The KC Royals have a new pitching coach ... and they took him from an AL Central rival

Ross D. Franklin/AP

The Kansas City Royals have settled on a new leader for their pitching staff, and they scooped him up from a division rival that has been among the top organizations in Major League Baseball in producing pitching talent in recent years.

The Royals hired former big-league pitcher Brian Sweeney, who has been the bullpen coach for the Cleveland Guardians for the past three years, as their new pitching coach.

The club announced the hiring on Thursday morning.

Sweeney is the arguably the most crucial hire on first-year manager Matt Quatraro’s coaching staff.

This season, the Royals’ pitching staff finished the season ranked at or near the bottom of the majors in ERA (4.70, 27th of 30), walks (590, 29th), walks plus hits per innings pitched (1.47, 30th), opponent batting average (.271, 29th), strikeouts per nine innings (7.57, 28th), walks per 9 (3.74, 29th) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.02, 30th).

Sweeney replaced Cal Eldred, who was fired at the end of the season along with former manager Mike Matheny.

Sweeney, 48, made his major-league debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2003. The New York native also pitched for the San Diego Padres as well as professionally in Japan. He also pitched for Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He served as pitching coach for Team Italy in the 2017 WBC.

Sweeney joined the Cleveland coaching staff in 2018. During his first two seasons, his duties included compiling advance scouting reports and statistical data for the coaching staff. He became bullpen coach in 2020.

Prior to joining Cleveland, Sweeney spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies organization in the player development system. He spent two years (2016-17) as the pitching coach for Class-A Lakewood, and he spent 2015 as a coach for the rookie-level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League.

The Guardians have excelled at developing top-tier starting pitching talent in recent years. Their pitchers have won three AL Cy Young Awards in the past nine years (since 2014), including Corey Kluber in 2014 and 2017, as well as Shane Bieber in 2020.

The 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer also came up through the Cleveland player development system after having originally been drafted by Arizona.

This season’s AL Central champions, the Guardians’ rotation included Triston McKenzie, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale and Bieber. All are former draft picks of the organization.

Only the Cleveland Guardians’ pitchers had a younger average age than the Royals in 2022. But the Guardians allowed the eighth-fewest runs per game (3.91), while the Royals’ staff allowed the fifth-most (5.0) of any team in the majors.

The Royals also announced that they’d hired José José Alguacil as their infield coach. Last season, Alguacil served as the Minor League Infield Coordinator with the Washington Nationals.

Prior to the Nationals, he spent 15 years in the San Francisco Giants’ organization from 2007-21. He’d also spent five seasons with the Montreal Expos/Nationals from 2002-06.

The Royals have now announced three new additions to Quatraro’s major-league coaching staff with the addition of Paul Hoover as bench coach preceding Thursday’s hires.