Brett goes to work with Francoeur and the other Royals veterans
Royals veterans -- not just the young guys -- are absorbing George Brett's hitting counsel
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – While much of the focus surrounding George Brett's hiring as the new
Royals hitting coach has centered around his ability to perhaps "fix" young hitters such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, Brett's influence won't stop there.
Not according to some of the Royals' veteran hitters.
"No matter what age you are in this game, you can benefit from George," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. "He's got so much knowledge. It carries a lot of weight when it comes from a Hall of Famer."
Second baseman Chris Getz agreed.
"When someone with his resume talks," Getz said of Brett, "you better listen. It doesn't matter who you are or how long you've been in this game."
And the way the Royals have been going lately – mired in a horrendous hitting slump – all Royals, young and old, would be wise to pay attention to Brett.
"I think everyone will be willing to listen," outfielder
Jeff Francoeur said. "You have to. And he made a great point. He said, 'If you're not feeling great up there, talk to me. If you want some tips, talk to me. But if you're feeling good up there, tell me, and I won't mess with you.' "
Francoeur, hitting just .213 with two homers and 11 RBIs, has been eager to pick Brett's brain. The two worked together for about 45 minutes prior to Tuesday's game.
And Brett, according to Francoeur, has not told any of the hitters that he's going to overhaul anyone's swing.
"I think you can tinker, but if you have to have a complete overhaul, it's a little late in the season," Francoeur said. "That's something for the offseason. But you can definitely make some adjustments.
"It's not like he's messing with everyone's stance. It's more about rhythm and timing and getting off the plate so that not every pitch seems like it's in on you, crowding you.
"For each of us, he has a couple of little tidbits. "
With Francoeur, Brett focused on getting him off the plate, loaded on his backside and letting the top hand off the bat after he makes contact – the latter is a principal theory in the hitting philosophy of Brett's mentor, Charley Lau. The top-hand release allows for quicker bat speed (pulling the bat instead of pushing it) and prevents rollover hands that often result in weak ground balls.
"That's exactly what we talked about," Francoeur said. "George was on my ass about getting back off the plate, get some rhythm going, load the backside and then release that top hand.
"It feels good. You know, some guys might be skeptical, but it's hard not to listen to someone who had 3,200 hits. He might know what he's talking about."
Even proven hitters such as Butler have been all ears so far.
"(Brett) talks about Charley Lau all the time," Butler said. "I use everything about that, too. I use that approach. Move back and then forward, proper weight shift.
"Especially with the weight back. Seitz (Kevin Seitzer) preached that (weight back). Top-hand release. It just makes everything quicker through the zone."
It's a message and philosophy that Royals players have heard a lot in spring training when Brett traditionally works with the team. But Brett was more of an adviser during that time; now his words mean more as the actual hitting coach.
"He's there in spring training, but when you're not the hitting coach, you don't want to step on any shoes and I'm sure that's how he felt," Francoeur said. "Now he's here and he can have more direct influence.
"I think he's going to bring some really good stuff to the table. I'm excited to be able to work with him."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.