Royals general manager Dayton Moore announced Wednesday that first-base coach Rusty Kuntz will move to another role in the organization while hitting coach Dale Sveum will take over as the club’s bench coach in 2018.
The moves come on the heels of a minor staff shakeup following an 80-82 finish this season. The club previously parted ways with pitching coach Dave Eiland, bench coach Don Wakamatsu and bullpen coach Doug Henry.
Sveum, 54, a former manager with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs, will replace Wakamatsu as the Royals’ bench coach, a move to help streamline the club’s tactical decision making during games. Sveum previously served as manager Ned Yost’s bench coach in Milwaukee.
The move could position Sveum as a possible successor to Yost, whose contract ends after next season.
Former Royals outfielder Mitch Maier will replace Kuntz, 62, a veteran coach who has long coveted a role as a roving instructor in the organization.
Maier, 35, played for the Royals from 2006 to 2012. He spent most of the last three seasons as an instructor in the minor-league system, learning from Kuntz during stays with the major-league club. In addition to coaching first, Kuntz oversaw the club’s running game and outfield defense.
For now, the Royals still have openings at hitting coach and pitching coach. Moore said the club would first look internally to fill those positions.
In addition, the Royals will also add a quality-control coach to the staff. The role, Moore said, will including organizing schedules and day-to-day plans for individual players. The goal is to free up Yost to focus more on building relationships with players and guiding the clubhouse.
Moore said that catching coach Pedro Grifol was a candidate for the quality-control position. Grifol is not currently under contract and may not be back next season, Moore said.
“We want Pedro back,” Moore said. “It’s just a question of the timing of everything.”
Grifol was previously under consideration for the Tigers’ vacant manager’s job. He could also be a candidate for a number of bench coach openings throughout the game. Grifol was previously a candidate to be the bench coach for Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch.
Moore also said that third-base coach Mike Jirschele would be back for a fifth season in that role. The hitting coach and pitching coach jobs could be filled next month.