Surprise, Ariz. Coco Crisp practices what Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman preaches.
Hillman’s most treasured offensive statistic is on-base percentage. Crisp, who the Royals acquired in an offseason trade with Boston for reliever Ramon Ramirez, has a .556 on-base percentage, fourth in the American League in spring training.
In Crisp’s last two games, against Cleveland and Milwaukee, he was 3-for-4 with two walks and three runs scored, raising his batting average to .421. He leads the Cactus League with seven walks. He also has a .684 slugging percentage, with a home run and two doubles in 19 at-bats.
“I really like what Coco is doing as the leadoff hitter,” Hillman said. “He’s seeing a lot of pitches, having good at-bats, taking pitches with men in scoring position, has a minimum number of strikeouts and he’s got some walks.”
David DeJesus has been Kansas City’s opening day leadoff hitter the past four years, but will likely hit third with Crisp at the top in the lineup this season.
Crisp, 29, has been in the playoffs the past two years and provides the Royals with leadership.
“He’s a very quiet leader,” Hillman said. “He had a day where he could have left early after the fifth inning. It was a long game against Texas. He stayed the whole game and sat there with the kids on the bench. He’s outstanding.”
DeJesus will move to left field to take advantage of Crisp’s speed and defense in center. Crisp said playing home games at Fenway Park the past three seasons improved his defense.
“You have to learn to play different dimensions every single night out,” he said. “In Boston it can kick any which way. That made me a better defensive player.”
Crisp, a switch hitter, broke into the majors with Cleveland in 2002 and hit 15 home runs in 2004 and 16 in 2005, but only three last year with Boston and no more than eight in his three seasons with the Red Sox.