Yesterday, the Royals fired hitting coach Pedro Grifol and hired former Cubs manager Dale Sveum to replace him. Despite some promising bats in their lineup, the Royals enter play tonight with the league’s second-worst on-base percentage at .308 and the worst slugging percentage at .352. The league averages are .322 and .394, respectively.
Entering Friday’s action, only three Royals have slugged three or more home runs: Salvador Perez (5), Mike Moustakas (4), and Alex Gordon (3). Moustakas, with a .543 OPS, was demoted to Triple-A last week. As a team, the Royals only barely outpace Nelson Cruz in home runs, 22 to 19. It’s been bad.
Sveum has a theory on why the Royals have been so bad offensively. Via MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel:
Sveum’s immediate take on the Royals is they’re not feasting enough on high pitches, instead going after too many low in the zone.
“It’s not rocket science,” Sveum said. “If you don’t get a good pitch up in the zone, you’re not going to be very successful. That’s basically the bottom line. We have very talented hitters that have done it in the big leagues and have had good years in the big leagues so sometimes it’s as simple as pitch selection, sometimes it’s as simple as maybe a mechanical flaw.”
It will be interesting to see if Sveum makes a noticeable difference on the team, or if the Royals are simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.