It didn’t take long for the Royals to decide that only minor changes are needed to manager Trey Hillman’s on-field coaching staff.
Everyone is coming back for 2010 except bullpen coach John Mizerock, whose departure ends his 18-year association with the organization.
“It’s just a philosophical change that I made with regard the bullpen coach,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “Rock’s expertise is as a catcher, and I want a bullpen coach whose expertise is as a pitcher.”
Moore also announced first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, 54, will shift to a new role as assistant to the general manager/field instructor. It was a move that Kuntz desired after the 2008 season before he agreed to return to the big-league staff.
Eddie Rodriguez, 50, will replace Kuntz as first-base coach after spending last season as a special-assignment coach.
“Rusty’s new position will allow him to touch more people,” Moore said. “We want him to be available for all of our home games.
“He might travel with the major-league team from time to time. But, primarily, when our major-league team is on the road, he will be circulating through our minor-league system.”
Rodriguez was Seattle’s first-base coach in 2008 and filled various on-field roles in recent years with Toronto, Arizona and Montreal/Washington. Plans call for him to work closely with third-base coach Dave Owen in coordinating defensive alignments.
“Eddie will handle the outfield stuff,” Hillman said, “but I look at him joining with Dave, who will continue to handle the infielders. I want both of them to put their eyes on both areas.”
The Royals have no timetable for hiring a replacement for Mizerock, 48, as bullpen coach.
“We haven’t even begun yet to put candidates together,” Moore said. “It will be a little while. We’ll have in-house candidates, certainly. We’ll just do our best to get the perfect person.”
The four returning coaches whose positions are unchanged:
•Bench coach John Gibbons, 47, returns for a second season after going 305-305 as Toronto’s manager from Aug. 8, 2004 to June 20, 2008.
•Pitching coach Bob McClure, 57, is back for a fifth season. He is only holdover from the staff of previous manager Buddy Bell.
•Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, 49, just completed his first season as the club’s hitting coach.
•Owen, 51, was on Hillman’s 2007 staff in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters and served as bench coach in 2008 before shifting this season to third-base coach.
“I was very happy with the staff,” Hillman said, “in their ability to teach, their work ethic and the amount of time they put into what we all do. The personalities mesh in conjunction with what the objective is.”
Moore announced the changes Tuesday as club officials continued a week of organizational meetings in Surprise, Ariz. The decision came two days after the Royals completed a 65-97 season that marked a 10-game decline from 2008.
“I think our staff did a very good job under the circumstances,” Moore said. “We’re certainly disappointed in the result (of the season), but I think they handled it pretty well and were able to maintain a positive atmosphere.”
Mizerock joined the organization in 1992 and served the last two years as bullpen coach in his second tour on the major-league staff. He previously worked as bullpen coach in 2002 and third-base coach in 2003-04 before returning to minor-league duties.
He has not been offered another position.
“Rock has been a tremendous contributor to our organization,” Moore said. “Right now, there is nothing available, but that’s not to say that something couldn’t open up. We’re certainly open to that possibility.”
Kuntz spent the last two years as the club’s first-base coach with additional responsibilities as outfield coach and base-running coach. He worked as a minor-league roving instructor for Pittsburgh in 2006-07 after spending three seasons as the Pirates’ first-base coach.
Rodriguez joined the staff last October as special-assignment coach, which meant he couldn’t be in uniform once the game started. He took a leave of absence in September to serve as manager of the United States club in the World Cup and led the Americans to the gold medal.
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