Kevin Howard, the new assistant hitting coach of the New York Mets, understands the pressure that comes with taking over for the man who previously owned the job, Tom Slater, who was relieved of his duties alongside hitting coach Chili Davis on Tuesday.
Now, Howard will assist new hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum to try and turn around a sputtering Mets offense that has struggled to break out and stay broken out during the early portions of the 2021 season.
“There has to be a sense of urgency for me and Hugh to put in a bit of extra work to get caught up,” Howard said. “It’s something we can overcome just by putting in more time. But I’m not as familiar with everyone’s swing as I want to be. That’s going to take me doing some extra work, watching video, and having conversations with these guys on the journey of their swing and where they are right now.
“It’s not going to be an easy thing but we’re going to get there sooner or later.”
He already has a two-step plan to try and get the ball rolling so there isn’t too long of an acclimation period.
“The first is set an environment where these guys are getting good work every day, try to think of creative ways to help these guys,” he said. “Make the practices as game-like as possible and prepare them as best as possible.
“The other is to prepare them to compete in the game. That means giving them a tailored approach toward that individual to prepare them for that pitcher that night.”
Howard initially joined the Mets this winter as a director of player development after a six-year stint working for the Cleveland Indians, first as a hitting coach in Single-A before he was named the club’s hitting coordinator in 2019.
It’s the same organization that the Mets acquired star shortstop Francisco Lindor from, as he muddles through one of the worst slumps of his career.
Prior to Thursday’s matinee against the St. Louis Cardinals, Lindor hadn’t recorded a hit in six games while his season average shrunk to a measly .157.
While Howard didn’t work closely with him while in Cleveland, he understands his demeanor, which should lay the groundwork to help turn things around for the All-Star.
“Personality-wise, he’s a player who wants to be the best at all times every single day,” Howard said. “Sometimes that can get in the way of development. You can’t always try your way out of it… It’s not an effort thing. Francisco gives 100% effort 100% of the time. That’s the thing about hitting, it’s not about how hard you’re trying but what you’re specifically working at.”