Flanagan: This is the Hosmer we've all been waiting to see
Royals player of the month Eric Hosmer is reminding fans of the 2011 rookie sensation
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas came up through the minor league system with
Eric Hosmer, and he's here to tell you that as hot as Hosmer has been lately, we haven't seen anything yet.
"There's a lot more coming from him," Moustakas says, nodding toward his clubhouse neighbor's locker. "He hasn't even reached his full potential yet. He's been swinging the bat really well lately, but I know I've seen him even hotter.
"That's still coming."
That's certainly encouraging news for Royals fans, who have witnessed a complete transformation from Hosmer in the last six weeks.
Hosmer's story is familiar to any Royals fan -- a first-round pick in 2008, he tore through the minor leagues before making a huge splash in his rookie year in 2011, when he hit .293 with 19 homers, 78 RBIs and 11 steals.
Then came a vicious sophomore slump as Hosmer's numbers dropped to .232 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs.
And this year started even worse: Hosmer seemed to be reduced to a light-hitting, opposite-field singles hitter. Fans groaned each time Hosmer served soft flares into left field, while his average and power numbers plummeted.
The low point likely came May 18 when Hosmer settled for another 0-for-3 night and his average dipped to .244. Worse yet, he had just one home run -- an opposite-field homer -- and 11 RBIs at that point.
But two weeks later, the Royals reassigned hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David, and brought in George Brett and Pedro Grifol.
Something immediately clicked with Hosmer. He got 12 hits in his next 36 at-bats. And slowly but surely, he began pulling the ball. Then he began pulling the ball with authority.
And then came the home runs -- one at Tampa, two at Kauffman Stadium, three more at Minnesota.
Hosmer wound up being the Royals' player of the month for June, hitting .303 with six homers and 17 RBIs.
Hosmer gives the credit to Brett and Grifol.
"What they've been preaching is go up there with an approach," Hosmer says. "And try to be early when you start your swing as opposed to being late. Better to be early, and then you can always adjust after that.
"George and Pedro have done a great job of that."
Technically, Brett and Grifol have made only minor changes to his stance and swing, Hosmer says.
"There's a little bit of adjustment with the hands being up and loose," Hosmer says. "It's a timing mechanism more than anything. You know that when your hands come down, that's when you've triggered your swing.
"But it's more that your eyes tell your hands what to do. If your eyes like the pitch, your hands go after it.
"But it's really more to do with leg drive. I'm not sure I was using my legs properly before. I'm a tall guy and I can get some leverage with my legs. It's your legs that drive everything else, and you can get power and leverage from that."
That power has been a welcome sight for the Royals and their fans.
In his last nine games, Hosmer has gone 15 for 33 with five homers and 10 RBIs. Is it a hot streak, or is this Hosmer here to last?
"I think it's a hot streak to a degree, and every player goes through these," he says. "But I also feel like I'm becoming the hitter I should be. I still have a lot of things to work on. You always have to work to get better. That's another thing that George and Pedro emphasize.
"You have to keep getting better because there will be times when you hit the ball hard and it's an out and there will be times you're just not feeling it. You have to get through those times through hard work. Baseball is a long season and it can be a grind, so you have to really stay with it."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.