Sunday, August 2, 2009

I got the Royal BLUE-s

Seriously folks, I'm not sure what to write here. I'm kinda flying by the seat of my pants with this post. Quite frankly, what is there to say about this team anymore? Sure, I could throw stats at you all day (you all know I don't like to dive too deep into the advanced statistics) but it's not going to divulge anything that you guys don't already know about this pathetic team.

It's sad, really.

The fact of the matter is - and being such a true-blood Royals geek - it pains me to even write anything about this team anymore. I still watch every game played, but I don't want to ever say anything when it's over. It's like every loss makes me more and more introverted ... to the point that I start wondering why in the Sam Hell I put myself through the misery EVERY FRIGGING DAY.

I know I haven't been posting on here often anymore. I'm sorry for that. But I just can't find the motivation to drag myself in front of this keyboard and gripe about what's going wrong every day. And God knows there's nothing remotely right with this club to brag about.

I check in on every Royals minor league affiliate every day to see the progress they're making down on the farm. It's encouraging to see five of the six top prospects in the organization at Hi-A Wilmington. That still means, however, that those guys are at least 2-3 years away. But what's even more depressing is to watch the struggles of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer this year. Neither player has hit much - though Moose does have 12 dingers at this point and is hitting over .300 in his last 10 games.

I think Moustakas needs to get the call to Double-A within the next couple of weeks. He's hitting in a horrendous park right now at Wilmington, and Arvest Ballpark in Springdale would be a much more hitter-friendly park as he takes off in the second half.

For some reason, I just can't bring myself to gripe today. Keep checking in with me, hopefully I will explode here in the next few days and just let all that I've bottled up out. It just might happen if these yahoo's don't finally get Zack a win tonight.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cortes arrested days before trade

Former Royals farmhand Dan Cortes was arrested in Arkansas just days before he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt. If you don't know by now, Cortes has a very checkered past as far as substance abuse goes.

A quick search of his name in Google images will bring up some very disturbing pics of the kid smoking a bong and being passed out butt naked on the toilet. That happened while he was a White Sox farmhand (before the Royals got him) and before he was 21.

This is certainly a pattern that alarmed the Royals. Plus, as I recently noted in a previous post, he's not very coachable and had a pretty sour attitude. Not something you want to see from a prospect trying to work his way to the bigs.

Anyways, here's the story from the AP. This was a big topic around Arvest Ballpark in Springdale yesterday.

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Pitcher Dan Cortes of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals has been arrested.

Police took Cortes to the Washington County Jail early Wednesday morning after he was allegedly caught urinating on a fence near a bar on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. The 22-year-old Cortes is charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. He's free on $655 bond.

Cortes is regarded as a top prospect. His record is 5-6 with a 4.00 ERA. Last season he was recognized as the Kansas City Royals' top minor league pitcher, posting a 10-4 record with the Naturals and a 3.78 ERA.

Naturals manager Brian Poldberg says any discipline will have to come through the Royals front office. The Naturals play in Springdale and are a Class AA affiliate of the Royals.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A little Betancourt/Gordon scouting

I just got home from Springdale where I watched the Naturals take on the Corpus Cristi Hooks at Arvest Ballpark. I'll say this, it was a hot sucker out there but a great game nontheless from Northwest Arkansas.

As you know, both Alex Gordon and newly acquired Yuniesky Betancourt are rehabbing for the Naturals, so I figured now was a good a chance as any to see how they're progressing. I'm reporting this to you: I wasn't OVERLY impressed with either guy.

I was disappointed to see that Gordon didn't play in the field, rather DH'ing instead as Kurt Mertins took his spot at the hot corner. Betancourt, on the other hand, did play and was sort of so, so. Yuni made two nice plays and two more that kinda made everyone go, UGH!

He looks fluid and sharp on balls hit to his right. He made a nice stab on one hit deep in the hole between shortstop and third and threw the rather speedy Drew Locke out by a couple of steps. Then again, he struggled on balls hit to his left (up the middle). He and second baseman/shortstop of the future Jeff Bianchi turned a nice double play, but Betancourt quickly followed that up by fumbling a slow roller to his left. As it turned out, he botched the play so badly it didn't even warrant a throw.

Now it was rather obvious neither Gordon or Betancourt were giving it 100% out there today. They are on a rehab assignment, let's not forget. Still, both players seemed to cash it in as the game went along.

Betancourt and Gordon both singled and scored in the first inning, but they didn't do much more than that. Betancourt had two hits. Gordon struck out looking twice. The picture of Betancourt sliding into home is one I took of him on a play at the plate in the first inning. Thought it was the perfect shot to put on here. I may make a post sometime of the pictures I took. Y'all let me know if that would interest you in any way. Right now, there isn't much to write about.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Royals trade for shortstop

Within the past hour the Royals pulled off a big trade that will send young pitching prospect Dan Cortes and A-level minor league pitcher Derrick Saito to Seattle for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.

It has long been speculated that Dayton Moore has coveted Betancourt, ever since there were rumors a couple of years ago that the Mariners requested Billy Butler as compensation for Betancourt. Well, the Royals got to keep Butler and now Moore has his man.

Betancourt, who is batting .250 with two homers and 22 RBI this season, is currently rehabbing from an injury at Triple-A Tacoma. The Royals will continue his rehab assignment at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, in Springdale. Cortes, who was the Royals minor league pitcher of the year last season has struggled mightily with his control this year despite going 6-6 with a 3.92 ERA.

I personally witnessed Cortes' last outing at home (he was scheduled to pitch again tonight against San Antonio) and he was very, very wild. He's having lots of trouble controlling his 95-96 mph fastball, and thus has walked nearly as many as he has struck out this year - and he's having trouble striking out guys as well.

I came away from the outing with the sense that the Royals really needed to trade Cortes now while he still has some value. I know that sounds crazy when you look at his ERA and consider how hard he throws, but if you watch him with your own two eyes he will drive you crazy. He's madly inconsistent at times and - while he still is only 22 and has plenty of time to turn things around - he suddenly looks like a high-risk, high-reward guy right now. The Royals did the right thing in adding the shortstop they need.

Also, there is no need for Tony Pena Jr. on this team anymore. So that should make fans happy when the club releases him to make room for Betancourt in the coming weeks. IF the club doesn't drop Pena Jr. then I will go ballistic on here. Betancourt will now be the everyday shortstop, thus the club can use Bloomquist to fill in there if Betancourt needs a day off. Pena is NOT needed. Moore won't need to worry either, Pena almost surely won't be claimed off of waivers should they DFA him, thus they could keep him and send him to Omaha where he belongs.

By the way, Saito - a former 16th-rounder - is just an extra body in the deal. Not a real prospect.

This was a good move IMO.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Royals should target Escobar

If ever Dayton Moore has wanted to make a deal with his former club, the Atlanta Braves, then now should be the time.

The Braves are looking for trade partners and all indications are that they would love to trade both pitcher Javier Vasquez and shortstop Yunel Escobar. Point blank, the Royals should be IN on Escobar. In fact, they should be cutting to the front of the line to take Escobar off of Atlanta's hands. Apparently Escobar and manager Bobby Cox don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and thus Escobar has landed in Cox's doghouse.

Fair enough, we'll take him. Let's face it, the Royals aren't scared to take on guys with character issues. Word is the Braves are seeking an outfield bat. Sounds like they need Jose Guillen to me. In fact, word is today that they have discussed Guillen and he IS an option for them. I say that's a good one-for-one swap. A player they no longer want for a player we no longer want. They get their outfielder and we get a shortstop. And a dang good one too.

I say dang good loosely. He's dang good compared to Tony Pena Jr, Luis Hernandez and Tug Hulett (who's originally a second baseman). He can hit and field it. Plus, he's a better runner than any of the other three, though not a speedster by any means.

-------------------------------

Also out there in the rumor mill is that the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Angels are showing interest in Mark Teahen. All four teams - and possibly more - have contacted the Royals about Teahen, and the Giants seem to be showing the most interest right now. The Cubs have been kicking Teahen's name around for three years now, so they might make a move on him.

I'll admit, I'm feeling a bit gun shy...

...this whole Rany thing has my nerves on edge. Seriously, I'm so angry right now at this team I could very easily write something much worse and more to the point than Rany did, but I would ensure myself of not attending another Royals game as a credentialed member of the media.

