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Overbay all about spraying the gaps

Overbay all about spraying the gaps

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TORONTO -- Taking batting practice prior to Thursday's game against the Angels, Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay did not hit one ball into the stands. Instead, the Blue Jays first baseman could be seen spraying the ball around the field, specifically to the left- and right-center-field gaps.

After all, during his eight-year career in the Majors, Overbay has been revered for his ability to produce doubles. Over his last four seasons, the slugger has averaged 41 two-baggers a year. This is why the 30-year-old is not worried about the fact that he has hit just two home runs to begin the 2008 campaign.

"I never was a home run hitter anyway," Overbay said on Thursday. "So as long as I'm hitting the ball the other way and driving it into the gaps, that's my game."

While Overbay endured a slow offensive start to the season, the left-handed hitter has shown signs of coming around, as seven of his last 15 hits have gone for extra bases (six doubles and one home run).

"It's more of just placement," he said. "With doubles, you don't really have to hit them that far, you just have to hit them in the right spot. It's just getting a good pitch to hit and being aggressive with that. Hopefully, they'll all come in bunches like they have."

Overbay's numbers so far this season are similar to the career year he enjoyed in 2006, when he hit .312 with 22 home runs, 92 RBIs and 46 doubles over 157 games for the Jays.

In April of that year, Overbay posted just a .275 average with two home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs in 23 games. This season, in 27 April games, the first baseman hit .267 with one home run, two doubles and seven RBIs.

However, after the first month of 2006, Overbay managed to turn his season around on his way to producing a plethora of extra-base hits down the stretch. As well, there have been signs lately that the hitter may be on his way to repeating a similar turnaround.

In 2006, through his first 20 games in the month of May, Overbay clubbed six doubles -- the exact same number he has totaled this season through the first 20 games of May.

Lost in the comparison of Overbay's '06 and '08 seasons is last year's campaign. Despite collecting 30 doubles in 2007, the year was considered somewhat of a wash for Overbay, who broke his right hand on June 3 after being hit by a pitch from White Sox starter John Danks. While he only spent a little more than a month on the disabled list, the injury bothered Overbay for the rest of the season, as he hit just .226 after returning in July.

Currently approaching a year from when he first suffered the broken hand, Overbay said that while it is still sore from time to time, he does not consider it an issue.

"I've been doing what I can as far as forearm work and strengthening it," he said. "But it's one of those things where it takes awhile to get everything out of there.

"But I don't really think it affects my swing," he continued. "I'm not conscious of it. I don't feel like it's hindering me at any point."

David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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