Giants hire ex-Yankee Meulens as hitting coach
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The San Francisco Giants are turning their hitting fortunes over to a guy nicknamed “Bam Bam” for his once-fierce swing.
The Giants promoted Triple-A hitting coach Hensley Meulens to the major league club Monday, hiring him to replace Carney Lansford. Lansford was told last month by manager Bruce Bochy that his contract wouldn’t be renewed.
Meulens, who spent the latter part of the year with the Giants once Fresno’s season was done, is credited with helping John Bowker win the Pacific Coast League batting title this season with a .342 average and Jesus Guzman finish fifth at .321.
Meulens also provided guidance to Eugenio Velez, who turned around his season after a slow start.
“He’s got a great way about him. He’s a guy the players will certainly trust, with his knowledge and work habits,” Bochy said. “The fact that there’s going to be a comfort level with these younger players who know him from Fresno is going to make the transition for them playing in the major leagues a little easier. … We’re not going to have any communication problems.”
You sure wouldn’t think so: Meulens speaks five language. There’s Papamiento, the language of his native Curacao, an island in the Caribbean. He also speaks Dutch, English, Spanish and Japanese.
Meulens soon will leave Venezuela, where he was set to coach winter ball, to attend organizational meetings in Arizona and get to work on his new gig.
He will have his work cut out for him, trying to turn the Giants into patient, selective hitters, especially free-swinging slugger Pablo Sandoval.
Meulens has received inspiration from former New York Yankees teammates Don Mattingly – now hitting coach for the rival Dodgers – and Roberto Kelly, the Giants’ first base coach.
“Some of them were power hitters, some of them were patient hitters, some of them were finesse hitters,” Meulens said. “A little bit of what I learned from all these guys is what I bring to the table. … There’s a fine line between being aggressive and over aggressive.”
The Giants finished 88-74 this season, four games behind wild-card winner Colorado – and with 16 more victories than in 2008. But the team is looking to boost its run production after having the second-fewest homers (122) and drawing the fewest walks (392) in the majors in 2009. The Giants were 13th in the National League in runs.
“Being at the bottom of the pile in those numbers, of course there are improvements to be made,” Meulens said. “They don’t come overnight. We have to be patient.”
The 42-year-old Meulens spent parts of seven season in the major leagues as an infielder and outfielder with the Yankees, Montreal and Arizona, retiring after the 1998 season.
He was the Triple-A hitting instructor for the Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization from 2005-08.
When he was about 15, Meulens was on a softball team with older players and decided to hit left-handed because “I didn’t want to mess up my right-handed swing,” he said. He was a natural from the left side and everybody said he was as strong as cartoon character “Bam Bam” of the Flintstones.
Bochy was sold on Meulens. While the Giants also interviewed minor league hitting coordinator Bob Mariano, there were no external candidates.
“He will be a great asset to the team as we look to improve our run scoring production with both our existing major league hitters as well as the young talent we have coming up from our minor league system,” general manager Brian Sabean said.