Here in the early stages of spring, Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol has targeted one critical area for improvement with third baseman Mike Moustakas: Batting with two strikes.
Moustakas spent the offseason playing on Grifol’s team in the Venezuelan winter league. Moustakas appears dead-set on atoning for his disappointing 2013 campaign. His work ethic has been obvious here at camp, too. Long after most of his teammates had departed on Wednesday, Moustakas joined outfielder Jarrod Dyson for an extra session of hitting inside a batting cage.
Grifol stood watch as the duo alternated turns facing a pitching machine. All hitters struggle with two strikes. But Moustakas’ difficultly was profound. He batted just .183 with a .504 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
“When you get to two strikes, your swing has to be a bit looser,” manager Ned Yost said. “You have to cut down on your swing a little bit to put the ball in play. Not try to do as much. And when you try to not do as much, most of the time you will do as much.”
The team hopes an increased amount of confidence could help boost Moustakas’ on-base percentage, which has languished at .296 during his three years in the majors. Moustakas has never walked 40 times in a big-league season.
“Walks come with experience,” Yost said. “Prince Fielder and a lot of really good hitters didn’t walk much early in their careers. You learn that the more you walk, the better you’re going to be. Because all of a sudden, you’re not making outs on pitchers’ pitches. It helps everybody’s production when you start to get the feel for that.”
All in but one
Only one player was missing from Wednesday’s full-squad report date: Outfielder Jimmy Paredes, who was claimed off waivers on Monday. Both shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Melky Mesa arrived on Wednesday.
Watching some BP
On the eve of the team’s first official workout, Yost settled onto bench on one of the complex’s backfields. He had just watched his hitters strafe liners during an afternoon batting practice.
“I guess you could say it’s a little exciting to sit back and watch these guys swing the bat the way that they do,” Yost said. “Because you can foresee the way that it’s going to transition into the game.”
When Dyson, the 5-foot-9 outfielder with three career homers, drove one over the fence, a series of catcalls cascaded from the trio of Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and Moustakas.
“Billy, that’s what you’re supposed to do on the regular!” Dyson said.