Former Kansas City great George Brett asked to reverse Royals' hitting woes

Thursday, May 30, 2013 | 9:16 p.m. CDT
The Royals' George Brett, left, watches batting practice as Alex Gordon, right, walks past before Kansas City's game Thursday at St. Louis. Earlier in the day, the Royals announced the Hall of Famer will be the club's interim hitting coach.

ST. LOUIS — George Brett is giving coaching a month.

One of the greatest players in Kansas City Royals history isn't sure teaching is his forte and doesn't know if players will listen.

Before hustling to the batting cage to start his job and greet well-wishers, included his former manager Whitey Herzog, the team's high-profile interim batting coach gave a fiery acceptance speech.

"I'm scared to death right now, to be honest with you," Brett said Thursday night. "But I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Not too scared to call out Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and the team's other underachieving youngsters, Brett said he'd do all he could, but added they must be accountable.

"I mean, get rid of what's that baby stuff? Baby Gerber or something?" Brett said. "Get rid of the bottles, let's go. Let's go!"

The 60-year-old Hall of Famer accepted the job after calls from general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost.

Brett and Moore plan to meet in a month to assess the situation and then again two weeks after that. Brett did most of the talking at a press conference with Moore and Yost sitting quietly beside him.

"I don't know if I'm going to be good at this," Brett said.

"This could be something I just could not stand to do, I don't know," he said. "The players and I might not hit it off. I don't know."

The Royals had lost eight games in a row before playing the Cardinals on Thursday. They were 13th in the American League in runs, and scored two or fewer runs 11 times during an extended 4-19 drought that dropped them to last place in the Central Division.

Brett takes over for Jack Maloof and Andre David who were reassigned within the organization. .

This will be Brett's first in-season coaching role, though he's been the franchise's vice president of baseball operations since retiring as a player following the 1993 season. He's also worked as a volunteer coach at spring training for years, and Yost said it was no celebrity stint.

"George doesn't come the second week in spring training and stay 10 days," Yost said. "I've never seen a Hall of Famer with the work ethic that he has."

"George never half-ran a ball to first base in his life; George was never the last one out of the dugout in his life," Yost added. "I'm just excited he's here."

The Royals have asked Brett to do this before, and he has declined because his children were young and he wasn't ready to be away from them for the 162-game grind. With kids in college, Brett said, "I'm not missing them growing up anymore."

Yost dumped hitting coach Kevin Seitzer following last season and said at the time that he wanted to develop an offense that had more power. The Royals rank near the bottom of the league in runs, walks, homers, RBIs and just about every other statistical category.

Brett has kept his pulse on the organization by working in the front office. Earlier this week,he lamented the team's misfortune during a radio interview.

Brett's not a fan of video. He prefers players learn on the job and repair their swing during the at-bat, and he wants them to just be themselves.

"I'm sick and tired of watching guys try to hit three-run home runs with nobody on base when you're down two runs in the eighth inning," Brett said. "Let's do what you're capable of doing. Don't try to be a hero, just be a soldier."

Brett's No. 5 was retired in 1993 after a career that spanned two decades and ended with Brett as the Royals' all-time hit leader with 3,154. He remains the only player in major league history to win batting titles in three different decades, including a memorable 1980 season in which he hit .390.

The 13-time All-Star is the club's career leader in every offensive category besides stolen bases, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection in 1999.

The Royals also announced Pedro Grifol will serve as a special assignment coach. He was in uniform Thursday. Grifol is in his first year with the Royals, where he's been working as the hitting coach for the club's minor leagueteam in Surprise, Ariz. He spent the past 13 seasons with the Mariners organization.

Moore said no more changes are anticipated in the near future.

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