Eppard suited to hit ground running in Anaheim

Eppard suited to hit ground running in Anaheim

ANAHEIM -- How much impact will a change at hitting coach have on an underachieving offense? That remains to be seen. With Jim Eppard, called up from Triple-A to replace the dismissed Mickey Hatcher on Tuesday, the Angels at least know they have familiarity.

Eppard spent the previous nine years as hitting coach at the club's affiliate in Salt Lake, working with a variety of the players that currently reside in the Angels' clubhouse -- from Mark Trumbo to Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Kendrys Morales, Erick Aybar and several others.

"I'm pretty familiar with the group," Eppard said.

"He knew the right things, he teaches the right things, he talks about the right things," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "I think any time you're making a change, you want to have someone internal who can run with it and give them an opportunity to sink their teeth into a job. That's what Jim is going to get, that opportunity."

The Angels, Dipoto felt, needed "a new voice" after not ranking any better than ninth in the American League in runs from 2010-11 and vastly underachieving on that end this season -- getting shut out a Major League-high eight times while ranking 27th in the Majors in runs per game and 11th in the AL in OPS.

Dipoto wants to establish a philosophy throughout the organization of controlling counts, drawing walks and, ultimately, boasting high on-base percentages.

Problem: The Angels have a lot of veterans who don't really have a history of high on-base percentages.

"But you can make it better," Dipoto said. "You can make it better by understanding situations, by attacking situations and by laying the foundation for future growth. Really, those are my only expectations -- that we see a tangible result between now and the end of the year in our ability to lay a foundation offensively that we can build on."

Eppard, 52, was born in South Bend, Ind., attended the University of California-Berkeley and spent 12 years in pro baseball, winning four Minor League batting titles and compiling 82 games through four seasons in the Majors, including parts of three years with the Angels from 1987-89.

Eppard spent eight seasons in the Rockies' Minor League system, including five as manager, then began his 10-year run with the Salt Lake Bees. Through that time, he's had several stints with the Angels in Spring Training, and in September when the Minor League season was over.

"He's got a great understanding of hitting," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a good friend and longtime colleague of Hatcher. "I think he's a great teacher, with a lot of the same attributes that Mickey had, and hopefully he'll keep getting these guys in a comfort zone."

Eppard, busy coaching the Bees, hasn't paid too close attention to the Angels this season. And as of Wednesday afternoon, Eppard still hadn't had an opportunity to speak with Albert Pujols, the $240 million first baseman who hit only his second homer on Wednesday.

"For me, it's just a matter of coming in, saying hi to everybody, getting familiar with them and for them to reacquaint themselves with me and start working," Eppard said. "I think the important thing is that we're going to get back to some basics of trying to get good pitches to hit, and when we get those good pitches to hit, we're not going to be hesitating on the swing."