Q&A with Royals' new pitching coach Eldred

January 4th, 2018

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' new pitching coach, Cal Eldred, was once regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
Eldred, 50, was a first-round Draft pick of the Brewers in 1989 and played 14 seasons in the Major Leagues for Milwaukee, the White Sox and Cardinals. The right-hander had his best year in 1992, when he went 11-2 and pitched to a 1.79 ERA.
After retiring, he wound up doing some broadcast analyst duties for the Big Ten Network before joining the Cardinals organization as a special assistant to the general manager, working closely with legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan.
Eldred spent the last two seasons as a special assistant to Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
Eldred, who will replace Dave Eiland, sat down with MLB.com for a quick Q&A:
MLB.com: Why did you want to become a pitching coach?
Eldred: It's been a job I looked at and thought about for a while. When I got done playing it wasn't on the top of my list, but the more I worked in the game, the more I got interested in it. But if you're married with five children, that's [among] the reasons you don't pursue them. But now we're at the point -- our third child is heading off to college -- now it makes more sense. But the right situation had to present itself. But as I told Dayton [Moore], I just want to do whatever is best that the organization believes will serve them best.
MLB.com: You were a special assistant to the general manager in St. Louis and got to work closely with legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan. How did that influence you?
Eldred: [Duncan] was very consistent. He was the same guy every day. He was quiet, so a lot of times people misunderstood him as a coach. Some people thought he was a grumpy old man. But he loved his players. That's a characteristic I want to have. But as a catcher, he was really good at seeing what the weapons are that a pitcher has, and understanding how those weapons will get a hitter out, and communicating what a pitcher will do to get that done. And he was really hard on his catchers in St. Louis. He commanded those catchers to be their best. As a pitching coach, that's important.
MLB.com: Your new bullpen coach, Vance Wilson, was a very successful Minor League manager. How will that help you?
Eldred: Vance has a lot more capabilities than a typical bullpen coach. Those guys are assistant pitching coaches to me. He's a great communicator. He's managed. He knows how to communicate with younger players and I look forward to working with him.
MLB.com: How would you assess the talent on this staff?
Eldred: I haven't contacted some of these guys yet. But I want them to relax through the holidays. But very soon I will contact them. I tend to look at them now and then where they could be. But that will change once I stand next to them and see them throw. I know [Jakob] Junis really well. I've seen [Brian] Flynn. The other guys I've been able to watch through the years. We have talent, but it's how much can you keep from that talent pool. We're in a unique situation. We have a lot of guys that other teams want. We know that. When you look at the bullpen and the arms -- [Ryan] Buchter and [Brandon] Maurer. We have guys with track records in [Kelvin] Herrera. There's a lot of talent here. But it's matching up that talent with production, that's my biggest challenge.
MLB.com: The game obviously has changed dramatically: It has become home-run-or-nothing as evidenced by the incredible increase in homers and strikeouts since 2015, and that all-or-nothing approach was never more evident than in the 2017 postseason. How do you combat that as a pitching coach?
Eldred: There was so much excitement in the World Series, but I just kept going on, 'Oh my God.' High fastballs, hitters are going to adjust. If you're going to go up there with some consistency, you better have some hair on it. That's going to be my message.