From his physical appearance (including a ring on his finger) to his approach at the plate, Mike Moustakas has a newness about him that should make him more of an offensive threat this season. Kansas City Royals, Pedro Grifol, Eric Hosmer
Mike Moustakas tried to pull everything last season, including this game-winning, 13th-inning home run against Seattle. No argument with that one, but the Royals wouldn't mind seeing him drive more pitches to center and left this year.
Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports
By Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Royals fans who venture down to Arizona for spring training will notice a new Mike Moustakas.
He's lighter (about 10 pounds) and has a new haircut (a spiked Mohawk) and bride (Stephanie). Perhaps most important to his fans, though, is his new approach and swing at the plate.
The old Moustakas who tried to pull every pitch is long gone, he vows.
Moose, as he is affectionately known among fans, spent much of the off-season working out, eating better and learning to ditch his pull-happy ways.
The new swing came courtesy of hitting coach Pedro Grifol, who happened to be Moose's manager during a three-week stint in winter ball in Venezuela.
"I really got some quality work in with Pedro," Moustakas says. "I took about 300 swings before every game with Pedro. We worked on different situations, pitch-count situations.
"It was mostly about my mental approach. We went back and looked at what my swing at Double A looked like and we are changing some minor things.
"The motto was, 'Do some damage with your swing.' It worked. It felt good."
The main difference that Royals fans will notice is that he will be hitting the ball with authority the other way, something he rarely did last year, when he hit just .233 with 12 homers.
"I didn't pull the ball hardly at all (in Venezuela)," he says. "I worked the middle of the field. That was what Pedro was preaching: Middle of the field, middle of the field. Every day we worked on that.
"I think the three home runs I hit out there were all to dead center. I hit doubles to left-center.
"And if pitchers came in, I was still able to get my hands in and pull it. But that's how I got into a funk last year -- I tried to pull everything. Pedro just told me (pulling every pitch) is not going to work."
There were occasions last season when Moustakas tried to go the other way with a pitch, but it usually resulted in a soft flare to short left-center.
"I can drive it now," he says. "It's not just flares (to left)."
Coincidentally, Moose and his best buddy, Eric Hosmer, seemed to have opposite problems last season. Moose pulled the ball too much and Hoz didn't pull it enough, at least not to start the season.
"We're just two completely different hitters," Moustakas says. "Hoz has an unbelievable ability to hit the ball out to the opposite field. And that's his strength. My strength is my hands and pulling it when the pitch is there.
"But I can't try to pull everything. When I did, my hips flew open, my shoulders flew open, everything flew open and I had no chance. We're not doing that (anymore).
"I'm not going to hit too many homers to left-center. I'm not 6-5 like Hoz. He's a big boy. But I know I can drive the ball that way."
Moustakas struggled with the change at first this winter.
"When you change things, it's difficult," he notes. "The first three or four games in Venezuela, I didn't do so well. I didn't trust the process and I was going back to my old ways.
"But then after a week or so, it made more sense and I started to trust it. I felt phenomenal. It kind of clicked -- if the ball is in the middle, go up the middle; if it's away, stay with it; if it's inside, pull it. But don't try to pull everything."
Moustakas continues to work on the new approach, even now.
"I've already been back to Arizona working with Pedro," he says. "It's something you have to stay working on."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.