For those of you who have never gotten the opportunity to do what some of us wackos who write about sports for a living have, it's hard to explain to you why our credentials are so important to us. Especially those of us who aren't "nationally recognized" media members. The national writers can really say what they would like and get away with it. Why? Because there's more backlash from fans if the team tries to reprimand them. It's a PR thing. Yeah, the nationally known writers have it much easier - and the pay is WAY better, of course.

Now I'm not trying to say those guys don't have it rough now and then as well. They do have to face the people they write about day in and day out - as opposed to a writer like me facing them far less than that. And let's face it, the players probably don't pick up a copy of the Joplin Globe every morning with their coffee.

Anyways, over the years I have had much more access to the team than Rany ever thought about. (For those of you who don't know, Rany is a dermatologist from Chicago.) But I can clearly tell you the man is on to something. The points he brought up (if you haven't read about it do so at ranyontheroyals.com) about the training staff are valid and very worthy of being noted.

Now let me say I don't always agree with what he writes. It's hard for a guy who isn't around the team AT ALL to say what's going on there. It's pure speculation, but he readily admits to this. Still, what the Royals organization did to reprimand him is classless and irresponsible. Some say his journalism is. That could be fair too. Still, I'm not knocking anyone for writing their opinion. We all do it every time we comment on a blog or story post. To be honest, I'm not sure why the organization felt it needed to start a beef with the man. Reader's know he isn't a beat writer, yet they also know that there is a lot of truth to the numbers he threw out there. It's hard to deny statistics.

Believe me, they know he's on to something and they're trying to shut him up. They do have tickets they're trying to sell, you know.

I've been biting my tongue for a while with this team. That's not necessarily from fear of the Royals, but for a number of reasons. Of course, I being the glass half-full guy I am, have been waiting on this team to break out. I mean, they can't be THIS BAD right? Also, I admit I don't want to lose my credentials. Being at the games and on the field is one of the few perks of my job that keeps me doing it. I hope you all can understand that. It's something not everyone gets to do and I want to do it as long as I can. Cause when it's gone, it's gone, ya know?

So I've come to the conclusion that I'll bash them anyways. If they don't like it they can kiss my butt. If I lose my credentials I'll not have to put up with the losing year in and year out. There are other teams out there I can cover. We have a lot of other minor league clubs around here I can watch make the same kinds of stupid errors that we've come to love from Alberto Callaspo and the rest of these goons.

Guess my anger is starting to boil over...

1, Mike Jacobs is a joke, needs to be traded/cut.

2, Kila Ka'aihue needs to be called up.

3, Trey Hillman sucks at his job right now.

4, Gibbons contributes nothing as a coach.

5, The training staff DOES suck.

6, John Buck needs to be planted on the bench.

7, Aaron Crow should have already been signed, sealed and delivered.

8, Dayton Moore needs to realize this team is what it is and cut his losses.

9, Tony Pena Jr./Luis Hernandez/Tug Hulett.

10, Holy crap!

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Why do I do this to myself?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Aviles done for year

Apparently all of the doubters, including myself, who wondered aloud whether Mike Aviles was really hurt or not have gotten their answer. The Royals announced before Wednesday's game that Aviles will have elbow ligament replacement surgery - or Tommy John surgery - soon and will miss at least 9-12 months. So, basically, we can look for Aviles to be playing baseball again about this time next season.

With that being said, the Royals better do something sooner rather than later to fix the shortstop position. Because they have no clear everyday player at short (nor can they hit: TPJ, Hernandez, Hulett, etc.) now is the time for the Royals to act. They have another shortstop at Triple-A Omaha in Mario Lisson, but even he iis barely breaking .200 at the Double-A or Triple-A levels this season - though he does have seven homers.

The club needs to make a trade and scrap this season. It's over and has been for quite a while. It's only getting worse.

Olivo suspended

Miguel Olivo was suspended for one game by Major League Baseball for an altercation he had with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi last week in Pittsburgh. Olivo was ejected in the ninth inning of a game last week for arguing a check swing call and apparently bumped Cuzzi - Olivo claims Cuzzi initiated the contact by bumping Olivo first.

Olivo didn't appeal and is serving the suspension in today's game against the Twins.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Royals ink Nicaraguan prospect

Nicaraguan prospect Cheslor Cuthbert, a 16-year old star third baseman from the country, has signed a professional contract with the Royals worth an esitmated $1.5 million bonus. Several teams have been hot after Cuthbert since he was 14-years old, and many people around baseball suspected he would sign with the Pirates until the Royals swooped in and grabbed him up.

This should be a good sign for Royals fans. This move shows that they are making a serious effort to become movers and shakers internationally.

WARNING: Jeff Bianchi is the real deal

I have been going to a lot of minor league baseball games lately, trying to get an eye for players who may be available through trades, and to scout some of the Royals farmhands. We all know the Royals are in a desperate need for a shortstop right now, and I think the organization is getting a good idea who that player might be; Royals 2006 2nd-round pick Jeff Bianchi.

I have seen Bianchi on multiple occasions now this year, and let me tell you, the kid is putting things together in a big, BIG, way. Not only did he tear up pitching at Hi-A Wilmington this year (to the clip of .300 BA/4 HR/28 RBI/12 doubles/2 triples/12 stolen bases versus being caught only twice/and 6 errors: all of this in 60 games) but as you can see he also runs well and - considering he plays at a high-risk defensive position at shortstop - has played good defense.

After being slowed with injuries that have kept him trapped in A-ball the past three years, he's managed to stay healthy the past year and recently earned the call-up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas about a week ago. Impressingly, the jump hasn't slowed him a bit. I was at Saturday night's game in Springdale for another look at Bianchi and he was amazing. After smacking an RBI double in his first at-bat to right center, he followed that with three more hits before blasting a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to propel the Naturals to a 4-3 victory over the Arkansas Travelers.

Before the game I asked Bianchi if he'd noticed how desperate the Royals are for a competent shortstop who can hit. "Yeah, I've noticed they could use some help," he said with a big smile. Then he went out and went 5-for-5 with 3 RBI and the game-winning blast. Not a bad way to record your first Double-A homer.

Also, I am VERY impressed with his defense. He made several nifty plays and completed a couple of nice throws from short. Albeit, only one of the plays he made was particularly difficult - although he did make a pair of nice throws from deep in the hole to record outs. He is doing a tremendous job going with pitches and driving them to the opposite field. At the same time he's also pulling balls that need to be pulled. One of his singles skidded through the left side and the homer went to deep left center. Both balls were center-in on the plate and he wasted little time turning on them.

I'm not an irrational fan who can't grasp the importance of player development, but Bianchi looks ready for Triple-A. He's too good to even be at Double-A right now. Believe me, scouts were taking notice last night.

So far he's 19-for-34 since getting called up with 5 doubles and the homer. He has seven RBI in his first eight games and is hitting .583/.794/1.377. Now I realize that's a very small sample size, but it should open some eyes as the jump from Single-A to Double-A is a sizable leap - especially in the Texas League. He's already faced some of the best pitching the Texas League has to offer and he hasn't skipped a beat. And the Texas League is widely considered one of the best leagues in all the minors. The league is littered with the game's best prospects. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Keep your eyes on him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Royals moves avoiding the real problem

I was at Friday's debacle - you know, the one where Kyle Davies imploded on himself and was quickly shipped to Omaha aferwards - and believe me, it was worse than it looked on TV*.

By the way, I was on the field shooting pictures for the first five innings, so if you watched the game on Fox Midwest you can easily find me as the camera guy wearing the orange/blue striped shirt. At the start of the broadcast I walk right in front of the camera - can't miss me.

I only bring this up because I know I've gotten several e-mails from people wanting to know what I look like. And since I won't e-mail pictures of myself, you can see me if you DVR'd the game.

OK, back to my rant.

The Royals made the right move in sending Davies down. He clearly has not been able to harness his potentially outstanding stuff, and is just as inconsistent as he was when the Braves traded him to KC for Octavio Dotel. It's starting to get to the point where I seriously begin to doubt whether KD will ever figure it out up there.

He short arms his pitches, and doesn't repeat his delivery very well. Thus, he can't locate his fastball for crap. Clearly, his mechanics aren't the only issues though. He's got to harness his stuff mentally. That has been his biggest issue.

