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updated: 6/14/2014 8:54 PM

Ex-Cubs manager Sveum a hit with Royals

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  • Former Cubs manager Dale Sveum is getting rave reviews from players in his new role as hitting coach of the Kansas City Royals.

      Former Cubs manager Dale Sveum is getting rave reviews from players in his new role as hitting coach of the Kansas City Royals.
    Bruce Miles/bmiles at dailyerald.com

 
 

If there are any communication issues surrounding Dale Sveum, they've yet to be communicated to the Kansas City Royals.

"You would think he is a quiet individual, but once you start talking to him and asking hitting questions, he has tons of knowledge," said Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the top offensive player on the team. "He's very quiet, but once you get talking to him, he never stops.

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"He's experienced. He's worked with a lot of hitters. He has a lot of good ideas. He's been great since he's been the hitting coach.

"I've loved every second with him so far. It's been great."

Sveum has hardly looked back after being fired as Cubs manager one day after the 2013 season ended. It might not be a stretch to say that he hadn't even walked home from Wrigley Field after being axed that Royals manager Ned Yost called to offer him a job.

After beginning this season as the Royals' third-base coach, Sveum took over as hitting coach in late May during shuffling of duties.

'It was the day after the season ended, and I had heard it," Yost said of Sveum's firing. "I thought I'm going to give him some time. I said, 'I ain't giving him no time.' As soon as it came across the ticker, I was on the phone and asked, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I'm just walking.' "

Even though Sveum had a year left on his contract with the Cubs, he didn't want to sit out. So Yost had one message for him: "If you want a job, I've got one for you."

The communication issue is one Sveum addresses head-on, as he did Friday with the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field for a weekend series with the White Sox. It seemed like old times, as Sveum sat in the dugout surrounded by Chicago media members.

Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer said they didn't fire Sveum because the Cubs went 127-197 during Sveum's two years as manager. They said the record was on them for providing Sveum with two well-below-average rosters.

However, Epstein did allude to communication problems between Sveum and young players, most notably shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Both of those players are enjoying bounceback seasons this year under new manager Rick Renteria even as the team as a whole is no better offensively, being near the bottom of most key categories.

"You obviously read the box scores and stuff to find out how guys are doing and all that, but they did just fine when I was there, too," Sveum said of Castro and Rizzo. "If people want to mix apples and oranges, talking about half the season or a few months or whatever, people grow into being better hitters. You guys heard me say that many a time.

"It's age and learning and getting all these major-league at bats; it's all different things. Don't forget, I was the one to ask Rizzo to finish low and lower his hands. So you can mix apples and oranges, like I said, but I wish them all the best. I got fired, but they're still people I care about."

Sveum didn't hesitate when asked if he'd like to manage again someday.

"Oh, of course," he said.

There seems to be enough respect for him in the baseball world that his experience with the Cubs shouldn't "taint" him. Sveum coached on Yost's staff in Milwaukee before replacing Yost on an interim basis at the end of the 2008 season and guiding the Brewers into the playoffs.

Yost recalled that he was strongly urged by Hall of Famer Robin Yount to hire Sveum in the first place. "He said, 'This is going to be the best coach you'll ever have,' " Yost said.

The interim job in Milwaukee was the only managerial experience Sveum had in the big leagues before coming to the big-market Cubs. He said he took many things from his Chicago experience.

"You learn a lot, because when you do these jobs you're not in a background understanding about the development, really how the front office really works on a daily basis -- especially the waiver wire that I got to know very well," he said.

"One thing about this game is you're always learning constantly, and what you might have done or shouldn't have done or, yeah, I did that on a consistent basis and that worked, or watching Ned work or all the guys I played for, the (Tony) La Russas, the Joe Torres and Jim Leylands.

"You still take from that and you still just make sure you watch the game because you're always learning. It's a fantastic game to always learn from. When you think you've got it figured out, you're wrong."

Although Sveum's bluntness and outspoken nature may have gotten him into hot water with Epstein and Hoyer -- he pleaded the fifth on that one -- it's not likely he will change that or any of his other ways if he does manage again.

"I don't think I'd do anything different," he said. "That's the way I am. Players know when you change and you're not yourself. I am what I am. Maybe I would have left the pitcher in an inning more or taken him out earlier, but I don't think as far as I managed and managed people and communication (that) I'm not going to change in that way."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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