Uncaging Moose is a top priority for Royals

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04/25/2013 9:04 AM

05/20/2014 10:43 AM

Perhaps it’s a myth or an urban legend that the term “(ticked) off” originated from the fact that a moose often urinates prior to making an angry charge. (OK, maybe that wouldn’t be an “urban” legend.)

But the point is this:

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas is clearly and enormously (ticked) off at his non-productive start. Only the club’s success is keeping him somewhat in check.

“It’s tough,” he admitted prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. “Nobody wants to do bad on the field, but at the end of the day, we’re winning ballgames.

“We’re in first place right now. That makes everything go a lot easier. When you’re not hitting well, and not playing exceptional defense, you just do what you can out there. And you keep positive.”

That’s easier said than done.

Moustakas entered the series with just one RBI and his slash totals — a .158 average, .226 on-base percentage and .193 slugging percentage — approximate the accumulative totals of the club’s pitchers: .200/.200/.200.

What we’ve seen is, in short, one caged Moose, but he and the Royals believe they’ve identified the problem — that he is drifting forward on pitches. Doing so robs all the power from his swing.

“I’ve been getting out on my front foot way too much instead of staying back and trying to see the ball,” Moustakas said. “As a result, everything I’m hitting is (weak and) in the air.

“They’re trying to get me to stay back a little more. Just relax and use my hands. Like I did last year, I’ve tried to get everything back in two or three swings instead of just relaxing and letting it all happen.

“Once I get back to (staying back on the ball), everything is going to be OK.”

An extensive session of early batting practice Tuesday, under the close watch of hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David, produced encouraging results.

Moustakas drove the ball regularly and with authority.

“When you start drifting, it’s a habit,” manager Ned Yost said. “When you’re hitting, or pitching, it’s all repetition and good habits. When you get into a bad habit, you’ve got to break it.

“He’s got to get back to staying back behind the ball. He did it really well today in early BP. He was driving the ball into the seats, into the gaps, into deep center. He was barreling balls up really well.

“It might take a few games before he gets a feel for it in the games, but he’s definitely on his way.”

The key at this point, Moustakas said, is to control his frustration, i.e., put on a charge without, ah, getting (ticked) off.

“You can’t go out there and look at your statistics,” he said. “They’re not going to change much right now. You just go out and do what you can to help the team win. If we keep winning ballgames, we’ll be in good shape.”

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