2/15/2014 4:21 P.M. ET
Coaching session brings out Yost's 'new school' side
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If you thought Ned Yost was an old-school manager, perhaps you should take another look. He's sounding new school these days.
Just before the Royals launched their 12th Spring Training at the Surprise complex with the first workout for pitchers and catchers on Saturday, Yost talked about a session he had for his coaching staff this winter at his Georgia homestead.
The primary idea was to assimilate newcomers Don Wakamatsu, his bench coach, and Dale Sveum, his third-base coach, into the staff. Mike Jirschele, the longtime Triple-A Omaha manager, was also joining holdovers Rusty Kuntz, Dave Eiland, Doug Harvey and Pedro Grifol. But Jirschele had been in the organization longer than any of them, so he was hardly new.
So they got together in Georgia for three days, making use of Yost's neighbor and entertainer Jeff Foxworthy's lodge.
"We stayed out in the woods, we ate well, we played cards until 2:00 in the morning, had a lot of fun," Yost said.
OK, that's old school. But they also had a lot of discussions on how to handle today's players.
They listened to a dissertation on handling young players from highly successful coach Craig Garner of nearby Troup County High School in LaGrange, Ga.
"To a man, we all enjoyed it. ... Kind of getting back to our roots a little bit," Yost said.
They also took personality tests administered by an educator.
"It opens up your mind a little bit on how to handle different personalities and how to communicate with different personalities," Yost said. "Some guys can take a strong kick in the butt and some guys can't. Some guys need a strong pat on the butt.
"Until you start understanding people's personalities -- and that's what this game is all about now -- you can't get the most out of players unless you can effectively communicate with them. And it's a different group of kids. When we grew up there was no Internet, no video games, no cell phones. We played outside all day long. It's a different group ... it's a different environment that we live in and I think to be successful, you have to adapt to their environment."
Yost, a former catcher, noted that when he played in the Majors (1980-85), managers tended to be aloof and treated all players pretty much the same.
"Back when I played, I never talked to the manager. The coaches never really said much. There wasn't much teaching going on," Yost said. "You were expected, when you got to the big leagues, to know how they play the game, and you played it. About the only time there was much communication going on is when you screwed something up and you were getting yelled at. That doesn't work anymore.
"The majority of coaching came from the players," Yost added. "Where I learned my baseball is from Ted Simmons. Teddy taught me the game."
Today's managers and coaches concentrate on teaching and refining game skills through intense communications, and that's what the session in the Georgia woods was all about.
" ... Different personalities communicate differently, and it was pretty insightful," Yost said. "Our job as coaches is to communicate our vision to the players and to teach them and help them grow as players."
Sure sounds like a new-school Ned.
Pitchers, catchers finish first official practice
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Now it's official. Royals Spring Training is underway. The pitchers and catchers went through their first scheduled practice on Saturday in 73-degree sunshine at their complex. And, even though most of them had been working out here for several days previously, they seemed especially eager.
"Always this time of year, players are anxious to get going," manager Ned Yost said.
"It's funny how Spring Training goes in stages. You get real anxious to get started, and then after three or four days, you get real anxious for the whole team to get here. Then when the whole team gets here, you get real anxious to start games. And then after a week or 10 days, you get real anxious to start the season. So you get a couple of little plateaus of anxiousness, if you will, but the first day went great."
The 31 pitchers were divided into two groups, throwing and non-throwing.
"[The throwers] did long toss and they threw 'pens and they ran through a pickoff station and a fielding station. The non-throwers went up to the top [of the complex] and did a four-field rotation of more extensive PFPs [pitchers' fielding practice]," Yost said. "Now tomorrow we'll switch those two groups."
The catchers did their part, handling the pitchers in the bullpen sessions.
"Everybody is excited and happy and can't wait for the season to get started," catcher Salvador Perez said.
Like others in camp, however, he doesn't want to look too far ahead when assessing the Royals' postseason chances, preferring to concentrate on the training at hand.
"Are we going to go to the playoffs? We don't know. There's a long way to go," Perez said. "We have to go day to day -- today and tomorrow and that's it. Then we'll see what happens."
Most of the infielders and outfielders who've been working out unofficially this week took Saturday off. Their reporting date is Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout on Thursday.
Adam relishes experience with hometown team
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Jason Adam, 22, is living out one of those boyhood dream experiences by being in the Major League training camp of the team he cheered for as a kid, the Royals.
Adam grew up in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kan., where he played so well at Blue Valley Northwest High School that he was taken in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft by the Royals.
"I grew up going to their games and everything," Adam said. "Obviously, I was playing a ton since I was 8 so I couldn't go to as many games. But they were always my team, back in the Jermaine Dye days. ... He was my favorite player. I never played outfield, but I always liked him."
Adam spent last season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas, going 8-11 with a 5.19 ERA in 26 starts.
"I had a bit of a down year, especially for the first half, but I was happy for the adjustments that were made so we'll see where this year takes us," Adam said.
And what were the adjustments?
"A lot of the mental side of pitching as far as how to read batters, throwing the right pitches in the right situations, taking all that into account and then just refining my pitches," Adam said. "I'm constantly doing that, obviously."
His parents, Doug and Becky, often traveled from Overland Park to watch him pitch in the Texas League. They'd have a much shorter trip, of course, if he played at Kauffman Stadium.
"It's close to the stadium, so if I get up to the big leagues, I can just live right at home," Adam said.
During the winter, Adam and other prospects attended classes at Surprise for tips on how to act in their first big league camp.
"Basically like stay under the radar, take care of your work and there's no such thing as working too hard. You've just got to work smart," Adam said.
It'd be a long shot, of course, for Adam to make the Major League club this year, but the exposure is good.
"Obviously, there's a greater goal, but it's a nice stepping stone to get you there. Keep making steps in the right direction is the goal," Adam said.
Adam is on the side of the clubhouse generally reserved for players coming up from the Minors. But the idea is to learn from the veterans in the other part of the room.
"It's definitely awesome to be here. I love it -- so far," Adam said. "I mean, we're only a few days in. I'm excited to really get started. It'll be an experience."
• Switch-hitting infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, dropped by the Royals, has signed with the Cubs, and manager Rick Renteria said his versatility makes him a perfect fit for the National League.
"He's added depth -- he can play second, short, third, the outfield," Renteria said. "He's a versatile individual who has played in the big leagues. He gives us an opportunity from many different positions. It gives us depth."
• Pitcher Luke Hochevar pedals to the Royals' training complex on his bicycle. He said he covers the two miles in about eight minutes.
"Gets me warmed up for the day," Hochevar said, "and I'm saving on gas."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.