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Flies bother McRae

Does anybody have something that really bugs them? Like getting stuck in traffic, maybe. Or getting in line at the bank behind the guy who is trying to complete some complex transaction involving a Swiss bank when all you want to do is cash a check for $10?

Fly balls. That's what does it to Kansas City manager Hal McRae.

To hear Mac talk, that's the most useless out in baseball. And to hear him talk some more, about a half-dozen Royals are going to start working on not hitting them.

"We've got some guys hitting the ball in the air who haven't hit the ball out of the park three times," McRae said Sunday with the shake of his head.

McRae called several players into his office after Kansas City's 8-2 loss to Chicago Sunday to discuss the dimensions of Royals Stadium.

Actually, it wasn't much of a discussion, McRae said. He did most of the talking and the players did most of the listening.

The point was, Royals Stadium is big.

Not many people are going to make a living hitting the long ball here. Hit a line drive into one of the spacious gaps and the hitter is happy, and his team is going to score some runs.

"A double is better than a home run," McRae said.

McRae ordered a special batting practice for some players before the game Tuesday in Baltimore. He declined to name the players, except to say they were the younger members of the team.

"Consistency is what we're after," McRae said. "The long fly is going to happen with the same stroke. We can stay on top of the ball day after day. With a ground ball, anything can happen. At least there has to be a catch and a throw.

"If you hit the ball in the air, it's going to come down and (the outfielder) is going to be there when it comes down."

McRae, whose team got swept by Chicago after sweeping Texas, closed the Royals' clubhouse for an unusually long period Sunday while he tried to explain Royal Stadium to his players.

McRae, in the Royals Hall of Fame after 14 seasons with the club in which he defined the designated hitter position, said he told the players they must take what the ballpark will give.

"I told them, "It's not what I think, it's what the ballpark is telling us,'

" he said. "Hit line drives, hit to the spaciousness of the ballpark.

"If you don't, it will punish you. We're just not doing what the ballpark is telling us to do."