Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/16/12
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ANAHEIM, Calif. No one expects the Angels' new hitting coach to turn around the team's flagging offense in a day, or even a week. But at some point this season, Jim Eppard will be expected to do what Mickey Hatcher couldn't do breathe some life into a group of hitters that has confounded everyone who has seen them play, including themselves. Can it be done? Firing coaches or managers in midseason is usually a last resort, a move designed to shake up a clubhouse and impact a team's direction. Once in a while, it actually works. Dumping Mickey Hatcher as hitting coach wasn't exactly well received by the players -- and certainly not by manager Mike Scioscia -- but with the Angels floundering near the bottom of the American League is almost every important offensive category, it was a move that was predictable. Now it's up to Eppard, promoted from his job as hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake, to put the offense on the right road. And the quicker the better. "I don't have a crystal ball," general manager Jerry Dipoto said Wednesday at Angel Stadium. "I can't tell you it's going to be 48 or 72 hours, but I believe over time that it should help." The parting was probably most difficult for Scioscia. Hatcher had been Scioscia's hitting coach since 1999, when Scioscia managed the Dodgers' Albuquerque farm club. When the Angels named him manager the next year, he brought Hatcher with him. The two were also teammates on the Dodgers, winning a World Series in 1988. Scioscia was Hatcher's most ardent supporter, although he would not discuss how strongly he argued to retain him. But clearly, he didn't blame his friend for the fact the Angels ranked 12th in the American League in runs, had been shut out eight times and were 27th in the majors in average runs per game (3.61). "We were not in an offensive funk because of Mickey," he said. But someone was going to bear the weight of a tired offense, and there was no other choice but Hatcher. It had been on Dipoto's mind for some time, and not even the Angels' 4-0 win over the Oakland A's on Tuesday could keep him safe. "I've thought long and hard about it for some time," Dipoto said, "but the decision was obviously made (Tuesday)." Eppard, 52, is hardly new to anyone in the clubhouse. He is in his 10th season in the organization, and he worked with every player in spring training. How he'll differ from Hatcher and what he'll attempt to do to bring life to the Angels' struggling offense will be seen over time. "The important thing is that we're going to get back to some basics of trying to get good pitches to hit, and when we get those good pitches to hit, we're not going to be hesitating on the swing," Eppard said. "We're just going to go ahead and get after it." He has plenty of work to do, beginning with Albert Pujols, whose seasonlong slump has been particularly confusing. Pujols, whose batting average has hovered around .200 for several weeks, hit only his second home run of the season Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox. Asked how he plans to approach Pujols, Eppard said, "I ask Albert a lot of questions. I'm constantly trying to learn myself as I go along, and when you get an opportunity to be around a guy like that with the credentials that he has, it's a great opportunity to find some new stuff out. That's what I tried to do in spring training." Eppard, who won four batting titles in the minors and played four years in the majors, has a familiarity with the Angels' younger players, including Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout. But he can only do so much. "It's up to us as players to go out there and get it done," Trumbo said. "I think Epp is going to be an outstanding resource for us, but at the end of the day, he's not the one going up there and swinging the bat." Nor was Hatcher, but that didn't matter. Dipoto has made no secret of his disappointment in the offense, which he said was "grossly underperforming." So no matter how much Scioscia believed in Hatcher, he wasn't going to save his job. Scioscia and Dipoto may be at odds over this, but they'll have to find a common ground in order to move forward. That's the bottom line. "Mickey is a great teacher, a great hitting coach," Scioscia said. "We all respect what the general manager's office is about and what Jerry is looking at to move us forward, and we'll move forward."
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