My gripe though is that the Royals organization is focusing too much on the pitching staff and hiding the real problem - the offense. At this point in the season it isn't going to matter much that the bullpen is razor sharp - in a bad way. I'm talking the kind of razor sharp that has the razor sliding across your neck - they're creating the bleeding when they should be the bandage that stops it.

Truth is, the pitching staff could give up two runs or twenty thousand runs and it wouldn't matter. The offense can't score enough runs to keep them winning. I've heard the arguments that the team is banged up, but I can easily counter that argument.

Allow me.

Alex Gordon? Well, he was batting .094 when he went down. Mike Aviles hovered around .183. Mike Jacobs, wait ... guess he isn't hurt but he's sucking bad enough you might think he is. Same goes to Jose Guillen. You see? They weren't helping much either.

Albert Pujols has 24 homers folks ... twenty-four. The top two in homers for the Royals, Miguel Olivo and Mike Jacobs, have 10 apiece. Do the math. David DeJesus hit his fourth dinger on Friday. So, basically what I'm saying is that Albert Pujols accounts for the home run total of THREE of the top Royals starters this year while his combined batting average is WAY higher than theirs.

So the losing streak isn't going to stop by the club shuffling the pitching staff around. Heck, Bruce Chen deserves to be in the big leagues right now. He's thrown shutouts in three of his past four starts at Omaha. But even Chen isn't going to help this team. He'll show up and start taking his losses and no-decisions right away. Doesn't matter how well he's throwing the ball right now, the offense can't score enough runs for the pitching to make a difference.

Oh yeah, the Royals defense has committed the 2nd-most errors in the AL. Whew.

It's sad to watch, really.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Royals thoughts through this horrible stretch

OK, this is going to be a totally random post with a lot of mix-and-matching going on.

1, It has been very hard to find the motivation to make any posts about the Royals right now. The term, "If you can't say anything nice..." applies here. So anyways, the Royals won a fantastic game Friday night thanks to a tremendous pitching performance from Luke Hochevar. Of course, the offense managed just six hits - big surprise.

2, Understand, I'm not a glass-half-empty guy. But from being around this team it's pretty obvious that the egos are keeping the Royals down. One guy is getting under my skin right now. Mike Jacobs, signed to boost the offense, is actually HURTING this team with his macho ego. Allow me to explain.

Jake is a guy who will adamantly tell you that he is what he is and WILL NOT change his approach at the plate. What that means on the bottom line is that Jake is more of a Jake player than a team player. Now that statement will ruffle some feathers, no doubt. Jake is a good guy and all, but the attitude that it's OK to hit .249 and strikeout a billion times in order to hit 20-25 homers is what's killing this lineup. No, I'm not singling Jacobs out, but I am attempting to rake him over the coals.

You see, teams put the shift on EVERY TIME Jacobs steps to the plate. You know, the same one teams put on for other lefty sluggers like Adam Dunn, Victor Martinez and Jim Thome. The problem is that Jake isn't nearly as dangerous as any of those guys and profiles better as a rally killer. He's a dead-pull hitter who has good power, but he's not in the class of Dunn, Martinez or Thome.

So the Royals are down 4-1 in the 9th inning and Jacobs steps to the plate. Instead of getting on base to start a meaningful rally he instead swings out of his spikes and whiffs on three pitches. The home run is meaningless at that point ... in cases like that a homer is actually a rally killer. It doesn't matter though, Jacobs is a glory hog. He would rather have the meaningless homer in the ninth.

We knew what to expect when we got Jacobs. It's no surprise that he strikes out this much, but at the same time you would like to think a guy would be willing to try a new approach now and then to win his team a game. I think even Dayton Moore has been a little surprised by how little he's been willing to change.

3, Trey Hillman has to be blamed for a great deal of the misfortunes this year. He's in his second year managing this club and has long since worn out his mulligans of a first year coach. He's certainly done enough to warrant being fired. I wouldn't complain one bit if Moore canned him tomorrow. Dayton isn't going to fire him anytime soon, however.

It is now understood that he has no clue how to manage late-game situations. In fact, I'm not sure what bench coach John Gibbons is contributing to this team either. Gibbons is supposed to be the little bird in Hillman's ear to help him along. Obviously, both guys have whiffed on several decisions this year (like bringing Kyle Farnsworth into ANY situation with the game on the line). They both warrant being FORMER Kansas City Royals, if you know what I mean.

A few nights ago the Royals lost to the Indians when a Shin-Soo Choo walk-off single took out a seagull in Cleveland. The real sad part of that game came well before the bird got flogged. Actually, the Royals set themselves up for a loss when Hillman chose to pinch hit for Tony Pena Jr. with the game tied 3-3 in the ninth inning with suspect Indians closer Kerry Wood on the hill.

The move to hit for Pena Jr. wasn't the problem. That was obviously the right decision. The problem was in Hillman's selection process.

On the bench were a pair of guys who are making more than $3 million this season to hit the baseball. All Hillman needed to do was pick one and go with him. Hell, rock-paper-scissors for the at-bat for all I care. Not to mention, both of those guys bat left handed versus Wood being a righty. Not to mention, both $3 million men homered off Wood in a Royals comeback victory a few weeks before. Hillman's tough decision should have been an easy one either way. It was OBVIOUS he would pick Mark Teahen or Jacobs either one in that situation.

He went with Luis Hernandez, a veteran of less than 200 major league games and a guy who can't hit his weight. WOW. I rest my case.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In surprising fashion Aaron Crow falls to Royals

From the Royals press release:

KANSAS CITY, MO (June 9, 2009) -- The Kansas City Royals have selected Aaron Crow, a right-handed pitcher, with the 12th overall pick of the June Free-Agent Draft. The 6'3", 195 lb. Crow was selected 10th overall by the Washington Nationals in 2008, but did not sign.
Crow, a native of Wakarusa, Kan., was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a Golden Spikes Award finalist in 2008 after going 13-0 with a 2.35 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 15 starts for the University of Missouri. Crow has pitched in each of the last two seasons for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association.
This season, Crow posted a 1.06 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17.0 IP with the Cats. He is the second Fort Worth pitcher to be selected by the Royals in the first round, following Luke Hochevar, the 1st overall selection in 2006.
- My take -
I'm pleasantly surprised that Crow fell to the Royals at No. 12. Dayton Moore seriously had to be doing backflips when Crow was sitting there for the taking. Many scouts and team executives had Crow pegged to go in the top 5 picks after having a stellar start to the season at Fort Worth - where he flashed major league caliber stuff.
Already a year into professional baseball, plus the fact he went through college, Crow is advanced enough that he will likely shoot through the minor leagues and contribute to the big league club soon. Royals fans should be excited.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The cupboard is bare at Double-A

Sorry for the long stretch in posts lately guys, but I've been busy going to games and such and wanted to take some time off to just reflect on what I've witnessed with this Royals team and its minor league affiliates.

The results aren't good. I'll make a post on the big league club in the next few days. It will be long and rambling - I'm warning you.

Just as I was planning this post, I noticed that Sam Mellinger wrote a story today about the farm system - quoting Dayton Moore saying how much better the system is now compared to when he arrived. He's absolutely right, but the top of the tree is stripped clean. And I'm not joking.

Having seen lots of minor league games throughout the past several years, I do have to say that I can't remember a time that I watched a team and had real doubts that ANY player would ever contribute at the big league level. That is until I started scouting the NW Arkansas Naturals this year.

The Texas League is certainly one of the most talented leagues in all of the minors. It's full of some of the top prospects in the game from Justin Smoak to Jhoulys Chacin. Yeah, pretty big prospects. The best power hitter the Naturals have is journeyman Corey Smith - a former 1st-round pick of the Indians - who has no real position and the body of a DH. He's been bouncing around the minors for quite some time after being released by the Indians and Angels after spending a couple years at Arkansas with each of them. He's a Juan Richardson type player (if you don't know him look him up) as bad as I hate to say it. Smith, at 27 years old, is batting .246 with 9 homers. He's seen little time above Double-A.

There are other players like John Suomi, Jordan Parraz, Cody Strait and Brian McFall who all are hitting well for the Naturals, but all of those players have their faults. Parraz, who was obtained from the Astros in the Tyler Lumsden trade, probably has the best chance of reaching the big leagues, but it would likely be in a reserve outfielder role as his bat doesn't play up to a corner outfield position (where he plays for the Naturals) in the power department. Suomi is going on 29 years old and is way too old to be considered a prospect. I would be more optimistic about him if his .329 average with 7 homers this year was being turned in at Triple-A Omaha. As it is now, he's splitting time behind the dish with Jeff Howell.

