LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When Hector Olivera took batting practice Saturday with a few other early arriving Braves position players, he displayed a stance and swing that looked simpler and smoother than he had as a rookie in 2015.
Even his manager in the Puerto Rican Winter League, former major leaguer Alex Cora, noticed the difference when he saw a video posted on Twitter by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Hector looks, physically, a lot better in that video,” Cora said in a Twitter direct message. Asked about the lack of a stride or coil in Olivera’s new stance, Cora said, “Yep, and he looks comfortable with it.”
Olivera made the adjustments during and after working for several weeks in winter ball with Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who traveled to Puerto Rico specifically to work one-on-one with the Cuban. As a 30-year-old rookie in 2015, Olivera hit .253 (20-for-79) with seven extra-base hits (two home runs) with 11 RBIs and a .715 OPS in 24 games.
The Braves got Olivera and lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez from the Dodgers in a three-team, 13-player July trade that sent Braves pitchers Alex Wood, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson and Bronson Arroyo, plus infield prospect Jose Peraza, to Los Angeles. Rodriguez will miss the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Olivera is owed $32.5 million by the Braves over the next five seasons. The Dodgers paid the rest of his six-year, $62.5 million contract including a $28 million signing bonus.
After playing third base for the Braves in his first major league stint, Olivera was switched to left field by the team following the 2015 season. He is penciled in to play left field in 2016, though the Braves haven’t ruled out third base as a part-time option at some point.
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