Nate Spears seeing it all as Saints hitting coach

Feast or famine is a phenomenon most professional baseball players are familiar with. But when it comes to dealing with both at the same time… well, welcome to the world of Saints hitting coach Nate Spears.

Spears, in his first season in the Twins organization after coaching for seven seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization, smiles when talking about Michael Helman’s recent antics. As for Twins sluggers Trevor Larnach and Jose Miranda sent to the Saints in recent days, it’s time to work.

Helman, who has hit consistently for average and power since being called up to the Saints from Double-A Wichita last season, had a hit Wednesday in the Saints’ 4-2 loss to Indianapolis at CHS Field. He is hitting .360 over his last eight games with four home runs and 16 RBIs despite missing the first 22 games of the season with an injury.

“He looks like he’s ready to hit every pitch,” Spears said. “When you’re locked in and you keep taking good swings at the ball, good things happen. He tries to keep everything as simple as possible in his mind, and when he goes up there, loud noises.”

Triple-A teams don’t track batted-ball exit velocity as consistently as teams in the major leagues, but Spears said the Saints have a decent sample size. “I hit about 112 (miles per hour), about 114s,” he said. “(Helman) lives in the 100-plus.”

Larnach and Miranda, who is set to join the Saints on Thursday, have shown their ability to hit in their major league debuts. They will strike again at the major league launch. It’s a matter of how soon.

“It’s baseball,” Spears said. “You can do everything right in the box and get out. You can do it all wrong and hit the ball off the end of the club and still get a hit. This is a fun game and I just like to keep moving forward – to the next one.”

Larnach, who had a pair of hits Wednesday, talked after Tuesday’s game about trying to get comfortable in the batter’s box again. For Spears, it comes down to making good decisions.

“When we swing at the right pitches, good things usually happen,” Spears said. “When we swing at the wrong pitches, sometimes that gets in our heads and we lose confidence. I just think making good decisions in the box will give them some success, and then it usually brings out the best in us.”

Spears said there is no doubt in his mind that the problems Larnach and Miranda are dealing with are more mental than physical.

“Being in the game for over 20 years as a player and coach, I’ve seen almost every aspect of it,” Spears said. “Usually we’re all close to the rim as hitters; As a hitting coach, I just want to back them off the edge a little bit so they feel comfortable in the box.”


Larnach said some of the sting of being sent down was softened by the strong relationship he has with his Saints teammates. “This is the best locker room,” he said. “You can ask anybody if they’re up or down. I came up with a lot of these guys; they are great guys.

“They fight every night. They are having fun. That’s a really big component because sometimes you miss that up there because of the stakes.”

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