Moose just rakes during Cactus League play

Royals third baseman has been tearing cover off ball in Arizona since 2014

March 10th, 2016

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There is just something about the desert air that seems to bring out the best in Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.

Moustakas is mashing the ball at a .583 clip this spring. His OPS is 1.782.

"I guess I just see the ball well here," Moustakas said. "It's pretty crazy that I'm hitting that good in Spring Training. I'm just trying to work things out and get ready for the season. I'm hoping I can carry on that momentum to the regular season."

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And this just isn't a little hot streak. Since 2014, Moustakas is hitting .398 here in the Cactus League with a .688 slugging percentage -- 16 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBIs in 51 games.

"I don't know what it is," manager Ned Yost said. "He's just always locked in right away down here."

Moustakas' hits aren't "Arizona hits," either. They are not aided by the rock hard infields or the thin desert air. Moustakas has barreled up the ball at an impressive rate.

"I'm putting together some good at-bats and hitting the ball hard," Moustakas said. "At the end of the day, they still have to fall and they are. They're getting down for me. I need to save some of those for the season."

Most of Moustakas' hits this spring have been pulled, and he is conscious of not making that a habit. His career year in 2015 (.284, 22 homers, 82 RBIs) was accomplished through an altered approach -- for the first time in his career, Moustakas focused on hitting the ball to the opposite field.

It was a tough transition for Moustakas, a dead-pull hitter his whole life. But he did it.

"I'm still trying that," he said. "I'm working on going the other way. But I've gotten some hanging changeups and hanging breaking balls that I've been able to pull. It's actually working pretty good. I'm really staying under the ball and getting it up when I can pull it.

"I've had pretty much the same approach I had last year. I've been trying to stay inside the ball and go to left, but when you get a hanging breaking ball, you have to pull it."

Moustakas devotes the first 10 or so swings in batting practice each day to driving the ball the opposite way.

"Absolutely," he said. "I'm trying to make sure I have that approach to left field and not get too pull-happy or too confident about pulling the ball. I'm still bearing down and trying to go to left field when the opportunity is there."

The other catalyst to Moustakas' breakthrough season in 2015 was the shift to the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Yost is deciding between Moustakas and Alex Gordon for that No. 2 role this year.

"If I'm in the lineup, I'm happy," Moustakas said. "I enjoyed hitting second. I got to bunt and do some hit-and-runs. Following [Alcides Escobar] is kind of fun because you never know what he's going to do.

"But wherever I hit, I'm good with it."