Meulens named Giants hitting coach
Club replaces Lansford after scoring fifth-fewest runs in '09
SAN FRANCISCO -- Though Hensley Meulens speaks five languages, he realizes that instilling plate discipline within Giants batters is more of a mental process than a verbal one.Meulens, named San Francisco's new hitting coach on Monday, has an intriguing background. He was the first native of Curacao to reach the Major Leagues. He was nurtured professionally in the New York Yankees system, where he received coaching from stars of yesteryear such as Wally Moon and Clete Boyer, and he crossed paths with enduring figures such as Don Mattingly. Playing professionally overseas enabled him to learn Japanese, which complemented his fluency in English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento, Curacao's most widely used language. None of that will matter much if Meulens, 42, can't curb the Giants' free-swinging tendencies that helped cost Carney Lansford his job as hitting coach. San Francisco's 392 walks, fewest in the Majors, contributed to its .309 on-base percentage, also last in both leagues. The highest-ranking Giant among National Leaguers in pitches seen per plate appearance was Aaron Rowand, whose 3.47 average was good for 69th. Meulens indicated that he'll have to preach patience differently to each hitter.
"Not everybody can be taught the same," Muelens said. "Psychology plays a big part in me trying to get in a guy's head and find out what works for him."Meulens believes that the more confidence a hitter maintains, the more comfortable he'll feel as he attempts to run up a deep count. Citing the get-a-good-pitch-to-hit bromide, Meulens noted, "Sometimes it's the first pitch; sometimes it's the fifth. It's all about trusting your hands and trusting yourself. ... They don't come overnight. There's a fine line between being aggressive and overaggressive." Meulens joined the Giants' organization this year as Triple-A Fresno's hitting coach after spending six seasons coaching in the Baltimore and Pittsburgh systems. He is credited with making an immediate impact with Fresno, as John Bowker (.347) and Jesus Guzman (.321) finished first and fifth, respectively, in the Pacific Coast League batting race. Meulens hastened the improvement of Eugenio Velez, who galvanized San Francisco's offense by hitting safely in his first 14 games after being recalled July 27. Meulens also worked with catcher Buster Posey, who hit .321 with 35 games at Fresno. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Meulens' familiarity with these younger Giants who could occupy key roles on the 2010 squad was a factor in his hiring. "They see him as a father figure, a guy they really have a lot of trust in," Bochy said. Meulens, who hit .220 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI in 182 Major League games spanning all or part of seven Major League seasons, also acquainted himself with Giants veterans while joining San Francisco as a coaching assistant in September.
"I got into a comfort zone with those guys, as well," said Meulens, who gained his renowned nickname "Bam Bam" as a teenager.Reflecting the club's satisfaction with Meulens, Bochy said that the Giants interviewed no candidates from outside the organization, though Bob Mariano, San Francisco's coordinator of Minor League hitting instruction, also was considered for the job. Bochy said that Meulens' promotion should motivate Minor League staffers. "That sends a great message to all these guys who are working their tails off down there," Bochy said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.