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"We're on the same page," Ludwick said. "I feel like he's going to be a tremendous help. Mechanically, what he's taught me I really like."
La Russa believes McGwire's job is the toughest on the staff because of the scrutiny not just from outside but from those he'll be coaching.
"Hitters will blame hitting coaches more than pitchers blame pitching coaches," La Russa said. "I didn't do Mark a big favor with this."
Easing the transition, instructor Mike Aldrete is serving as an unofficial second hitting coach for the third straight season. Aldrete works mostly with the pitchers but helps out wherever needed.
La Russa has no doubt McGwire has the knowledge, accumulated from a career of extreme highs and lows, to pass on to hitters.
McGwire became a student of the game after returning from heel injuries that limited him to 74 games total in 1993-94 and nearly ended his career. He hit a rookie-record 49 homers in 1987, but La Russa remembers an upright hitting style that was "vulnerable" to high strikes and said the young McGwire was not interested -- "he didn't have a clue, didn't want to have a clue" -- in making adjustments.
Along with the boost he received from performance-enhancing drugs, McGwire altered his stance, holding the bat at an angle and straightening out a pigeon-toed stance. The result: all those soaring, tape-measure drives that vanished into the ether.
More patience at the plate, too. McGwire was a lifetime .263 hitter but his on-base percentage was .394.
"He really has learned," La Russa said. "That's why he's here, he has a passion to teach."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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