Strait is another guy like Parraz, only he plays center. He just turned 26 last week and is in his first year at the Double-A level. He still needs seasoning and isn't considered a prospect. As for McFall, the guy can rake. The problem he has is that when he actually does play the field he's a first baseman. Most of the time he's a DH. He won't hit with enough sock to warrant playing over Butler, Jacobs, Guillen or even Ka'aihue.

The pitching staff is loaded with just as many question marks.

Prospect Dan Cortes is spinning his wheels to the point that some scouts are saying he may need to move to the bullpen to reach the big leagues. That would be a blow to the Royals and their envisions for this kid when they traded for him in the Mike MacDougal deal in 2006. He's had horrendous control issues so far this year going 2-5 4.01 with 36 strikeouts and 32 walks. He's regressed poorly in his last two outings alone with 10 walks and seven strikeouts. Blake Wood (another highly touted prospect) is carrying a 6.31 ERA and has allowed 7 homers in 45 innings. He also is being tabbed as a future reliever by scouts.

As the scout told Mellinger, there is help for the Royals in the future, but it's two to three years away ... at least. There isn't much other than Ka'aihue, Hochevar and Carlos Rosa at Omaha. Rosa has been hit hard this year and may be demoted soon.

They club needs to make a trade to kick-start the offense, but they have next to nothing to deal that teams would want. I'll talk about that more in the coming days.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Soria news

Royals closer Joakim Soria pitched off of a mound on Wednesday in Arizona. Soria threw only 15 pitches (his allowed limit) at the Royals spring training complex. The club didn't release any further details other than to say that he didn't report any discomfort afterwards.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Royals make a string of roster moves

After Saturday's 5-0 shutout loss to the Cardinals, the Royals optioned Luke Hochevar to Triple-A Omaha and placed both Mike Aviles and Robinson Tejeda on the 15-day disabled list. To fill those roster spots the Royals recalled lefty reliever John Bale (from his rehab assignment with Northwest Arkansas) as well as infielder Tug Hulett and righty reliever Roman Colon from Triple-A.

I am a bit shocked that Hochevar was optioned, especially after pitching much better Saturday and having just received backing statements from Trey Hillman and Dayton Moore. It's not the worst thing though. He has struggled since being recalled. I still think the club messed up his confidence by starting him at Omaha this year. Again, just my opinion.

Hulett has been doing well with the bat this year but has limited big league experience. We'll see how this pans out. I still think the club needs to make a trade in the near future.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Royals are in need of some Hawaiian Punch. Nevermind...

Trey Hillman says his club is going to have to do something to find some offense real soon. We already knew coming into this year that the club would not lead the league in scoring, but I think Hillman's patience is starting to grow a little thin in the run producing category.

The Royals are stocked with first basemen, but the one putting up the best numbers is in Omaha. (No, this doesn't call for a Luke Hochevar comparison.)

Kila Ka'aihue (yeah, I think this is the first post I've made on him this season) is about as hot as you can get right now at Triple-A where he entered Tuesday's game batting .292 with 11 doubles, a triple, 7 home runs and 23 RBI. Not bad considering he started the season with an average barely touching .200. Here's the deal though ... while his average wasn't hot, he was drawing walks by the tons and has maintained a hefty OBP for the entire season. As of Tuesday he's drawn 37 walks compared to 30 strikeouts. His OBP is .450, he's slugging .575 with a 1.025 OPS.

In his last 10 games Ka'aihue is batting .444 with 7 doubles, 4 homers, 11 RBI, nine walks and five strikeouts.

I know the Royals aren't likely going to do anything different with Butler/Jacobs, but at some point in the next several months he may force them to find a position for him in the big leagues. At least they can afford to let him continue to develop in the minors. At this rate he may force their hand.

-----------------------------

***As I'm writing about Kila Ka'aihue I just witnessed something very un-Royal-like unfold right in front of my very eyes. The boys just scored four in the bottom of the ninth against Kerry Wood for an amazing 6-5 comeback win over the Indians, after trailing 5-1 in the 6th. Maybe they're going to figure it out afterall.

Jose Guillen grounded out to lead off the bottom of the ninth, before Jacobs and Mark Teahen went back-to-back to make it 5-4. Miguel Olivo followed that with a walk and Hillman replaced Olivo with Mitch Maier on the basepaths (good move). Then David DeJesus tripled to tie it, 5-5, and scored the game-winner on Willie Bloomquist's sacrifice fly to right field. WOW.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's way too early, but here's an outlook on the trade deadline

As a request of one of our great everythingroyals readers, I decided to make a post about what we can expect from the club in a few months when the trade deadline rolls around.

While there has been much speculation about the offense, or lack thereof, by the Royals this season, I really am having a hard time believing Dayton Moore is going to make any major splashes at the deadline. There are several big names that will become free agents in 2010, but some of the bigger ones will certainly not get away from their respective clubs. One of the biggest fish in the pond (as far as I'm concerned) is Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford. Yeah, you can already forget about that one...he won't get away from the Rays. They have a $10 million club option that says he isn't going anywhere. Same for Jason Bay and Josh Beckett of the Red Sox.

There are some bats that can be had, but they aren't likely going to be Royals. Rick Ankiel is one of them (the Cardinals have been dangling his name for some time) but he strikes out a whole bunch and has struggled with the bat as of late. Plus there's that Crisp guy in Kansas City. Others are Matt Holliday (who certainly will be moved from Oakland but will require a big haul) and Mark DeRosa of the Braves.

Here's a list of who could be available and their contract status:

Catchers:
Ramon Hernandez - $8.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout.
Victor Martinez - $7MM club option with a $250K buyout
Bengie Molina

First basemen:
Carlos Delgado
Adam LaRoche

Second basemen:
Mark DeRosa
Placido Polanco
Brian Roberts
Freddy Sanchez - $8MM club option with a $600K buyout

Shortstops:
Bobby Crosby
Khalil Greene
Miguel Tejada
Jack Wilson

Third basemen:
Adrian Beltre
Chone Figgins
Chipper Jones
Melvin Mora
Ty Wigginton

Left fielders:
Jason Bay
Carl Crawford - $10MM club option with a $1.25MM buyout
Johnny Damon
Matt Holliday
Hideki Matsui

Center fielders:
Rick Ankiel
Coco Crisp - $8MM club option with a $500K buyout

Right fielders:
Jermaine Dye - $12MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
Brian Giles
Ken Griffey Jr.
Vladimir Guerrero
Xavier Nady
Magglio Ordonez - $15MM club/vesting option with a $3MM buyout

Designated Hitters:
Jason Giambi
Aubrey Huff
Gary Sheffield

Starting pitchers:
Josh Beckett - $12MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Erik Bedard
Justin Duchscherer
Rich Harden
Tim Hudson - $12MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
John Lackey
Cliff Lee - $8MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Brett Myers
Brandon Webb - $8.5MM club option with a $500K+ buyout
Todd Wellemeyer

As you can see, I didn't even put closers in there. Pretty sure we don't need one of them. Obviously, there are lots of names on this list that in no way will be traded by their clubs. Then again, there are guys who likely will be gone in the blink of an eye.

The one player I am interested in is Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts. Now there is an intriguing player that would look great in a Royals uni. Don't get too excited though, I don't see Dayton Moore doing much even if the club is in contention at that time - and they should be. He has adamantly said that the team won't mortgage its future for any quick fixes. I agree with him. Of course, a lot can happen between now and then, and there will certainly be other players who will be available. Possibly even some young Triple-A prospects will be tossed about as well. It's too early to tell.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Royals streak has fans jumping off bandwagon

Well, If there is one thing the Royals losing streak has accomplished, it's that the fair weather fans who jumped on board during all the wins have now begun to disperse as the team continues this God-awful losing streak. I think it's kind of funny to see people claiming the sky is falling at Kauffman Stadium. There are some out there who are already writing this team off and penciling in the Twins as the AL Central champs again. It seems that all of the losing in years past has left us expecting the big one. The 10, 12, 14 game losing streak that all but writes the Royals in the cellar for the rest of the season.

