Opinion

Ned Yost explains why Eric Hosmer is still hitting in Royals’ No. 3 spot

The Royals Eric Hosmer struck out to end the sixth inning Wednesday against the Cardinals.
The Royals Eric Hosmer struck out to end the sixth inning Wednesday against the Cardinals. The Kansas City Star

Ned Yost loathes altering his lineup. He finds the practice meddlesome and burdensome on his players, and “creates a bunch of different tensions that you don’t need to deal with,” he said on Thursday afternoon.

Yost does not want his Royals to enter the clubhouse each afternoon wondering where they will bat. So Eric Hosmer walked to his locker on Thursday still installed in the No. 3 hole, even as he combats a horrific three-week skid.

In his last 22 games, heading into the I-70 Series finale against the Cardinals, Hosmer was hitting .174 with a .443 on-base plus slugging percentage. He had struck out 21 times, walked four times and managed only five extra-base hits. Adam Wainwright bulldozed him for four strikeouts on Wednesday, wiping out any momentum Hosmer gained with his go-ahead hit on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

At the same time, Alex Gordon has started to come alive. He doubled and walked twice against St. Louis, boosting his OPS to .983 during the same 22-game stretch in which Hosmer has cratered. Yet Gordon will still bat fifth; Hosmer will bat third.

Logic would suggest crafting a lineup where Gordon bats more often than Hosmer would be beneficial. Except Yost was dismissive of even the suggestion they could be flipped.

“It’s a big deal to the people who want to talk about stuff,” he said. “It doesn’t make that big of a deal on the context of the game.”

He added, “It doesn’t change things. It doesn’t all of a sudden make something happen.”

Yost was not always this assured. As a coach on Bobby Cox’s Atlanta staff in the 1990s, he received some advice.

“Somebody was really struggling, like Hoz was struggling, for 11, 12 days,” Yost said. “And I said, ‘Bobby, when do you move a player down?’ He goes, ‘What I do, when I’m thinking about moving a player down,’ he goes, ‘I get to that point, and I wait another week.’”

Yost considered that lesson instructive. He does not appear close to starting that week-long countdown with Hosmer. He refused to even concede Hosmer looked overmatched at the plate at times.

“He doesn’t need a mental day off,” Yost said. “He’s not grinding. He’s just not producing. He feels good. He feels confident.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/McCulloughStar.

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