Judging the Royals

Raul Mondesi hit a homer, and now the Royals will need to keep an eye on him

Raul Mondesi was all smiles after belting his first major-league homer, off Justin Verlander, no less, in the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Detroit.
Raul Mondesi was all smiles after belting his first major-league homer, off Justin Verlander, no less, in the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Detroit. AP

Raul Mondesi hit his first major-league home run Tuesday night as the Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 6-1.

And for a guy like him, that can be a problem.

Hitting home runs in the major leagues looks like fun (I don’t know for sure; I’ve never hit one), but you don’t want a middle infielder getting pull-happy. Mondesi hit 31 home runs in the minors, but it took him five seasons to do it. He will not stick in the big leagues by trying to hit home runs.

When Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was the hitting coach for the Colorado Rockies, there was a 25-cent fine any time a guy hit a home run in batting practice and then didn’t hit the next pitch to the opposite field.

It was Clint’s way of reminding hitters to hit the ball to all fields; don’t get pull-happy because you want to hit another home run. If a hitter does that, he becomes one-dimensional and much easier to get out.

So now that Mondesi’s hit a home run, keep an eye on what he does this next week. If Mondesi gets pull-happy and opposing pitchers are smart, they’ll pitch him soft in early in the count. They’ll let him pull those pitches foul, then go hard away and let Mondesi try to pull those fastballs, roll over on pitches, and hit easy ground balls to the pull side of the field.

Mondesi cannot afford to get pull-happy.

Who cares about a quarter?

To me, the most amazing thing about that Clint Hurdle story is the fact that big-league ballplayers cared about a quarter.

When I asked Clint why multi-millionaires would be motivated by 25 cents, Clint said it wasn’t the amount, it was the competition. Big-league players are some of the most competitive people on earth and Clint was using that competitive attitude to change their behavior.

Clint had a different bet with Neifi Perez: He owed Neifi a quarter every time Neifi made an out on the ground, but Neifi owed Clint a quarter every time he made an out in the air. The last season Neifi Perez played in Colorado, he hit .298; Perez then came over to Kansas City and hit .241.

If the Royals wanted Perez to hit better, maybe someone should have bet him a quarter that he couldn’t do it.

What to watch for in batting practice

If you pay attention during batting practice, you can see hitters preparing to succeed or preparing to fail.

Guys who like play home-run derby and wow the fans are having lousy BP. Pull flyball after flyball into the stands at 5 p.m. and you’re not preparing to hit line drives to the opposite field at 7:15.

The Royals are smart enough to have singles hitters in the same hitting group with other singles hitters; put a power guy in there and those singles hitters will be tempted to hit home runs.

If you come early and watch batting practice this weekend, keep an eye on Raul Mondesi — I know the Royals will.

Stay away from Salty

No, that’s not advice on how to control your blood pressure; it’s advice on how to pitch Detroit’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia, especially when he’s hitting right-handed.

Over his career, when Salty pulls the ball as a right-handed hitter, he hits .348; when he hits the ball to the opposite field, it’s .242.

Danny Duffy fell behind Saltalamacchia (thank God nobody on the Royals has a name that long) in the fifth inning Tuesday and tried to sneak a 2-1 fastball past him. The odds of beating a hitter with an inside fastball in a 2-1 fastball count aren’t great, especially if that fastball is thrown middle-in.

It’s the pitch the hitter’s looking for thrown to the location he’s wants.

This fastball was 94.1 mph and just slightly middle-in. Saltalamacchia hits .303 when he goes up the middle, and he hit Duffy’s fastball over the centerfield wall.

Yordano Ventura starts for the Royals Wednesday night, so if Salty is in the lineup he’ll be hitting left-handed. His splits are much better as a left-handed opposite-field hitter (.347), but still almost 100 points lower than when he pulls the ball (.432).

So stay away from Salty.