Moustakas to keep plugging away for Royals
Struggling third baseman will work through offensive issues in Majors
KANSAS CITY -- When the Royals' clubhouse doors opened to the media on Tuesday, third baseman Mike Moustakas was the object of their interest and he was there, available for the hard questions.
Primarily: Why was here still there, why hadn't he been sent down to the Minor Leagues?
Despite intense newspaper and radio speculation that the struggling Moustakas would be shipped off to Triple-A Omaha, Moustakas was in front his locker, snapped on his Kansas City cap and turned to face the cameras, microphones and notebooks.
"I really don't know what's going on with all the roster moves," he said. "That's the good part of my job, I just have to go out there and play. I just go out and do what I can to help this team win at any cost."
Tuesday's only move was putting second baseman Omar Infante on the disabled list and recalling infielder Pedro Ciriaco from Omaha. Nobody was going to Omaha -- not even the .147-hitting Moustakas.
Things have been going so bad that recently the left-handed-hitting Moustakas has been platooned at third base with right-handed-hitting Danny Valencia.
"Anytime I get an opportunity to get in a game, I'll do what I can to help us win," Moustakas said before the series opener against the Rockies. "Danny's been doing a great job against lefties, playing very, very well for us -- helping us win ballgames -- and as long as he does that, I'll do what I can to help us win against righties, and we'll go from there."
Moustakas explained that he and hitting coach Pedro Grifol were working with his hands, his stance, his pitch selection and felt they were heading in the right direction.
"One of these things is going to click for me and I'm going to go out there and get four hits one day and four the next day, and nobody will be thinking about this anymore," Moustakas said.
Moustakas said that he was working his way into a lot of good hitter's counts and that he feels good in the batter's box.
"I'm getting myself out, they're not getting me out," he said.
This has come as a surprise because, in Spring Training, his .429 average was third-highest in the Major Leagues. His 18 RBIs in 24 games were the most in baseball and he had four homers and seven doubles. He'd also had a successful winter ball season in Venezuela playing for Grifol's team.
In Venezuela and in the Cactus League, Moustakas often was driving the ball to the opposite field, left and left-center. But in the regular season that hasn't happened and teams are using an extreme shift to right field against him.
"I've tried and tried my luck over that, tried to inside-out some balls that way and it didn't go well for me," Moustakas said. "It kind of got me missing my pitches later on in the count, but I've just got to hit the ball hard and forget where it goes. That's the key I'm working on right now: It doesn't matter where I hit it -- hit it hard and it'll eventually fall."
General manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost expressed confidence that will happen.
Moore was asked about not shipping Moustakas to Omaha.
"There are three things that you look at when you send a player down, assuming you have an alternative: 1. Is the player continuing to work hard, stay positive and doing something to contribute to the success of the team? 2. Do his teammates want him as part of this group and feel he can contribute to the team? 3. Does the coaching staff remain positive and want the player with the 25-man roster?" Moore said.
"And in all those cases, the answer is a resounding yes. Mike's doing everything we need him to do and then some."
Yost feels that Moustakas is continuing to help the club.
"It's about winning baseball games and we feel that he helps us win baseball games defensively," Yost said. "It took him a while last year to get going. He's a guy that's leading our team in home runs -- I know it's four -- but he can change the outcome of a game in one swing and play tremendous defense."
Moustakas went through a similar slump after a hot Cactus League season last year.
"He's handling adversity better than he did at this time last year which is an improvement," Yost said. "It's hard to explain. He's a guy that's very competitive and has very little room for error, in his mind, on what he has to accomplish. And he holds himself to a very high standard.
"There are times when you just have to relax and almost say, look, forget about it, I'm just going to go play my game. I'm not going worry about hitting .150, I'm not going to worry about what anybody writes about me in the paper, I'm not going to worry about what anybody says about me on the radio. I'm not going to care, I'm going to go out and play my game."
The Royals are waiting for that to happen -- in the Major Leagues.
"We're not anticipating sending him down," Yost said. "He's a guy that's going to help us win a championship."
There is reason to be optimistic.
"You watch him in early batting practice and it's phenomenal," Yost said. "He just needs to transition it to the game."
There is reason to not make a move.
"He's struggling and he's not where he wants to be, but we feel it's the best alternative for us right now -- him and Danny," Moore said.
There is reason to have faith.
"I still feel we're heading in the right direction and we'll get there soon," Moustakas said.