Trot Nixon finally stepping up for Indians
Trot Nixon’s primary claim to fame during his half-season in Cleveland has been his ability to deliver a postgame pie to the face of unsuspecting teammates conducting television interviews.
Suddenly, however, Nixon has found himself becoming more effective with a different round object.
Nixon’s RBI double accounted for Cleveland’s only run in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Minnesota. He is likely to be back in the starting lineup tonight in right field as the Indians open a three-game series against Texas at Jacobs Field.
“It’s been a frustrating year, but I’m not going to let it hold me down,” Nixon said. “I’ve made some great strides, considering where I started off in spring training.”
Offseason back surgery limited both Nixon’s preseason preparation and his early season effectiveness. As his mobility has increased, however, his batting average has risen.
Nixon is hitting .318 (14-for-44) with four doubles and a home run during his last 15 games. That’s one extra-base hit every 8.8 at-bats.
Through July 5, Nixon was hitting .240 and averaging an extra-base hit every 15.5 at-bats.
“The further away he gets from surgery, and the more he gets his legs underneath him, the better off he’s going to be,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s moving around better, his bat speed has improved, and the leadership and experience he brings us is off the charts.”
Nixon has had to exercise that leadership on occasion, including calling a 27-minute team meeting following a dugout altercation between pitcher Cliff Lee and catcher Victor Martinez earlier this month in Texas. The 33-year-old earned the respect of his teammates by battling through the early part of the season when he was clearly not at his best physically. Nixon ran like a man in pain. He would soak his entire body in a cold whirlpool after every game to combat the soreness. Still, he never used his physical limitations as an excuse for his lack of performance.
“Right now, I’m not in pain,” Nixon said.
Nixon also had to correct some mechanical flaws in his swing, sometimes difficult to do against tough American League pitching while not at full strength.
“It’s hard to work on certain things during the course of the season,” Nixon admitted.
A healthier body generates more bat speed, which allows a hitter to catch up to more fastballs, which requires an opposing pitcher to do more than simply fire fastballs over home plate.
“His bat speed’s better, and he’s squaring up the ball a little more,” Wedge said of Nixon.
Nixon spent 13 seasons in the Boston organization and never played in an All-Star game, but only Dwight Evans (2,026) has appeared in more games in right field for the Red Sox than Nixon (869) since 1950.
A veteran with that kind of experience knows how to say the right thing at the right time. Nixon did so again after Sunday’s disappointing loss, which left the Indians 9-13 since July 3, but still neck-and-neck with first-place Detroit in the Central Division standings.
“We’re not in a position where guys are getting ready to make vacation plans,” Nixon said. “We’re right where we want to be.”
Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.