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|Posted: Thu Oct 31st, 2013 08:25 pm||
Throughout last season Blue Jays manager John Gibbons lauded hitters who “used the whole field,” could drive the ball gap-to-gap and were not wholly dependent on a pull-happy power stroke.
It’s no surprise then that the hitting coach he and GM Alex Anthopoulos have hired to replace Chad Mottola is one who shares that philosophy.
The Jays announced Thursday that Gibbons’ former colleague with the Kansas City Royals, Kevin Seitzer, has been named the team’s new hitting coach.
Gibbons worked alongside Seitzer with the Royals for three seasons, from 2009 to 2011, when Gibbons was the team’s bench coach.
“My philosophy in a nutshell is to stay in the middle of the field, stay gap-to-gap” and “make tweaks along the way,” Seitzer said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.
He added, however, that with regard to the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus — three Jays’ hitters who have made a good living by pulling the ball — he’s not going to come in and demand changes.
“Another philosophy I have is that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said.
Seitzer did say, however that he likes hitters to take a different approach with two strikes and be more willing to hit to the opposite field.
“For me the bottom line as far as philosophy (and) approach, is really making consistent, hard contact.”
Staying through the middle of the field gives you a better chance to put a good swing on the ball, Seitzer said.
Seitzer said that while the Jays have been relatively successful offensively, he hopes to put “more tools in guys’ toolboxes” to help them become more “well-rounded hitters.”
He spoke specifically about coming up with strategies to beat the infield shifts, which have become an increasingly common strategy to shut down pull hitters.
Seitzer said he developed his philosophy from his personal experience and also “special conversations with some very good hitters,” singling out George Brett, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and about a dozen of the game’s best hitters from the ’80s and ’90s.
“I would try and have conversations with anyone who would stand still long enough to talk to me.”
Seitzer said of all the players he worked with in Kansas City he is most proud of the work he did with Alex Gordon, the team’s all-star outfielder, who struggled in his first four years with the club before undergoing a “major overhaul” in his approach at the plate.
Over the last three seasons Gordon has hit .287 with a .816 OPS.
The Jays’ job was vacated earlier this month when Mottola was sacked and associate hitting coach Dwayne Murphy — who had served in the role prior to Mottola — retired.
Mottola’s firing was surprising given that Anthopoulos had repeated that pitching was the team’s biggest problem, not the offence.
The Jays scored four fewer runs last year than they did in 2012, but finished ninth in the majors, compared to 13th in 2012.
Seitzer called Gibbons a “very good baseball man,” with whom he had “tremendous relationship” in Kansas City.
“I have a lot of respect for him, because I felt like I had to win him over. I had to prove to him that what I was doing (and) what I was teaching.”
The other members of Gibbons’ staff: bench coach DeMarlo Hale, pitching coach Pete Walker, third-base coach Luis Rivera and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen are all expected to return for the 2014 season. The Jays have yet to name a first-base coach.
Seitzer, who also served as hitting coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first half of 2007, spent four years on the Royals’ staff before he was fired after the 2012 season.
The 51-year-old Springfield, Ill., native owns a .295/.375/.404 career slash line over 12 seasons with the Royals, Brewers, A’s and Indians.
He said despite last season’s massive disappointment, expectations remain high for the Jays.
“There’s definitely an expectation to win the division and go to the postseason. If anybody’s thinking short of that they probably need to make an adjustment mentally, with all due respect.”