Patience key to awaken Royals' slumbering bats
Yost believes club will hit for power to spark surge in AL Central standings
KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Ned Yost not only suggests patience with his club's offense, he demands it, primarily from himself.
After building an impressive base of organizational talent, after adding pitching at the big league level, and after putting together a very encouraging second half of the 2013 season, it appeared that the Royals were the real deal with a genuine shot at being a postseason team.
But over the first two months of the season, Kansas City's offense has been, to put it mildly, disappointing. Going into Saturday night, the Royals ranked 14th in the American League in runs, 15th in home runs, 15th in slugging percentage and 14th in on-base percentage.
It is possible that the whole thing turned around on Saturday night in an 8-4 victory over the Yankees. It was a compelling display of offense.
The Royals scored three runs on five hits in the second. After the Yanks tied the game with three runs in the top of the sixth, Kansas City answered with a three-run homer by catcher Salvador Perez, in what became a four-run bottom half of the sixth. First baseman Eric Hosmer hit a 427-foot homer in the seventh, and the Royals finished with a season-high six extra-base hits.
Maybe Yost's patience was paying off. But there are going to have to be many more nights like this to get the Royals where they want to go.
In the meantime, Yost has become an expert on long-term patience, building a young team in Milwaukee into a genuine contender and then going through the same process with Kansas City. It isn't always fun. But it is always necessary.
"Nobody likes to lose," Yost said on Saturday. "You like to play winning baseball, and with younger players, you've got to be able to understand what you have and what you can have in the future, and look towards that.
"Now, we're kind of in the future. We've developed these guys over the last 2 1/2, three years.
"My patience comes with our guys playing with energy, playing with life, playing with intensity on that field. As long as they're going to do that, you can't ask them to do anything else. If we go through an offensive slump, what am I going to do? Scream at them, 'Get more hits'?
"So you stay patient, keep working, make sure that they're still playing with the same energy, the same passion, the same intensity that they always do, and it helps you stay more patient."
Yost pointed out that right fielder Nori Aoki, second baseman Omar Infante, Hosmer, designated hitter Billy Butler and Perez were all hitting at less than their career norms. Thus, expecting better performances has more to do with logic than with mere hope.
"I have faith in them as hitters," the manager said. "They have track records. You know these guys are going to hit. They've done it before. They're just all of a sudden not going to stop hitting as a group.
"So you keep working hard, you stay patient, you stay positive, until that time comes. Last year for us, it was after the All-Star break. This year, I'm hoping it comes earlier."
In the same way, Yost resists the urge to tinker with the lineup, to create change for the sake of change. For instance, with left fielder Alex Gordon on a roll at the plate, and Hosmer in a recent slump prior to Saturday night, there had been speculation that Hosmer should be dropped from the third spot in the lineup and Gordon should be moved up from fifth.
"Right now, if you break down our offense, Gordon, [Lorenzo] Cain and [Alcides] Escobar are our three hottest hitters," Yost said. "But when we get it turned around and we get on a run, you'll find out that Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, Perez will be our hottest hitters.
"Right now, Gordie with the way he's hitting, you get a lot of people wondering, 'Why you don't move him to the three-spot?' Well, you move him to the three-spot and you've still got guys behind him that aren't producing right now, so what good does it do you?
"You stay steady, you stay persistent with the lineup that you know is going to work and just wait it out until it does work."
Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium, the patience, the persistence, the steadiness all seemed to have worked. In the glow of victory, Yost predicted an increase in home runs for his club.
"I've said all along we've got home run power and it will manifest itself in time, as it did last year," Yost said.
"It's coming," Perez said of the power hitting. "It's not easy, but it's coming."
"This is a confident group, and we knew that we were going to turn this thing around," Hosmer said. "The only way we can do that is to just take it one day at a time."
Patience, in other words, would still be a crucial component for the Royals' offense.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.