ANAHEIM, Calif. — Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur figured he had hit bottom Monday night in his ongoing slump when, after getting himself into good hitting counts, he still failed to connect on hittable fastballs.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
That prompted an early arrival prior to Tuesdays game to study tape with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and manager Ned Yost, outfield coach Doug Sisson and even teammate Billy Butler.
I wanted everybodys opinion, Francoeur said. Im so much better than what Im doing that its ticking me off. I know Im a big part of this team and not to be pulling my weight and producing is frustrating.
The result was some subtle mechanical tweaking (Francoeur is now elevating his back elbow to get a more downward path to the ball) and a major mental reset. Seitzer contends Francoeur became overly concerned at being fooled by off-speed pitches.
As soon as you look stupid on a slider, you tell yourself, Im not going to get fooled on that slider again. And then youre late on the next fastball, Seitzer said.
If youre ready for a fastball, youre going to hit a fastball. You might get fooled on an off-speed pitch but then again, you might see it and be able to lay off of it. You have to trust that and not think, `Oh, Im going to get fooled on every off-speed pitch.
It comes down to feeling sexy again, again getting some results and getting some confidence going to the point where everything starts to slow down, and youre seeing the ball better.
Results havent been immediate.
Francoeur went hitless Tuesday in four at-bats, although he thought he had better swings, before striking out Wednesday in his first three at-bats twice against Angels starter Jered Weaver and once against reliever Jason Isringhausen.
When I struck out 3-2 off Isringhausen, Francoeur said, I asked Seitz, `What the heck am I doing? Im seeing it. Im swinging at it. Im just missing it.
He said he thought my path was a lot better, but that I was coming under the ball. He wanted me to almost chop straight down at the ball. Like chopping wood. Really come down hard. It worked on the next one.
Francoeur hit a three-run homer in his next at-bat against Scott Downs.
Hopefully, that gets me going, he said. You have a swing like that and the ball comes off your bat. Thats the best feeling Ive had in a long time. Ive needed something like that.
That homer was only the third hit for Francoeur in his last 39 at-bats. His average is down to .242. Further, his .280 on-base percentage, entering Wednesday, was the seventh-lowest in the majors among players on pace to qualify for the batting title.
Francoeurs also down. He has only 28 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs in 94 games after finishing last season with 71 and 87.
Theres nobody to blame but myself, he said. Being one of the leaders on this team, Ive got to do a lot better job of producing. Thats what they expect of me, and thats what I expect of myself. We need to start playing better, and that starts with me.
Soup stops by
Former Royals pitcher Jeff Suppan swung through the clubhouse prior to the game to catch up with several former teammates from his time last season at Class AAA Omaha.
Last year was a lot of fun, he said. In my minor-league experience, I had never won a championship. I was always just playing to get to the next level. Last year, a majority of the team was there for the whole season.
Suppan, 37, is currently a free agent after declining a minor-league assignment in early June by San Diego when he cleared waivers after being designated for assignment. He was 2-3 with a 5.28 ERA in six starts for the Padres.
If someone calls, he said, Ill be ready. If they dont, they dont. Either way, it will work out. Once you take the jersey off, its harder to get back in. I know thats the situation Im in now.
Suppan pitched for the Royals from 1998 to 2002 before spending last season at Omaha. He is 140-146 in 448 games over a 17-year career with seven teams and was a member of the Cardinals World Series champions in 2006.
These days, Suppan spends much of his time running his restaurant, Soups Sports Grill, in Woodland Hills, Calif.
Its something my wife (Dana) and I truly enjoy, he said. And were there. When there are mistakes made in the restaurant, usually its our fault. Ive worked there as a manager. Ive worked there behind the bar. Ive worked there in the kitchen.
Weve learned all aspects of the restaurant. Weve enjoyed it.
Bunt sign off
Alcides Escobar got the word, after attempting first-inning bunts Monday and Tuesday, to swing away.
There are times when I want him to bunt and move the runner over with (Lorenzo) Cain coming up next, Yost said. But (the first inning) is not one of those times. My preference is from the seventh inning on.
On a roll
Right-hander Luis Mendoza entersThursdays series opener at Seattle on a run of four straight quality starts along with 24 strikeouts in 272/3 innings over those games.
Hes gotten better and better every time just about, Yost said. It correlates with Sal (Perez) coming back. I think its the way Sal sets up the game and calls the game. His run started with Sal came back.
Perez was the starting catcher in each of Mendozas last four starts.
Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the clubs first-round pick in the June draft, pitches Thursday night at Class A Kane County for the first time since his promotion from Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League.
The Cougars are playing Wisconsin, a Milwaukee affiliate, at home in Geneva, Ill.
Zimmer was 1-0 in three starts at Surprise while allowing just one run and five hits in 10 innings. He struck out 13 and walked nine.
• Kane County pitching coach Jim Brower will fill that role in the Arizona Fall League for the Surprise Saguaros. He is in his second year at Kane County after pitching for eight big-league clubs from 1999-2007. The Surprise roster, which will include Royals prospects, will be announced in late August.
It was 32 years ago today July 26, 1980 that a crowd of 41,860 watched the Royals lose 5-4 to the New York Yankees at then-Royals Stadium. That remains the largest regular-season crowd for a home game in Royals history.
The record crowd was the middle game in a three-game weekend series that drew 40,039 for the opener and 40,057 for the finale games the Royals won.
• Billy Butler hit his club-leading 20th homer on a two-run drive in the fifth that struck the left-field foul pole. That leaves him just one shy of his career-high 21 in 2009.
• The Royals have lost seven straight series since completing a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay from June 25 to 27 at Kauffman Stadium.
• Jered Weaver, at 13-1, is the first pitcher in Angels history to open the season by winning 13 of his first 14 decisions. Three pitchers opened 12-2: Bert Blyleven in 1989, Mark Langston in 1991 and 1995, and Jarrod Washburn in 2002.
• The Royals and Angels are 3-3 through the first six games of a season series that concludes Sept. 14-16 with a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
• The Royals have lost eight straight day games and are 12-22 overall in day games.
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/Royals_Report.