It's very possible this Royals team isn't going to be as good as we once thought. It was obvious the pitching staff couldn't hold up the amazing pace they were on to start the year. The team was once on pace to win 105 games ... uh, yeah right. But it's not out of the question that this team winds up winning seven or eight in a row at some point in the year and wins the division by several games. I guess then we'll see those fans jumping back on the wagon.

The difference this year is that while this losing streak continues to build, all you have to do is look at their record to see that they are still currently above .500 and are right in the thick of things in the division. So, while they may or may not reach the playoffs in 2009, there's no doubt this team is better than the one's we've witnessed in a long time. (2003 was indeed a fluke)

Something else caught my attention too, and I wanted to bring it up.

After Mike Jacobs crushed his seventh homer of the season the other night in Oakland, there were cries that he isn't worth the money the team is spending on him. Some people even argued that he only goes yard when the score doesn't matter - and that he strikes out too often with runners in scoring position in tight games. Those last two arguments are fair enough, but to say that he isn't worth the money the team is paying him is ludicrous. Right now, we should be happy that he's still hitting bombs. That means he's seeing the ball well at the plate and at least gives us a hint that he can bust a game open when it's on the line.

Hey, at least he hasn't been what David Ortiz has been for the Red Sox this season. He appears to have totally lost his mojo. At least Jacobs is driving in runs. Plus, he's better than anything we've had in the power category for quite some time. I'll take him in my lineup even though the strikeouts hurt. The fact is we all knew Jacobs strikes out a ton. So there is absolutely no reason for us to gripe and complain that he K's too often. True Royals fans KNEW he would. I guess that's why it's the fair weather fans who are griping about it.

Look, I'm not knocking us true fans who have complaints with this team. There has been plenty to gripe about so far. But with all the gripes, we've also got to be pretty happy that we finally have a team that can go on such losing streaks and still be in the hunt.

Here's some of my gripes...
  1. Trey Hillman has made blunder after blunder managing this team, and it makes one wonder what John Gibbons role actually is on the bench. He's supposed to be Trey's right-hand man. Guess that's why he's a former manager of the Blue Jays.
  2. Mike Aviles can't hit his way out of a wet paper sack. He may spend a few weeks at Omaha soon to see if he can kick-start his offense.
  3. Jose Guillen is killing this team defensively. He lolly gags in right field and has become a liability out there and on the base paths. There's a guy not worth what he's getting paid.
  4. Gil Meche appears to be hurt and hasn't been the same guy since injuring his back three starts ago.
  5. The offense remains punchless against no-name pitchers without great minor league track records.

You guys chime in on these subjects. Tell me your concerns. Let me know if you see things differently. Fair weather fans need not to respond. Only serious fans here please.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hoch gets the call, Soria to DL

Well, the inevitable finally happened ... on both fronts. The Royals finally decided to place all-world closer Joakim Soria on the Disabled List with a strained rotator cuff and recalled Luke Hochevar to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

Now I can quit whining about Hochevar.

Soria, as you well know by now, hasn't been right for the past 2-3 weeks. The club has been trying to nurse him through this by calling his injury a "sore arm". Yeah, not sure if they duped anyone with that one. The problem was obviously worse than that.

Hoch has been electric at Triple-A Omaha this year with a 5-0 0.90 ERA in six appearances. He will pitch against the Athletics on Tuesday night while the Knight from Aruba will shift to the 'pen.

Soria says he won't likely miss more than the 15 days he will sit out for the DL stint - which is retroactive to Friday. I could see the club giving him a rehab outing or two before he returns. That way they can bring him along in a more cautious manner.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My first day as a Seattle Mariner didn't go too well. We knew what was coming and still couldn't hit it.

Note: I apologize for the delay in posts, but a nasty storm knocked the power out here and we just got back up and running. Anyways, here's how my day went on Thursday at the K. I have to admit, it was one of the funnest work days I've ever had.

If you're wondering how good Brian Bannister was on Thursday, well, even the Mariners (despite knowing exactly how Bannister would attack them) couldn't score on him. You see, I know this because on Thursday I was a Seattle Mariner. Yes, I crossed over into the dark side, spending more than three hours just hanging out with the M's before the game. Let me explain.

To make a long story short, my boss and I were at the game to do a story on the Mariners hitting coach Alan Cockrell - a local standout from southwest Missouri. Alan, as you can imagine, has had his hands full lately trying to get his young players hitting again after a hot start to the season.

Anyways, he invited us inside the indoor batting cages just behind the visitors clubhouse to get an up-close and in-person feel for his job and the guys he works with. Needless to say, I spent the next three hours watching Ichiro and his teammates crush pitches, tell stories and fall into a state of shock when it was revealed that Manny Ramirez had been suspended for 50 games.

Caught up on some conversation with Royal great Mike Sweeney too. Mike, who has always been one of the most pleasant players I have met through the years, immediately rushed over and shook our hands - my boss and I - thanking us for being there and telling us how great it was to be back in Kansas City. He probably took 50 cuts in the cage before rushing off to get ready for the game.

As Mike was hitting he kept telling us how he had stayed up the night before until 1:40 a.m. watching film on Bannister, just hoping he'd get his shot in front of the K.C. crowd one more time. Well, he wasn't the only one studying Banny. Alan himself had done his scout work and came to a conclusion everyone else has as well - Banny has scrapped his four-seam fastball in favor of a cutter and has become hard to hit.

This was the story AC told all of the Mariners hitters that day. Out of respect for AC and the Mariners, I won't disclose everything that was said and worked on that day. But I can tell you some of it.

AC repeated like 150 times to those guys that Banny would throw "70 percent cutters, and his curveball would be back door, every time". He told them there would be very few, if any, four seamers - that Banny had scrapped that pitch.

He beat this through every starter that came into the cages. They asked him tons of questions about Banny and what he would do. AC told me, "The thing is, we KNOW what Bannister is going to do. We know what he's going to throw, but he's going good and we still might not hit him."

They DID know what he was going to do. He did EXACTLY that AC said he would do. It was no secret. It was no surprise to even the average fan. Everyone knows what Banny is going to do these days. Sure enough, the Mariners didn't hit Banny well. Ichiro took the advice. So did Griffey. The rest of the team had no chance. Banny was that good.

I have to admit I certainly took a different perspective from that game after knowing what the Mariners were looking to do at the plate. I mean, you can speculate but it's totally different when you actually hear what the approach is going to be from what the coaches say in the cages. It just opened my eyes even more about what Bannister accomplished in this outing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The awards are already rolling in

Think the rest of MLB is noticing what Royals ace Zack Greinke is doing this year?

Well, on Tuesday he was named April's American League Pitcher of the Month after going 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA with 44 strikeouts in the month. Greinke will receive a 52-inch Sharp Aquos TV and a trophy as recognition for his achievements.

He has been quick to shoot down any comparisons to Fernando Valenzuela thus far. Instead, he's pointing all the attention to his coaches and teammates. It's nice to see the kid has remained so humbled. He's a rare commodity.

Royals retain catcher

Well, the Royals lucked out today. It seems that Brayan Pena managed to slip through the cracks of the waiver wire afterall and will remain a Royal as the club outrighted the right handed hitting Pena to Triple-A Omaha.

Pena, who broke with the big league club out of spring training as the third-string catcher, went 2-for-7 with a pair of doubles and an RBI this year at the plate while seeing time mainly in mop-up duty. He has shown to be a valuable commodity for the Royals depth chart should Miguel Olivo or John Buck go down to injury this year.
Like the Royals, I myself am also surprised he went uncliamed. Good deal.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Simply amazing

Zack Greinke continues to amaze me. The stud righty took his whipping stick out on the White Sox tonight and tossed his second career complete game shutout (both coming this season) as the Royals blanked the Sox 3-0.

Greinke moves to 6-0 with the victory, and has become the first big league pitcher to reach six victories this season. He struck out 10 and didn't walk a batter. His ERA is an amazing 0.40. I'm smelling a CY Young award. Apparently, ESPN's Buster Olney is thinking the same way. He wrote as much in his blog this week. You should check it out.

David DeJesus cranked his third homer of the season off of Bartolo Colon in the third inning. Mike Jacobs added a double in the game as well.

Still, I can't get over Greinke. I mean, we all have witnessed how well he's pitched since he returned from his stint at Double-A Wichita a couple years ago, but I think we'd all be lying if we said he'd be THIS good. No disrespect to the great Royals pitchers that have come before him, but I'm getting the feeling Greinke is already establishing himself as the best that Kansas City has ever seen. By the time it's said and done, I'm certain he will be.

