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Sveum familiar with challenge as hitting coach

TORONTO -- Dale Sveum doesn't expect that much will come easy in his new assignment as the Royals' hitting coach.

"You're dealing with the hardest thing to do of any manager, of any coach, of any position. The hitting coach -- anybody will also say -- is the most difficult. Unfortunately, it's the most transitional, too," said Sveum, tapped to take over Pedro Grifol's job on Thursday.

Sveum knows about transitions. He was dismissed as Cubs manager last winter after two seasons. He succeeded Ned Yost as Brewers manager in September 2008. Now, Yost has named Sveum his hitting coach.

Bypassed as permanent Brewers manager for 2009, Sveum instead became the club's hitting coach for the next three years.

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."

As Yost put it, sometimes just a new voice makes a difference with the players.

"It's nothing Petey [Grifol] hasn't been preaching and talking about," Sveum said. "It's relaxing in situations, it's understanding that sometimes you maybe have to exaggerate eyesight -- not just up, but armpit high."

Grifol was reassigned to coaching the catchers and will help Yost and bench coach Don Wakamatsu during the games.

"Petey is one of the best and smartest baseball people I've been around," Sveum said. "I've only known him for a few months now. But he's a very intelligent, all-around baseball guy that's going to be a big asset being on the bench and working with Salvy [Perez] and [Brett] Hayes, and doing a lot of good things."

Hitting, the great Ted Williams once said, is the most difficult thing in sports and Sveum agrees.

"It's still the hardest thing to do in sports and you've got to understand that and simplify it as best you can, and see what you've got," Sveum said.

"It's a long season, there are four months left and we know hitting does go in cycles. Toronto is one of the hottest teams right now and, two months from now you might say, 'Wow, they've really been struggling,' and we might be hotter than heck. That's the way hitting is, not too many teams are the same way the whole season."

Ironically, Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was dismissed by the Royals after serving as their hitting coach from 2009-12.

The majority of players, too, tend to run hot and cold at the plate, hence the term "streaky hitter," Sveum said.

"Most guys are and the rest of them go to the Hall of Fame," he said.

So now, two months into a six-month season, comes the task of rejuvenating a disappointing hitting performance.

"Now it's just a matter of getting into that Happy Zone and finding out now what we're made of when we're going through adversity," Sveum said. "Hitting is one big adversity. If you pick up the dictionary and look up 'hitting,' it might say 'adversity' next to it. That's what it is."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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