CLEVELAND — Everyone knows someone who is habitually late. It’s a maddening trait to the unafflicted who see the problem as remarkably easy to fix: Start earlier.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
That’s how the Royals’ two new hitting coaches, George Brett and Pedro Grifol, diagnosed Eric Hosmer’s swing.
“When we got here, his hands were in close (to his head),” Brett said. “We moved them back a little bit. So now, he doesn’t have to move his hands back to hit. They’re already back. Now, he just has to bring them forward.”
Hosmer isn’t completely fixed. Nobody is claiming that. But Hosmer is batting .296 since Brett and Grifol replaced Jack Maloof and Andre David — and showing an increased ability to pull the ball.
“The thing Pedro and George have been talking about is trying to exaggerate being early with my load,” Hosmer said. “The reason for all the ground balls I was hitting was being late. You’re rushing at the end.
“So I’m trying to be earlier than on time. I’m exaggerating that. It’s been feeling good as of late, but it’s a work in progress. I think it’s going to get better and better as I keep working with them.”
Brett contends Hosmer isn’t actually early in his swing. It’s simply that he has less to do in his swing because his hands are better positioned, which reduces movement on the swing.
“The whole key to hitting is to slow the game down,” Brett said. “When everything has to move fast, your head (usually) moves. Everything moves.
“So we want the head still, a soft landing (on the weight shift forward) and hands loaded. And we want guys to stay down and through the ball. That’s basically all we’re trying to teach them. That’s all.”
The next step is to ramp up the power. There are positive indicators there, too: seven extra-base hits in 18 games prior to Tuesday after just eight in his previous 48 games.
Even so, Hosmer entered Tuesday with just two home runs in 268 plate appearances.
“Honestly, that doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “They are going to come. But I do want to drive in runs and score runs. I’d say I worry a lot more about RBIs than I do about home runs. That’s the bigger stat for me.”
Right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino was recalled from his minor-league rehab assignment because of lower-back soreness. He made one start in his recovery from Tommy John surgery before his back issues surfaced.
Paulino will return to Kansas City from Class AA Northwest Arkansas for further examination. The Royals made the move after he tested his back Monday by throwing a bullpen workout.
“It’s a precautionary measure to avoid further injuring his lower back and to avoid possibly injuring his shoulder or his elbow,” trainer Nick Kenney said.
Paulino remains cleared to throw, but the Royals want to control those efforts by limiting him to bullpen workouts until his back stiffness subsides. Kenney said the restriction is expected to brief.
The soreness is on the lower left side of Paulino’s back, which affects the landing leg on his delivery — and therefore his balance. The concern is he might compensate by changing arm angle. Doing so could put additional stress on his shoulder and surgically-repaired elbow.
The recall resets Paulino’s 30-day clock whenever he resumes his minor-league rehab assignment.
Back to .500
The Royals did something they hadn’t done in 22 years Monday by climbing back to .500 after once being as many nine games under break-even — 23-32 after a June 4 loss to Minnesota.
The last similar recovery was 1991 when, after falling to 38-47, they went on a 12-3 run to get to 50-50. (It was actually a 13-3 run that got them to 51-50.)
That club finished 82-80.
Need one more
The Royals need to win today’s game to pull off a feat they last accomplished in 1993 — winning five straight series.
The Royals started their current run by winning two of three from Minnesota. They then swept three from Houston, took two of three from Detroit and three of four at Tampa Bay before arriving in Cleveland.
The last time they won five consecutive series was May 11-27, 1993: 2-1 at Cleveland and Anaheim, 2-1 at home against Oakland and Seattle and a three-game sweep in Chicago.
The 1993 streak ended when the Royals lost two of three at Milwaukee.
Keep coming back
The Royals lead the majors in comeback victories after registering their 23rd of the season in Monday’s series opener against the Indians.
Atlanta ranks second, prior to Tuesday’s games, with 21 comebacks.