Here's his line for the season:

6-0 / 0.40 ERA / 6 games / 3 complete games / 2 shutouts / 45 innings pitched / 30 hits / 3 runs / 2 earned / 0 home runs / 54 strikeouts / 8 walks /... holy crap.

I wonder who the Royals all-star will be this year?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Royals farmhands worth noting...

I just wanted to point out some hot/not-so-hot starts to the 2009 season from some notable Royals farmhands. Obviously, I didn't name everyone on this list. There are other's worth mentioning, but I thought these few stood out the most. Feel free to chime in on this one.

Hot:

1.) Clint Robinson (Hi-A Wilmington) -- The 2007 25th-round pick out of Troy University is off to a fantastic start for the BlueRocks this season - batting .380/.424/.658 with 4 homers and 10 doubles in 79 at-bats.
Robinson, a 6-foot-4, 225 pound first baseman who I chronicled often last season, has mad power and really can become an intriguing player for the Royals in the near future. Since turning pro all the kid has done is hit. Last season, in the pitcher friendly Midwest League, Robinson hit .264 and crushed 17 homers with 22 doubles, 3 triples and 64 RBI. Those are impressive numbers considering virtually no one hits well in the Midwest League. In 2007 he was named the Pioneer League's Most Valuable Player after hitting .336 with 18 doubles, a triple, 15 homers and 66 RBI.
Keep your eye on this kid. He could be fun to watch.

2.) Jeff Bianchi (Hi-A Wilmington) -- Bianchi finally seems to have gotten rid of the injury bug that plagued the start of his pro career and the numbers are starting to warrant his 2nd-round selection in the 2005 Draft. The second baseman/short stop is hitting about as well as the Royals could imagine through 22 games this season with a .346 average, 8 doubles, a triple, 2 homers and 11 RBI. Bianchi has also committed four errors in the field in 22 games.
It's also encouraging to see some discipline at the plate from the youngster, as he has struck out 18 times and walked 11 in 78 AB's. If he wants to have a shot with the Royals he's going to have to continue to hit, because another Royals 2nd-rounder - Johnny Giavotella - is going to push him at the position.

3.) Mike Moustakas (Hi-A Wilmington) -- Can you sense a pattern here? Yep, I'm sticking with the Wilmington kids here as they have really had some good offensive numbers to start the year. Moose has jumped out of the box with a .275 average in 21 games. In that stretch he has 8 doubles, 4 home runs and 18 RBI with only two errors in the field. His start at Wilmington has been a very pleasant one considering how horrible his 2008 start went at Burlington (granted, it was his first pro season). We'll keep a close eye on him.

Honorable mention:

Blaine Hardy RHP (Low-A Burlington) -- The right handed relief pitcher has gone 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA through six games with 28 strikeouts versus no walks in 22 innings of work. He was a 22nd-round selection in 2008 from Lewis-Clark State.

Nick Francis RF (Low-A Burlington) -- He's the only Bees hitter not to fall victim of the Midwest League plague thus far in 2009. He's off to a great start with a .297 average, 5 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs and 14 RBI. He's a 15th-round pick from 2006.

Omaha Royals lineup -- They're all hitting. That's nice to see.

Not-so-hot:

1.) Eric Hosmer (Low-A Burlington) -- In 70 at-bats Hosmer is hitting .214 with five doubles, no homers and a lowly 7 RBI. Of course, it's still early in the season and it's a no-doubter Hosmer will eventually catch on and start to hit. First things first, Hosmer needs to get his first career homer out of the way so he can focus. Through 24 games as a professional the 3rd overall pick in last year's draft has yet to go deep. Don't worry; the sky isn't falling.

2.) Any hitter at Burlington not named Nick Francis -- Other than Francis, the next closest batting average (minimum 10 games played) has a .231 average. Yeah, not too pretty.

3.) Dan Cortes (Double-A Northwest Arkansas) -- A notoriously slow starter, Cortes went 10-4 with a 3.78 ERA in the Texas League last season despite a slow start. Here's hoping 2009 will yield the same results. But if that's going to happen Cortes better shape up in a hurry.
He's already lost four games this year as he stands at 0-4 with a 5.96 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 11 walks in 22 innings on the bump. He's also given up 27 hits and opponents have turned in a .293 clip against him.
Those are hardly efficient enough numbers to put a pitcher on the fast track to the bigs. Hopefully he can turn things around soon. He has the stuff, but is severely lacking in the maturity department. He still has a ways to go. Look for him to repeat Double-A again in 2009.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seitz called it

Before Wednesday night's game against the Blue Jays, Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said he had a "feeling" Billy Butler was going to break out of the funk that has plagued him thus far in 2009. Seitzer couldn't have been more precise with his timing as "Big Bill" crushed two homers and a double in going 4-for-5 with four RBI.

All four hits came against Frank Viola look-alike Brian Tallett as he crushed a laser to right center and another booming blast to left center. Big Bill is seeing the ball really, really well right now. He's laying off of bad pitches and hitting all the fat ones. It's about time. He entered the game with a .193 average. With the return of Jose Guillen to the lineup, Butler's stick could help do a ton of damage.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GMDM...it's time

OK, so all you guys have heard me do lately is gripe and moan that Luke Hochevar needs to be called up from Triple-A Omaha. I'm sure you're probably tired of hearing me speak on the subject, but I can't help myself. He is off to a scorching start for the O'Royals, and the big league club is missing out.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Royals are one transaction away from having the best rotation in baseball. They may not have all the "names" that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have, but they are quickly going to become household names if they continue to tear through lineups at this pace.

I never thought I'd hear myself say it this soon, but Dayton Moore has put this team on a fast track to a championship. They can easily win the division this year if the starting rotation can stay intact. Yes, I say that despite the fact that the offense hasn't been particularly stunning thus far. Add a couple more bats* next season and this team could contend for a crown.

*Jose Guillen stepped up with two monster homers last night - his first two of the season - and history has shown that when he gets on a tear the rest of the lineup follows. It was no surprise they won 7-1. Miguel Olivo homered as well. Maybe nights like that can jump-start the offense.

Hochevar tossed six innings, struck out seven, allowed four hits and walked two as Omaha drilled Oklahoma City 8-1 yesterday. He improved his record to 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings on the hill. Clearly, he's figured something out working with Bob McClure this offseason, and appears to have worked out the kinks in his delivery.

We all know he has outstanding ability on the hill. We have already witnessed flashes of dominance from the kid in the big leagues. There were times he would stifle hitters, then get his brains bashed in the next inning. That's what many young pitchers do. Greinke did it his first three years in the bigs. Hochevar figured some things out during his time in the big leagues last year, and he was very good this spring. He seems to have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is ready for the call.

Scouts project Hoch to be a darn good No. 2 or 3 starter in the bigs. This year he won't have the pressure of living up to those expectations because of the outstanding performances of the top three in the rotation (Meche, Greinke and Davies). That is fantastic for Luke. Two years ago he would have been expected to be one of the top three. Kyle Davies has taken that pressure off of him. This is the perfect situation for his growth in the big leagues.

Another factor is the emergence of Brian Bannister. Since being recalled from Omaha he has turned in two solid performances. He is showing signs of returning to his 2007 form, when he nearly won AL Rookie of the Year. Banny knows he won't always get away with allowing one run when he walks six batters like he did in his last start, but when your pitch to your spots and miss bats (to the tune of allowing one hit through six innings) you are going to have success.

Also, Sidney Ponson has been a serviceable guy thus far in the rotation. I understand he probably hasn't done anything to rile Royals fans yet - he's turned in two "quality" starts so far - which is a pleasant surprise for the club. But realistic baseball people know what Ponson is. He's been mediocre throughout his career, and that's exactly what his stats have shown thus far.

To be fair, Ponson hasn't received much run support at all in his starts, and he should have a couple more wins already. Regardless, his ERA is over 5.00 and is going to hover in that range all year. A lot of teams would be happy with that. Any other year and the Royals would have been ecstatic if their No. 1 guy could give them that, but not in 2009. These Royals pitchers are a new breed.

