KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perhaps no Royals player responded more positively to the team’s decision to bring in George Brett and Pedro Grifol as the new hitting coaches in late May than first baseman Eric Hosmer, who resurrected his career from that point on.
And with that resurrection came another honor. Hosmer, who also won his first Gold Glove last week, on Tuesday was named the Les Milgram Royals player of the year as voted on by the Kansas City chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
Hosmer was hitting just .262 with one homer when the Royals reassigned hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David, and then brought in Brett and Grifol.
From that point on, Hosmer hit .339 to finish at .302 for the season. He also had 16 of his 17 homers and 66 of his 79 RBIs after the arrival of Brett and Grifol.
“When they came, it just changed the attitude of everyone,” Hosmer said in a conference call Tuesday. “With George, it was the confidence and attitude he brought to us. It just rubbed off.
“I think in my case, he helped me grow as a baseball player.”
Brett and Grifol did make some mechanical adjustments to Hosmer’s swing, setting his hands further back and encouraging him to use his legs more as leverage.
But mostly, Hosmer said, it was simply about having the right approach.
“I think when you’re a young hitter, you just kind of go through your daily routine,” Hosmer said. “You don’t really think about why. You watch the older guys go through theirs and you just do the same.
“But the thing is, you have to have a routine and an approach and stick to it. Good hitters have a game plan before every game and then they stick to it.”
Having Grifol around next year for a full season, starting in spring training, will make a world of difference, Hosmer said.
“For the whole team it will be a big help,” Hosmer said. “He over-prepares. He knows so much about pitching tendencies. He just really helped us mature as hitters and stick to our game plans.”
While the presence of Grifol and Brett seemed to instantly turn Hosmer’s season around, he also revealed late in the season that he had been fighting through an injury to his left hand throughout the first two months.
“It happened that first week in Chicago against Chris Sale,” Hosmer said. “I got a couple of foul balls off him and my hand just kind of blew up. The swelling didn’t go down for like the first month and a half.”
Hosmer said he never considered using the injury as an excuse.
“It probably robbed me of some power,” he said. “… but you just go out there and play. That’s part of the grind of the season. You don’t want to stop playing. You don’t want to lose your job.
“I thought I would just grind it out. I knew it would heal up when it got warmer.”
Hosmer’s hand eventually did heal, he warmed up and, eventually, so did the Royals as a team, winning 86 games and finishing with the team’s first winning record in 10 years.
“We just came together in the second half,” he said. “I think as a team we finally realized how good we could actually be. With that confidence, I think (2014) is going to be a really fun season.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.