Disappointing offensive production from several key players prompted the Royals to fire hitting coach Kevin Seitzer on Thursday morning — less than 12 hours after the club completed a 72-90 season.
Seitzer, 50, just finished his fourth season as the club’s hitting coach and was the longest-serving member of the club’s on-field staff.
“I just felt the offense underperformed all year long,” manager Ned Yost said. “Kevin Seitzer has tremendous passion, tremendous energy and worked his tail off. But we just felt like there’s more offense in there. We just felt it was time to make a change.”
The contracts of pitching coach Dave Eiland, bench coach Chino Cadahia, third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez and first-base coach Rusty Kuntz were extended through 2013.
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The Royals still have a vacancy at bullpen coach, but are expected to fill it by promoting either Doug Henry from Triple-A Omaha or Larry Carter from Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Both filled that role on an interim basis in the season’s closing weeks.
“We’ve got two real good in-house candidates,” Yost said. “We’ll talk about that, too. We’re not ready to make a decision. The season just ended, and we need time to make sure we completely think through it.”
The bullpen position became vacant when Steve Foster, who held the role since 2010, shifted on Aug. 31 to become the organization’s minor-league pitching coordinator.
Seitzer paid a price for disappointing seasons by two of the club’s young cornerstone players, first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, and a sharp decline by veteran right fielder Jeff Francoeur.
“Kevin was a tremendous hitter when he was in the big leagues,” Yost said. “His philosophy was, basically, to stay to the middle of the field and to the off side. I think we’ve got a group of young power hitters who are capable of hitting homers.”
The Royals finished near the bottom of the American League in many key offensive categories: 12th among the 14 teams in runs scored, 13th in home runs and 14th in walks.
“Our offense was built more around singles and doubles,” Yost said, “but it’s difficult to get three or four singles in a row to score a run. We have to have the ability to open it up a little more, use the power that we have to take advantage of a quick strike.
“A walk, a base-hit and boom — there’s three runs. I think that’s the major difference in philosophy.”
Yost said he’d “like to stay in-house” in finding a replacement for Seitzer.
That suggests the candidate pool will include Omaha hitting coach Tommy Gregg, Northwest Arkansas hitting coach Terry Bradshaw, Rookie Surprise hitting coach Andre David and minor-league hitting coordinator Jack Maloof.
David served as the Royals’ hitting coach from May 30, 2005, through May 1, 2006. Maloof spent three years as the Marlins’ hitting coach. Gregg and Bradshaw have never coached in the big leagues.
Hosmer’s troubles — It is now obvious to Hosmer, in retrospect, that he allowed an early run of tough hitting luck to undermine his entire season.
“I think it started out as some bad luck,” he said. “After that, I felt I had to change things. When I look at it now, I should have realized how much time was left in the season and that there was no reason to change anything.”
A strained right rotator cuff, suffered last week in Detroit, ended Hosmer’s season prematurely, but there’s no hiding the disappointing numbers: A .232 average with 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 152 games.
“He regressed,” Yost agreed, “but he’s going to (rebound). Absolutely. He got into some bad mechanical areas. Started pressing. Started listening to too many people. Started changing too many things. His swing got long. It got loopy. It got violent.
“It’s been my experience that when kids go through this, they battle and battle, but when you’re trying to make changes in the middle of the year, it just doesn’t happen. The worse it gets, the harder you try, and that only ensures that it gets even worse.”
The hope is Hosmer recalibrates in the offseason.
“You go home,” Yost said, “and you just want to sit, but you’re thinking all of the time about things. Then you start your winter program. You start hitting. You start working and get back to you do well. After a break, your mind relaxes; your body relaxes.
“You start to get back on track again, and you come back better because of the experience you’ve been through and the process you’ve got through.”
Plans call for Hosmer to return to Kansas City in a few weeks to get his shoulder re-evaluated by Vincent Key, the club’s primary physician. Barring a setback, Hosmer should be able to start his off-season program on schedule.
“Obviously, this wasn’t the year I wanted to have,” he said. “All I can do is learn from it and use it to make me better. That’s what I want to do.”
Gordon nominated — Alex Gordon is one of 10 nominees for the Hutch Award, which is given annually to a player who best exemplifies the “honor, courage and dedication” of former manager and pitcher Fred Hutchinson.
Gordon’s teammate, Billy Butler, was last year’s recipient.
Hutchinson was 45 when he died from cancer in 1964. His brother, Dr. Bill Hutchinson, founded The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The winner of this year’s award will be announced later this fall. The other nominees are Felix Hernandez, Ryan Ludwick, Brandon McCarthy, Logan Morrison, Jake Peavy, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Zimmerman and Barry Zito.
Minor details — Omaha outfielder Wil Myers is one of 12 nominees for the MiLBY award as the minor-league player of the year. The awards are sponsored by MiLB.com.
Myers, 21, was previously picked as the minor-league player of the year by Baseball America and USA Today. His grand slam against Roy Oswalt, who pitched briefly for Round Rock before joining Texas, is one of 12 candidates for Home Run of the year.
Online balloting is being conducted at http://atmilb.com/QQkVCg.
Omaha outfielder Derrick Robinson was one of nine players honored with a minor-league Gold Glove for defensive excellence. The selections were made from players in the 10 full-season leagues.