by chasing an unhittable pitch. Anxiety has a way of forcing such habits when you're hitting below the two-dollar mark.

When Hoiles took the fastball from Perez that glided through the middle of the strike zone on Monday night, it looked like he simply had guessed wrong -- looking for a breaking ball or changeup instead of the heater. Not so, he said.

"Been there, done that," said Hoiles. "I've pretty much gotten that out of my head now."

He's back to the "see the ball and hit it" school -- preferably while being selective enough to refrain from going fishing. That's what he did during his first appearance against Hitchcock. When he didn't chase and took the walk, it was an indication he might have turned a corner.

Two innings later he drove a pitch from Hitchcock into the right-center-field seats. Later in the game he would fly out to right field and turn on an inside pitch and ground a single through the left side of the infield.

Whether it was a temporary reprieve, or a start of something better remains to be seen. But if Tuesday night's game marked a turnaround of sorts, it didn't begin with the home run.

It was the previous at-bat, when Hoiles had the patience to take a walk instead of giving away an out, that was his most impressive of the evening.

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