Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 1/26/12
It is the mantra of nearly every new pitching coach in Kansas City over the years: Trust your stuff, pound the strike zone, get ahead in the count, etc. Once again, it will be the mantra of new Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland. And, quite frankly, it has to be. The Royals walked more hitters (557) than any other team in the American League. "Talk is cheap," Eiland told me by phone from his home in Florida. "I am aware that the guy before me was probably talking about the same things, so I mean no disrespect. "But we have to find a way to get these young arms to more consistently attack the strike zone. We just have to. That simple." Eiland, hired to replace Bob McClure in October, said his approach in getting that message across will vary from pitcher to pitcher. He has spent the better part of the last two months poring over video of the Royals' staff. "Only about 100 hours or so of viewing," Eiland said, laughing. And what did he learn? "It's an impressive group," he said. "A lot of young, power arms. But there are definitely some mechanical issues that we can address, especially with the consistency of the arm slots. "There are basically two reasons for a pitcher not being able to pound the strike zone or have command: Either it's mechanical, or it's mental. I've already talked on the phone to all of our pitchers who will be in camp, at least twice, and on some occasions we've discussed some mechanical things. Once we get together, we'll talk about the mental approach, too." Eiland said, and it's hard to disagree, that it's illogical for the Royals' staff to have such a crippling flaw such as walking too many hitters. "You look at that defense," he said, "and what we've got in the infield, behind the plate and in the outfield, and there's no reason not to utilize that defense. Go ahead and pitch to contact. Go ahead and pound the zone early. There's no reason not to. "You can go in with the attitude that you've got three pitches to get each hitter out. That puts you in the mind frame of being aggressive." But don't misconstrue: Eiland isn't advocating tossing the ball up to the plate underhanded just to get the ball in play. "I'm not talking about throwing belt-high fastballs over the middle on every pitch," he said. "I'm talking about throwing quality strikes, on the inner half or outer half, early and often. Now, if we preach that, we have to live with the fact that sometimes the hitter is going to guess right and hit one out. "But solo home runs aren't as bothersome as walking two guys to start an inning. That's what can start a real mess. And keep in mind, there will be times when we let the hitter know he's getting a little too comfortable. We will make the hitter move his feet." From watching video, Eiland said he has observed some potential mechanical flaws within a few of the pitchers on the staff. "I don't want to mention any names right now," he said. "I don't want to bring anything up publicly until I can work with these guys one on one. It just wouldn't be right for any of our guys to read things about their specific mechanics right now." Eiland will say those flaws are fixable. "It has to get fixed," he said. "We're not living off potential here. It's a young staff but it's about winning right now. I think Ned (Yost) said it best when he said we're not in the business of developing at the major-league level anymore. It's about production and winning." Eiland said he believes there is more than enough talent to win with a rotation that will include Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Jonathan Sanzhez, and likely Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy, and a solid bullpen that has added Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares. "That's a shut-down bullpen we've got," Eiland said. "That's another reason I've already talked to our starters that I want everyone to still be on the mound during the seventh-inning stretch. If we get to eighth inning with our pen, good things are going to happen more times than not." While there has been some concern locally over closer Joakim Soria's off-year in 2011, Eiland said he didn't notice anything on video to cause alarm. "He's one of the best in the game," Eiland said. "The thing about closers is that you have to anticipate they will have a stretch or two during the season, maybe seven or 10 days each, where they scuffle a bit. There may be a broken-bat hit there or a blooper there, and then a shot in the gap, and everyone gets concerned. "We went through that in New York every year with Mo (Mariano Rivera)," Eiland said. "Every year he'd have a rough patch and then everyone would panic and say 'It's over. It's the end. Great career, but it's over.' Then he'd bounce right back. "None of that ever bothered Mo. He just has the perfect mentality. I see the same thing in Jack." Eiland can't wait to put away the video and see his troops first-hand. "What do we have, about two weeks before we go to Arizona?" Eiland asked. "I wish it were tomorrow."
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