Look, I am not naive enough to think that Hochevar will post a sub-2.00 ERA in the big leagues. But you would be naive to think that he wouldn't be an upgrade over Ponson. Ponson could move to the pen and give this team a shot in the arm, in that respect. As far as I'm concerned Banny could move to the 'pen. That might be the better move. It would limit his exposure every fifth day, and keep Ponson in the rotation at No. 5. That would also work. Anything to keep Horacio Ramirez in the 'pen would be great.

But to leave Hochevar in the minors when he's pitching this good is a waste. If they wanted to let him dominate and boost his confidence, fine. It's been accomplished. I'll admit it has been a luxury for the big league rotation to be solid, because has kept the organization from rushing Hochevar. They don't REALLY need him right now, but any team would be foolish not to find a way to fit a guy like him in somewhere.

So, GMDM ... it's time. He's ready. Reward the kid. Let's get to the playoffs.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Royals fans be warned ... all hell could break loose

Well, here we go. With a team that is hovering close to the .500 mark, and playing pretty good baseball to this point, there has been plenty to cheer about for Royals fans so far in 2009. But while the year is still young, it's not too early to panic that all-world closer Joakim Soria could miss several weeks with what is being called a "sore" right shoulder.

This could spell disaster for the Royals if the offense doesn't start scoring runs in bunches pretty soon. Of course, it remains to be seen just how long Soria will be out. For right now they're not putting him on the DL, but he certainly has caused some concern in the organization that has the club taking every precaution to keep his condition under wraps. That should tell us something.

Soria had an MRI a couple days ago and the results came back negative. That doesn't mean a lot since he's experiencing what teams like to call a "dead arm". That means we won't be seeing him on the hill for a little while.

There is just no way to tell when a pitchers arm will rebound from an issue like Soria's. Being a former pitcher who experienced arm troubles myself, I can tell you that Soria will miss longer than five days. There's simply no way they will allow him to pitch before that time. Guaranteed, and that's a good thing.

I'll explain it this way. There's a difference between pitching with a sore arm and pitching with an injury. Basically, you can pitch with a sore arm. You can work soreness out with some long toss, stretching, ice and a day of rest. Sore arms, while they do result in pain, and regardless of popular thinking, do not mean you're injured. Pitchers throw with sore arms every day. Therefore, Soria has more than a "sore" arm. This has been going on for at least a week now.

That means Ron Mahay, Juan Cruz and Kyle "Gas Can" Farnsworth are the likely closers for at least a couple of weeks. Cruz and Mahay I can live with, but God forbid Farnsworth steps on the mound in a close game in the ninth. I'm getting an ulcer thinking about it right now.

I pray to DeJesus that the offense carries us through.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jose Guillen returns, Pena cut

Jose Guillen returned to the lineup today against the Tigers after a 15 day sting on the DL for a right hip labrum injury.

Meanwhile, the Royals designated catcher Brayan Pena (yes, I'm thinking what you're thinking: why not Tony Pena Jr.?) for assignment, which could very likely end his playing days in Kansas City.

The Royals are interested in re-signing Pena, but will only be able to do so if he clears waivers, and it would be somewhat of a surprise if he does. Pena was shocked by the news, telling reporters; "It hurts man."

As a Royals fan it does hurt. I wish it would have been the other Pena.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Banny goes ... cha ching!!!!

Brian Bannister was money in his first big league start of the season. In fact, it was reminiscent of 2007. *Sigh*

Banny tossed six innings, gave up four hits and didn't allow a run as the Royals shut out the Indians 2-0. He matched 2008 CY Young Award winner Cliff Lee pitch-for-pitch throughout the contest as Lee was dazzling himself. Lee was the tough luck loser, falling to 1-3 on the season, after going eight innings and allowing nine hits with two runs. Bannister walked two and struck out one.

He was also backed by several defensive gems throughout the game as well. Willie Bloomquist and David DeJesus each added nice running grabs to save potential runs in the game.

"I know my role this year," Bannister said. "I know I can be up and down (between the majors and minors) this year, but I'm fine with it. Whatever I can to to help the team win. I'm fine with my role.
"We played great defense. It was just a good all around game for everybody."

Trey Hillman was ecstatic with the performance.

"(Bannister) was outstanding," Trey Hillman said. "Doesn't matter what combination you're throwing ... to hold these guys down like he did was pretty impressive. He pitched a great game."

Coco Crisp opened up the scoring when he doubled and scored on a DeJesus sac fly in the first. Mike Jacobs singled and scored in the seventh on a Bloomquist single. Jamey Wright came on in the seventh and pitched two dazzling scoreless innings. They escaped a jam in the ninth when Joakim Soria struck out Trevor Crowe with a curveball on a 2-2 pitch with runners at second and third to end the game.

The Royals are now 8-3 and three Farnsworth's.

So I was in Springdale, Ark. yesterday...

...and got a good look at new Royals pitcher Anthony Lerew - the former Braves top prospect. Lerew, who I begged the Royals to sign several weeks ago, is still attempting to bounce back from major elbow surgery after getting cut by the Braves. Lerew spent a brief time in the bigs with the Braves before being cut, and the Royals picked him up quickly. After all, Dayton Moore and J.J. Piccollo were responsible for his draft and sign with Atlanta in the first place.

Anyways, he looked brilliant against the Corpus Christi Hooks (Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros) on Tuesday. In front of the fourth largest crowd in Arvest Ballpark's brief history, Lerew tossed 6 2/3 innings against the Hooks and struck out six while allowing eight hits, three runs and a walk.

Lerew served up a controversial two-run homer to Mitch Einertson in the seventh, shortly before his exit in the game. The ball hit the top of the wall in left center, and after a long chat by the umpires it was ruled a homer. The only other run he allowed in the game came on a solo shot to Chris DeLome in the sixth. He started leaving the ball up in the sixth, clearly as a result of fatigue.

Still, Lerew looked really good. The Royals should be excited about what this kid can bring to the organization. His ERA currently stands at 3.07 and he's showing signs of re-gaining his old form. Center fielder Jose Duarte banged two doubles in the game, and looks like a much improved player over the guy I saw last season. He appears to have added some much needed bulk, and was swinging the bat very well.

Mario Lisson has moved from third base to shortstop, and looks like he is still adjusting to the move. He's played there before, but lacks a great deal of range at the position. He played pretty well though. Plus, the Royals feel he will hit. He has the body type to resemble Alex Rodriguez. With six years of steroids he may hit like him too. Bad joke.

Shame on me.

NW Arkansas won the game, 9-7, after Gilbert De La Vara (who was taken by the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft, but returned to Kansas City before the start of the year) nearly Kyle Farnsworthed the game with a horrible day on the mound. He allowed four runs and couldn't get out of the 9th. Chris Nicoll came on and slammed the door, stranding the tying run at first. The Naturals allowed four runs in the ninth.

I got some good pictures at the game that I will add when I do posts about these guys in the future. Got this shot of Lerew. Think I'm going to print it and have it signed. What do you guys think?

I'll be attending several more Naturals games all over the midwest this season and I'll keep you updated on how the young guys are looking.

By the way, Dan Cortes got hammered on Monday night. He's struggling to start the year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bannister recalled, gets Wednesday start

It didn't take long for Brian Bannister to make his way back to K.C. as he was recalled from Triple-A Omaha to make his first big league start of the season against 2008 A.L. Cy Young winner Cliff Lee on Wednesday.
Bannister is off to a decent start at Triple-A (for stats on him see the previous Hochevar post) and the Royals only allowed him to throw two innings in his past outing in anticipation of this move. They didn't call up Hochevar because he threw eight innings on Monday. Relief pitcher Doug Waechter is headed to the DL with a lateral strain in his right elbow.
By the way, the Royals fell 8-7 tonight.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hochevar off to hot start at Omaha

If Luke Hochevar is trying to prove that the Royals made a mistake in demoting him to Triple-A to start the season, he's doing one helluva job. The right hander has started off in tremendous fashion this season as he improved to 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA after the Royals defeated Albuquerque 7-2 today.

Hochevar tossed eight innings, scattered five hits, allowed one run, walked two and struck out four to earn the victory. He threw 72 of 107 pitches for strikes, and picked off Xavier Paul at first base. For the season, Hochevar has given up four earned runs in 19 innings with nine strikeouts and four walks. Meanwhile, Brian Bannister is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA with five strikeouts and a walk. He has tossed 13 innings for the Royals.

