KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals shook up their coaching staff Thursday in an attempt to jumpstart their failing offense, making Dale Sveum the hitting coach and Mike Jirschele their third base coach.
Pedro Grifol, who took over as hitting coach last season, will now instruct catchers.
The moves were announced after the Royals finished off a disastrous homestand that included a sweep at the hands of Houston, and before they opened a four-game series in Toronto.
Sveum said the Royals haven’t done a good enough job this season of hitting pitches in the upper half of the strike zone.
“The bottom line is we’ve struggled with elevation and we’ve swung at pitches down in the zone probably way too much,” he said. “From thigh high to the top of the strike zone, we’re not doing enough damage.”
The Royals began the day last in the majors with 21 homers, putting them on pace to match the 1976 club for the fewest in franchise history for a non-strike-shortened season. They’re also last in the American League in runs and slugging percentage.
“There is not one man in the lineup that’s hitting the ball well,” Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said Wednesday. “We’re just cold.”
Yost said “a different voice can make a difference,” to struggling batters, but the Royals have heard plenty of voices about hitting: Sveum is Kansas City’s fifth hitting coach in less than three seasons.
The Royals let go of Kevin Seitzer two years ago in the hope that somebody else would help the club generate more power. Seitzer was eventually hired by the Blue Jays, who currently lead the majors with 76 homers — more than Kansas City is on pace for all season.
Jack Maloof and Andre David were hired before last season, but they only made it a couple of months before they were reassigned within the franchise. It was at that point that the Royals hired Grifol and Hall of Famer George Brett on an interim basis.
The Royals showed signs of life once that duo was in charge, slowly climbing into playoff contention. Grifol was given the job on a full-time basis after Brett stepped down in July, but lasted less than a year in the role.
“He’s the one that pulled us out of our trouble last year,” Yost said of Grifol Thursday. “A year later, we find ourselves in the exact same spot.”
Sveum, a former Brewers and Cubs manager, had been serving as the Royals’ third base coach. But he also has plenty of experience as a hitting coach, helping Milwaukee finish in the top three of the National League in homers in each of his three seasons.
“He’s got experience, he studies hitting,” Yost said. “He’s got a lot of knowledge. He helped Prince Fielder get, in my opinion, to the next level as an offensive performer.”
AP freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.