Has Eric Hosmer finally found a home — and, more importantly, a comfort zone — as the No. 3 hitter in the Royals’ lineup?
“Definitely,” he said. “Every at-bat, I’m going up with a plan. Pedro (Grifol, the hitting coach) is standing right there, behind the on-deck circle, and I tell him what I’m thinking about doing.
“He’ll say whether he likes it or doesn’t like it. He’s really a great guy to talk to about having a plan and going up there with a specific approach.”
The numbers say it’s working.
Hosmer returned Aug. 24 to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, which is where the Royals have long envisioned him — but where he often struggled in the past.
Not this time.
Hosmer is batting .333 with 12 RBIs in 19 games since the switch after going two for five in Wednesday’s 6-2 victory over the Indians.
“I think he’s comfortable there now,” manager Ned Yost said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the numbers. It has to do with his confidence in his at-bats, and the way that he feels when he walks up there.”
Since June 5, or roughly one week after George Brett and Grifol arrived, Hosmer is batting .328 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 90 games. He also has a .387 OBP and a .518 slugging percentage.
“It started there,” Yost said. “We had to get these guys to relax, take a deep breath and get back to doing what they can do. At that point, they were grinding real hard. George and Pedro did that.
“There were some adjustments that needed to be made in his swing. He couldn’t pull the ball. He just couldn’t do it. Now, he’s back to using the whole field.”
Hosmer pointed to another factor.
“I came into spring training and felt good,” he said, “but the first game (of the season) in Chicago against (Chris) Sale, I fouled off a couple of balls, and my hand ended up blowing up on me. It lasted a couple of months.”
That sore hand robbed Hosmer’s power. He kept quiet on the injury and played through it but managed just one homer and 10 extra-base hits in his first 54 games.
“After last year,” he said, “I didn’t want to get out of the lineup. So I stuck through it. After that first month, when the weather started to heat up, I knew the power would come.”
Even so, Hosmer knew something was wrong.
“I was still seeing the ball really well,” he said. “I know it doesn’t really make sense, but I was seeing the ball really well. I just didn’t know why I was fouling balls off or missing balls.
“I think that between George’s mental approach, and Pedro’s ability to break down guys — it was a perfect match for me.”Rotation switch
Yost confirmed plans to skip Danny Duffy’s next turn in the rotation, which would have been Friday’s series opener at Detroit. The open date Thursday permits the Royals to keep everyone else on regular rest.
“We want to go with our veteran pitchers,” Yost said. “(Duffy) had a couple of rough starts where he’s been max effort for three-plus innings. Against Detroit, I just want our veteran guys going right now.”
That means Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie will start the three weekend games against the Tigers at Comerica Park.
James Shields will start next Monday’s series opener against Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium before Duffy returns the following day. Yost said he isn’t planning further adjustments after the Sept. 19 open date.
The realigned rotation puts Shields in position to pitch Oct. 2 in wild-card game should the Royals reach the postseason.Playing deeper
Lorenzo Cain played center field for the first time since returning Sept. 4 after missing nearly four weeks because of a strained left oblique. He had played six games, including two starts, in right field.
One change: Cain played a few steps deeper in center field than previously in an attempt to minimize his tendency to run at full speed into the wall when retreating on deep fly balls.
“We’re going to back it up a little bit,” he said. “I think I can still come in on the ball.”Minor details
Class AAA Omaha won the rain-delayed opening game in the best-of-five Pacific Coast League championship series Wednesday afternoon by rallying for a 3-2 victory over visiting Salt Lake (Angels).
Ben Broussard’s RBI single in the eighth inning scored Irving Falu with the winning run. The game started Tuesday night before rain forced a suspension in the second inning.
The second game was Wednesday night at Omaha with Yordano Ventura scheduled to start against Tommy Hanson. The series shifts Thursday to Salt Lake for the third game.
The fourth and fifth games, if necessary, will be Friday and Saturday at Salt Lake.Idaho Falls needs one
Short-season Idaho Falls had two chances Wednesday to win its best-of-three series against Grand Junction (Rockies) in the Pioneer League playoffs.
The Chukars posted a 7-1 victory at home in Monday’s series opener. Tuesday’s game was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Grand Junction.
A decisive third game, if necessary, is Wednesday night at Grand Junction. The winner advances to meet Helena (Brewers) in the Pioneer League championship series.Looking back
It was six years ago Thursday — Sept. 12, 2007 — that Alex Gordon set a Royals’ rookie record when he collected his 34th double of the season in a 6-3 victory over Minnesota at Kauffman Stadium.
Kevin Seitzer set the previous record with 33 in 1987, and Mark Quinn matched it in 2000. Gordon finished the season with 36 doubles, which remains the club’s record for rookies.Etc.
• Gordon’s leadoff homer extended his club record to 13.
• James Shields extended his American League-leading totals to 23 quality starts and 207 2/3 innings. He has now reached 200 innings in seven straight seasons.
• Jamey Carroll started at third base and went hitless in three at-bats before getting replaced by Mike Moustakas in the seventh inning. Carroll remains stuck at 999 career hits.