Greinke earns honor

Zack Greinke, who has accumulated 14 scoreless innings on the hill this past week, has earned recognition from Major League Baseball for his outstanding effort on the hill thus far in the season. It was announced on Monday that Greinke and Texas Rangers second baseman (and former Mizzou star) Ian Kinsler will share AL Co-Player of the Week honors.

Zack gets a new watch as his prize for pitching so well. Hopefully, he can add a world series trophy as a prize at the end of the season for a job well done. ;)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Same old song and dance: 'Gas Can' blows it up again

I can't remember seeing such horrible management in all of my life. Why in the sam hell would any manager bring in his worst pitcher in a tied game in the bottom of the ninth inning? Especially when you have arguably the best closer in the game warm and ready to rock in the bullpen. Well, without further ado...here's Trey Hillman - Kyle 'Gas Can' Farnsworth's best buddy.

Just like Hillman's love affair with Ross Gload (and I'm not bestowing the same resentment on Gload that I have for Farnsworth) the past two seasons, Hillman has fallen in love with yet another player who shouldn't be on the Royals roster. Meanwhile, the team is paying for it. Plain and simple, Joakim Soria should have been in the game in that situation. He hasn't pitched in six days, the Royals have an off day on Monday and you are trying to go into the day off with the momentum of sweeping the second best offense in all of the American League.

Yet, hang on a second. Hillman makes the million dollar decision to keep his star closer on ice and instead bring in the dweeb who has already picked up two of your teams losses in the early season and is pitching like a big pile of (add your own "item" here). And there you have it, Farnsworth serves up a fastball right down the middle and it gets swatted for the game-winning homer to Michael Young on the second pitch of the inning. Royals, who had a 5-3 lead going into the 8th, end up losing 6-5.

Absolutely incredible decision making, Trey. I applaud you and you're king sized kahones. At this rate, you'll pull off one of those Runelvys Hernandez disappearing acts. You know, where you're gone and no one ever hears from you again.

I can't hardly blame Farnsworth on this one...he sucks. He can't help it they keep giving him the ball. He knows he sucks, but they're giving him $9 million bucks! Can't blame the guy for taking the ball (and the money) when it's tossed to him. My issues are with the people who keep giving him the ball. They can end this all right now by putting him in blowouts that he can't screw up too bad. Yasuhiko Yabuta didn't get this many chances to prove how badly he sucks. Hillman needs to step it up and quit this crap. It's killing the team.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gordon to DL

Alex Gordon hit the disabled list today as he will undergo hip surgery for a problem that's been ailing him since Saturday and has helped contribute to his .095 batting average to start the year. Gordon, who has a right hip labrum cartilage tear, has been playing sparingly the past few days as the injury has worsened. He is 0h for his last six at-bats with four strikeouts. He is 2-for-22 on the season with a homer.

Gordon will have surgery on Friday in Vail, Colo. by doctor Marc Philippon - the same doctor who removed the cyst from Alex Rodriguez's hip during spring training.

The Royals have called up outfielder Mitch Maier from Triple-A Omaha to split time in right field with Willie Bloomquist while Jose Guillen remains out with his own hip injury. Mark Teahen will shift to third while Gordon is out.

It appears there is a good chance Gordon will miss more than 15 days. The club won't know just how long he is expected to miss until the surgery is completed and they can assess the situation. Expect word withing the next few days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Buck homers twice in Royals romp

John Buck hit two mammoth home runs, including an 8th inning grand-slam, as the Royals pounded the Indians 9-3 on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.

Buck hammered a solo shot in the fifth off of Indians starter Carl Pavano to give the Royals a 3-2 lead. Buck put the game away in the 8th when he hammered a Vinny Chulk offering into the visiting bullpen to cap the five run inning.

Royals starter Kyle Davies went 5 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Davies ended the night with a 2.13 ERA. He exited after his 98th pitch of the game when Kelly Shoppach reached on a single to move Ben Francisco to third. Trey Hillman summoned Robinson Tejeda from the bullpen and he promptly bailed Davies out by striking out Trevor Crowe on three pitches.

Juan Cruz struck out three and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings of relief. Doug Waechter finished things out with a scoreless ninth.

Kansas City broke out the bats to the tune of 11 hits. Seven of those hits went for extra bases. Mike Jacobs, Alberto Callaspo and Mike Aviles each doubled; Coco Crisp and David DeJesus each tripled; Buck added the two homers.

The Royals improved to 5-3 this season and to complete the sweep against their AL Central rivals in a 1:05 p.m. CT game on Wednesday. Sidney Ponson will square off against Aaron Laffey in that game.

Signs point to Royals win on Tuesday

If there was ever a game primed and ready for a Royals victory, Tuesday is the one. Last night the Royals got yet another outstanding pitching performance from Zack Greinke and the Royals held on late to outlast the Indians 4-2.

Mike Jacobs led off the fourth with a homer and Joakim Soria picked up his third save of the season by stranding the tying run at second.

Fast forward to Tuesday and there is no reason why the Royals should lose this game. Kyle Davies, who was outstanding in his first outing of the season, is on the hill against Carl Pavano...yes, you heard that right.

Pavano, who used to be good before injuries ravaged his career, gave up nine runs in one inning of work last week and could be pitching for his job tonight. If the Royals are looking for a good excuse to break out the offense they probably just found it.

Clearly, the Royals have caught the Indians at the most opportune time. Their pitching is horrible. Let's just hope they don't blow it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Offense still a no-show as Royals lose

Sidney Ponson gave the Royals six quality innings, but the offense failed to give him any run support as the Yankees downed the Royals 4-1 on the home opener of the new (and very beautiful) Kauffman Stadium.

Ponson had a few stretches where it appeared he would let the game get out of hand, but he reeled back and shut down the Yanks to escape danger. He really pitched better than the four runs that were on the board when he came out before the seventh. Had the Royals defense been better in the first inning Ponson likely would have only allowed two runs. He struck out five and walked three.

Mike Jacobs whiffed on a hard-hit ball right at him at first that accounted for two runs. Jacobs was not charged with an error on the play, and rightfully so as the ball was smoked by Jorge Posada. Mike Aviles also misplayed a hard hit ball at short, but he also escaped being charged with an error.

In the same inning, right before the Posada single, Alberto Callaspo made a bonehead decision that cost the Royals an extra run. On a grounder to second Callaspo fielded the ball and had Mark Teixeira standing right beside him for a potential tag-em-out-throw-em-out double play to get out of the inning. Instead, Callaspo opted not to go after Teixeira and instead threw out the runner at first. That allowed Teixeira to move to second and scored on Posada's hit.

"I'm still not happy with the way I pitched," Ponson said after the game. "Even though I gave them six innings, I'm still not happy with the way I pitched out there."

Ponson also declined to blame his teammates on the miscues in the infield. Opting instead to blame himself for letting those balls get hit so hard.

After taking an awful booing during player introductions before the game, Kyle Farnsworth came on in the seventh and struck out the side. Jamey Wright followed with two scoreless innings and struck out three while allowing one hit. He promptly picked off that runner.

Billy Butler doubled and scored in the second inning. Mike Jacobs doubled to score Butler. The Royals only had four hits in the game. Besides Butler's hit, Mike Aviles and Mark Teahen also added a hit.

You're welcome, Mr. Farnsworth

Wow! What a welcome Royals fans just gave Kyle Farnsworth when he was introduced during pre-game ceremonies before today's game. Farnsy was welcomed with a hail of boos from the crowd, and he was certainly put in a pickle. Seriously, I'm not sure one single person cheered the man. I'd be willing to bet Joe Girardi and the rest of the Yankees were even standing over there booing him too.

Obviously, fans haven't forgotten the opening day meatball he served to Jim Thome. I'm sensing a shaky relationship from the outset. Haha. I wonder what Dayton Moore thought of that? I'm guessing that will be talked about after the game.

Whad did Farnsworth do? Just smiled and downed his head, of course.

Here's a big surprise...(sarcastic voice)

Before today's home opener against the Yankees the Royals placed Jose Guillen on the disabled list after he partially tore his right hip flexor while running out a grounder at first. (Yes, I know, he was running it out!).

Anyways, Guillen's injury saved someone their big league job (at least temporarily) as the club needed to make a move today before the game to make room for starter Sidney Ponson to join the 25-man roster. I would imagine Guillen will miss several weeks with this injury and could miss an extended period of time. His hips have given him a lot of trouble the past few seasons.