CLEVELAND — It’s been three weeks now since George Brett signed on as the Royals’ interim hitting coach while promising no more than a one-month commitment.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
His thoughts to this point?
“I like it when we win,” Brett hedged. “I like it when I see results. Who knows? Gosh, we’ve been winning, but it’s not due to the hitting coach. It’s the pitching coach. If we score four runs, it’s a laugher for us.”
Brett still plans to meet with general manager Dayton Moore at some point in the upcoming homestand to discuss his future in the role. There is little doubt the players want him to stick around.
“That’s what we’re all hoping,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Just having George’s mentality in the dugout helps a lot. He’s a competitor out there.
“And I think Pedro (Grifol) is one of the most intelligent hitting coaches I’ve ever been around. Being around those guys has definitely been a big help for us. We’ll see what happens (with Brett). That’s up to him.”
The Royals promoted Grifol from a minor-league role to serve as Brett’s assistant when they made the May 30 move to replace Jack Maloof and Andre David.
Brett is quick to cite Grifol’s attention to detail as a key component in their combined approach.
“He’s the brains behind all of this,” Brett said. “He really is. He’s come up with these drills. … We didn’t do drills when I played. I didn’t know any of these frickin’ drills.
“What do you mean you’re going to stand over there (at a 45-degree angle) and throw balls to him? And then you’re going to stand over there (at a 45-degree angle on the other side) and do the same thing?
“What does that do? I’d never seen that before. He said, `You know what will be good for (Mike Moustakas)? We’ll put a tee down there about a foot off the ground.’
“Well, that makes you stay down and through the ball. How are you going to hit it if you come up on it? We’re trying to get him to stay long down and through.
“He’s come up with a lot of these drills and, gosh, it’s working like (heck) in batting practice. That’s the first step. Now, to bring it into the game, and be able to do it when the guy is throwing 95 miles an hour and has a change-up that falls off the table, it’s a little bit harder.”
Even so, Grifol’s drills still play to Brett’s basic philosophy: Work hard on fundamentals in practice. Then clear your mind when the game starts and let muscle memory take over.
And stay positive.
“You have to realize that pitchers are going to get you out,” Brett said. “If a pitcher gets you out, there’s nothing you can do about it. Not if you battled and gave it a good at-bat.
“If the guy made a great pitch, or you hit it right at somebody, there’s nothing you can do about that. But what we want to do is eliminate guys getting themselves out.”
Pressed again about a longer commitment, Brett remained non-committal.
“It’s been all right,” he said. “We’ve won a lot of games. Baseball is always a lot of fun when you win. Like Monday. It was an ugly win, but a win is a win. Who cares?”
And again, he pointed to Grifol.
“Pedro explains things really well,” Brett said. “It’s hard for me to explain it. It’s easier done than said. It was easier for me to hit than to explain how and also translate it into how if can work for you.”
Rodriguez takes blame
Third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez took full responsibility for the base-running blunder Tuesday that prevented the Royals from scoring the tying run in the ninth inning.
The Indians led 4-3 when Rodriguez held up David Lough, who was well around third, on a one-out single by Alcides Escobar to right field. The play resulted in an out and proved pivotal in the one-run loss.
“David should have been sent,” Rodriguez said. “I take the fault. I’ve been aggressive all year, but I wasn’t in that opportunity. You look at it. We would have won the game, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Lough would likely have scored standing up because the throw by Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs was well off-line.
“That was Eddie’s mistake,” manager Ned Yost said. “It wasn’t David Lough’s mistake. We all make mistakes in this game. Eddie has made very, very few of them. He’s made a ton of great calls.”
The oldest pitcher on the staff got a year older Wednesday when Bruce Chen turned 36. Feel old?
“Wiser,” he parried.
Chen is merely the Royals’ oldest pitcher; their oldest player is infielder Miguel Tejada, who turned 39 on May 25.
Chen is adapting to life this season in the bullpen after spending the previous three years in the rotation (while going 34-29 in 82 starts).
“When my role changed, my mentality didn’t change,” Chen said. “I still want to do everything I can to help this team. I feel the times I’ve pitched, I’ve contributed.”
Chen is 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA but has worked just 23 ⅓ innings in 14 appearances.
“We’re playing really well, and one of the reasons is I’m not pitching,” he said. “When the long guy doesn’t pitch, you know the team is playing really well.”
It was 44 years ago Thursday — June 20, 1969 — that the Royals set a franchise record that still stands by taking just 4 hours, 37 minutes to play a double-header. (Just think how pleased Denny Matthews must have been.)
It was at Sick’s Stadium in Seattle against the Pilots, who had joined the American League that season with the Royals as an expansion team.
The Pilots left Seattle after one season by moving to Milwaukee to become the Brewers.
The Pilots won the opener 5-3 in 2:23 before the Royals gained a split with a 6-2 victory in the second game that lasted 2:14. Attendance was listed as 18,413.