A second season began for Mike Moustakas around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, when he boarded a bus from Oklahoma City to Round Rock, Texas, with his temporary minor-league teammates.
The ride took about seven hours. He slept for a few more during the afternoon. At 5 p.m., he hopped a series of flights that transported him from Texas into another country and back to the major leagues.
The Royals recalled Moustakas on Sunday morning after less than two weeks with Class AAA Omaha. He replaced third baseman Danny Valencia, who aggravated his sore left wrist on Saturday against the Blue Jays. Even without Valencia’s injury, Moustakas would have likely been brought back soon.
"He just needed a break," manager Ned Yost said. "He got it."
Moustakas hit .355 with a .960 on-base plus slugging percentage for the Storm Chasers. He worked closely with Omaha hitting coach Tommy Gregg, who counseled Moustakas during his hype-riddled minor-league career. He focused on "getting back to doing things I used to do," Moustakas said.
"I started thinking so much less," he said. "I felt so much more relaxed at the plate. I saw the ball really well. I felt great."
That prospect appeared almost impossible in the majors this season. The Royals demoted Moustakas with the hopes of restoring his confidence. He had done little to inspire that sentiment thus far, batting just .152 with a .543 OPS.
Upon his return, the Royals asked him to separate his first weeks of struggle from his next opportunity.
"The first half is over," Moustakas said. "I went down, took a little time off. Now I’m up here, and I’m hitting .000. Go out there, and it’s a new season. Do what I can to help this team win some ballgames.
"We’ve got a great team here. We haven’t been playing our best baseball. There’s so much potential on this team. We’re going to break out of this at some point this year. And it’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of it, and be able to contribute a little bit."