It will be weeks, probably months, before Don Baylor can return to the Angels as their full-time hitting coach after he underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured right femur, a freak injury Baylor suffered while catching the ceremonial first pitch before Monday night's season opener.
But Baylor's soothing voice will remain in the heads of hitters when they step into the batter's box.
"He talked a lot about confidence, about staying within yourself, about keeping the train going," third baseman David Freese said before Tuesday night's 8-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Angel Stadium. "That's our goal, to make every inning hard for the opposing pitcher, to battle every inning."
The Angels moved swiftly to replace Baylor, promoting assistant hitting coach Dave Hansen to a lead role and summoning minor league hitting coordinator Paul Sorrento to assist Hansen.
While Manager Mike Scioscia and several players expressed confidence in Hansen, the Mariners' hitting coach last season, filling the void left by Baylor, 64, will be difficult.
"Just hearing his voice, the presence he brings to the clubhouse, on the field, will be missed," infielder Ian Stewart said. "He gets a lot of guys fired up for their at-bats. I don't know if he does it on purpose or it's part of his personality, but he definitely has a way of getting guys ready to go."
Baylor, nicknamed "Groove," was a superb hitter during his 19-year career, winning the 1979 American League most-valuable-player award with the Angels, and he spent 21 years as a major league manager or coach before being hired by the Angels last October.
"He understands the intricacies of hitting, the importance of staying positive, but he also understands the mental side of it," said designated hitter Raul Ibanez, who had Baylor as a coach in Seattle in 2005. "He really gets the game. He understands it's a marathon."
Center fielder Mike Trout will miss Baylor most in the batting cage, where the two spent countless early-morning hours together in Arizona this spring.
"Every swing counts," Trout said. "You don't take off any swings in the cage. If you roll over, he knows exactly what you did, and he gets you back to your normal swing."
Baylor, who was diagnosed in 2003 with multiple myeloma, a cancer that weakens the bones, underwent 51/2 hours of surgery at UCI Medical Center on Tuesday in which a plate and screws were inserted into his thigh bone. He will remain hospitalized for at least two days.
Scioscia and Hansen will remain in contact with Baylor through phone calls and text messages, and Baylor is expected to have considerable input even though he won't be at the park.
"Don will be watching the games, and he will definitely be connected," Scioscia said. "But one thing you can't replace is Donnie's presence."
Hansen said he will continue to preach Baylor's philosophies of "consistency, taking one at-bat at a time, staying focused," but there is probably a limit to a hitting coach's influence.
"We got to the big leagues because we can hit," Freese said. "A hitting coach's job is to keep us going, tune us up when we need it. But when it comes down to it, it's up to us to do what we do."
Ibanez, though, said the role of hitting coach can't be minimized.
"If hitting is the hardest thing to do in sports, then I'd imagine it has to be the hardest thing to coach," said Ibanez, who hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning Tuesday night. "They get too much blame for certain things, but at the same time, having a good one is important.
"At this level, some of it is mechanical, but most of it is mental. Sometimes the mental will fix the mechanical, and sometimes the mechanical will fix the mental. There's definitely a yin and a yang to it."
Twitter: @MikeDiGiovannaCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times