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Coaches gone in Royals’ shake-up

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals shook up their on-field staff Thursday afternoon by firing hitting coach Mike Barnett and third-base coach Luis Silverio. The four other coaches will return in some role for manager Trey Hillman’s second season in 2009.

General manager Dayton Moore said replacements have yet to be hired for Barnett and Silverio. For that reason, roles and responsibilities could change for returning staff members, except for pitching coach Bob McClure.

“We might do some different stuff,” Moore said. “It all depends on who else we’re able to line up. We won’t be in a position to define the roles until we are able to fill out the (staff) and see what the (newcomers’) expertise is.”

The club offered one-year contracts to McClure, bench coach Dave Owen, first-base coach Rusty Kuntz and bullpen coach John Mizerock. Kuntz has expressed interest in a split job that allows him to serve as a minor-league roving instructor when the big-league club is on the road.

Barnett, 49, paid the price, it appears, for the failure by several of the organization’s key young players to show sufficient improvement.

“I understand that these things happen,” he said. “They’re on the right path, and I’m glad I was here at the beginning. I just wish I could have been here when this thing gets completely turned around.”

The Royals’ .269 batting average was eight points higher than their 2007 mark and ranked sixth among the 14 American League teams. But the Royals ranked 12th in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

“They told me they were going to make a change,” Barnett said. “We didn’t really go into a whole lot. I talked to Dayton about it, and I also talked to Trey. I think we made some progress, but that’s baseball.”

Barnett had been the club’s hitting coach since May 1, 2006, after joining the organization a few months earlier as a minor-league instructor. He was the hitting coach at Toronto during 2002-05.

“I’ve never been around a guy who works as hard and is as prepared and has as much energy as Mike Barnett,” Moore said. “We just felt it was important to make a change and move forward in a different direction.”

Silverio, 51, has been in the organization since signing as a nondrafted free agent in 1973. He was also the staff’s longest-tenured member at six seasons after arriving in 2003 as the first-base coach under then-manager Tony Pena.

“Dayton just said they wanted to make some changes to improve the dynamics of the coaching staff,” Silverio said. “I’m a professional. When you’re in this business, you have to be prepared for this kind of change.”

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