Mets tab Long as hitting coach

Mets tab Long as hitting coach

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Mets did not need to look far to find their new hitting coach, taking him from just across town.

The team on Thursday announced that recently dismissed Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long will fill that role for them in 2015. Long replaces Lamar Johnson, who took over when the Mets dismissed Dave Hudgens in May.

"Kevin's experience, success and wealth of knowledge make him the perfect fit as our hitting instructor," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. "This is a very positive step for the Mets."

"I'm excited to get the opportunity to work with a team that I think is on the rise," Long said. "I had a great meeting with Sandy and [manager] Terry [Collins] yesterday, and I can't wait to get started and help in any way I can."

Long, 47, was the Yankees' hitting coach from 2007-14. He has a close relationship with Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, who enjoyed a pair of career years -- 84 home runs and 225 RBIs from 2011-12 -- under his tutelage. Helping Granderson rebound from his career-low .227 average and .714 OPS in 2014 will be one of Long's most critical tasks.

Under Long, the Yankees finished first or second in the Majors in runs scored five times from 2007-12. But age and injuries stripped the team's roster in recent seasons. As a result, the Yankees fell to 16th in baseball in runs in '13 and 20th this summer.

That is still a far better track record than the Mets, who have finished outside the league's top 20 five times over the last six years. Since Alderson came aboard prior to the 2010 season, the Mets have asked their hitting coaches to preach a selectively aggressive approach at the plate, instituting an incentive program throughout their farm system. Hudgens followed that plan religiously, but the offense still faltered as Granderson, David Wright, Chris Young and others scuffled.

With that as his backdrop, Johnson took over as hitting coach on May 26. But the Mets did not improve by any great statistical measure under Johnson's watch, producing a slash line of .238/.308/.370 with him versus .237/.309/.352 with Hudgens. The Mets reassigned Johnson earlier this month to another position within the organization.

Now Long becomes the Mets' third hitting coach in five months. He will work with an offense that figures to be largely unchanged heading into 2015; Wright, Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda form the lineup's core, provided Murphy is not traded this winter. Long will also look to develop outfielder Juan Lagares, shortstop Wilmer Flores and catcher Travis d'Arnaud into consistent big league hitters.

"I'm excited to get the opportunity to work with a team that I think is on the rise," Long said in a statement Thursday. "I had a great meeting with Sandy and [manager] Terry [Collins] yesterday, and I can't wait to get started and help in any way I can."

Long was a second-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 in 1989 at the University of Arizona. Selected by the Royals in the 31st round of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft, Long played eight years in the Royals system before retiring and working his way back up the ladder as a hitting coach. The Yankees gave him his first big league job.

Along with Long, the Mets on Thursday also hired Dustin Clarke as their new big league strength and conditioning coach. Clarke will work alongside consultant Mike Barwis, who ran the fitness camp that Duda, Flores, Ruben Tejada and several other Mets players attended last winter. He was the Mets' strength and conditioning coach at Triple-A Las Vegas last season.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.