- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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MARYVALE, Ariz. -- With a .232 batting average and .657 OPS several months behind him, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is officially ready to wake up from the “bad dream" phase of his career.
Hosmer’s 2012 season was a grind from the outset. He hit .188 in April and never truly got on track. Even though the anecdotal evidence and his .255 batting average on balls in play suggest that a lot of balls he hit with authority failed to find holes, it didn't ease the sting of knowing his personal travails played a significant role in the Royals’ disappointing 72-90 finish. Among 21 major league first basemen with at least 400 plate appearances last season, only James Loney and Casey Kotchman posted a lower OPS than Hosmer.
Hosmer spent the offseason trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. He built a house in his native Florida, near the Everglades, replete with an outdoor batting cage. He worked extensively with his older brother, Mike, and dutifully sent video of the sessions to new Royals hitting coach Jack Maloof for his personal inspection.
The 23-year-old also paid closer attention to getting ready for the 162-game grind in its entirety. He went home with a detailed nutrition and workout plan devised by strength and conditioning coordinator Ryan Stoneberg and gained about 10 pounds while focusing on eating at regular three-hour intervals rather than two or three times a day.
Before traveling to Arizona for the Cactus League, Hosmer stopped off in Southern California to spend some time at the Scott Boras Sports Training Institute and apply the finishing touches to his offseason fitness regimen.
“I’m going to try [to keep the weight on]," Hosmer said. “It’s a little easier in the offseason because you work out and hit, and then you’re done and you’re sitting on your butt the rest of the day. Out here, you do your baserunning and your early work and you’re constantly sweating. You really have to eat well and eat right to keep the weight on. That’s why I wanted to come in 5-10 pounds heavier."
Hosmer told the Kansas City Star writer Bob Dutton that many of his problems at the plate last year stemmed from a lack of stability with his back leg. He was slow to catch up to good fastballs and began starting the bat earlier to compensate. The more he “cheated," the more susceptible he became to off-speed pitches.
“I was happy in the offseason to get home and just forget about everything," Hosmer said. “I can take the positives and learn from it. This year, I’ll know how to break out of a slump better and do the little things like that. It all comes with experience.
“Last year is going to be a big help for me mentally, because it was almost a season-long slump I went through. Now an 0-for-10 or 0-for-15 is going to seem like nothing."