It isn't quite "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” territory, but a new leg kick might skyrocket Jason Botts back to the major leagues for good. Botts, the RedHawks' top power hitter the past two years, decided he needed to make some changes in his batting style after not making the Texas Rangers' opening-day roster. "I wanted to change the timing and rhythm of how I hit,” Botts said. So, the switch-hitting left fielder went from swinging flat-footed to lifting his front leg before taking his hacks. Instant success? Not at all. In April, Botts batted only .200 and had just one home run and 14 RBIs in 24 games. Botts didn't add the leg kick until the final three days of spring training. So as a hitter he was, in effect, beginning spring training again when the regular season started. "He had a hard time figuring it out at first,” RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "He was late on a lot of balls. He couldn't get his (front) foot down on time and the ball was by him, or he was swinging too early. And then finally he just figured it out. He got his timing down and he's a completely different hitter now.” Botts paid a price in April. Pacific Coast League pitchers have been paying the price against him in May and June. Since the slow first month, Botts has hit .382 in May and June, with 31 RBIs in 36 games. "I think the leg kick is going to help me have a shorter, quicker swing,” Botts said, "and I'll be able to cover more areas of the hitting zone. It's a sacrifice I was willing to make early, and now I've gotten through it and I'm starting to see some results.” After struggling to reach baseball's Mendoza Line (.200) in the first month of the season, Botts is batting .308 through 60 games. In the PCL he is first in doubles (22), fourth in RBIs (45) and fifth in on-base percentage (.410). There has been one problem, though. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Botts had only four homers this year — before hitting two on the first two pitches he saw Saturday night at The Brick. He had gone 20 games without a home run. Botts came into this season with 38 home runs and 141 RBIs in 196 games for the RedHawks. "For a man his size, he's got to hit home runs,” Jones said. "That's the bottom line. But he's always been a good power hitter and it'll come. It's not something I'm worried about. He might go on a streak and hit 10 in 10 days, who knows? He's strong enough.” Jones believes Botts needs to be more aggressive at the plate, saying the slugger takes too many good pitches. "We have differences of opinions sometimes,” Botts said with a grin. "But in certain situations and certain areas I think he's right. I do need to be a little more aggressive, and I think that's just going to come with some of the adjustments I've been making.” Texas called up Botts for 20 games last year and for 10 games in 2005. He has one homer and a .247 average in 77 big league games. The struggling Rangers figure to call up Botts again this year, maybe even this month. Next year, he'll be out of options, which means he'll become a free agent if the Rangers don't put him on their 2008 roster.
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The RedHawks' Jason Botts is adjusting to a new swing and waiting for his power numbers to pick up. By NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN