Saturday, February 28, 2009

Royals add RHP, cut infielder

The Royals have signed veteran relief pitcher Juan Cruz to a 2 year, $6 million contract. Included in the deal is a club option for a third year as well. To make room on the 40-man roster the Royals designated Esteban German for assignment which gives the club 10 days to trade or release him. I'm sure some Royals fans are now rejoicing, but I'm wondering why it wasn't Ross Gload who was cut?

An eight year major league veteran, Cruz went 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA last season with 71 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings. Yeah, as you can see the dude cooks with gas. That's some serious punch out ability. For his career Cruz is 29-31 with a 4.00 ERA. He has spent the past three seasons with the Diamondbacks. Cruz has also notably pitched for the Athletics, Cubs, and Braves throughout his career.

There are some side notes with this signing. Assuming the Royals can't trade German within the allotted 10 days they will owe him $197,000 in separation pay. Also, the club will now surrender their second-round draft pick for signing Cruz, who is a Type A free agent. Normally, Type A free agents require the signing team to surrender a first-round draft choice, but teams that pick in the top 12 of the first-round are only required to give up their second rounder and the team that loses the player will receive a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds.

Finally, the Royals will pay $2.25 million to Cruz this season, so as you can obviously see, they have gone above their $70 million payroll originally scheduled for the 2009 season. This is a potentially huge signing for the club and helps shore up the void left by the trades of Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez this winter. In fact, Cruz is better than either one of those pitchers.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Royals pound Giants

Ryan Shealy pounded a three-run homer in the sixth inning to pace the Royals to a 6-1 thumping of the San Francisco Giants on Friday at the Giants' Spring Training complex.

Shealy's shot came off former Angel Ramon Ortiz with no outs and Mike Aviles and Billy Butler aboard. The homer gave the Royals a 5-0 lead and was all the support the pitching staff would need.

Seven Royals pitchers combined to allow just one run on five hits. Zack Greinke was the winner after tossing two innings and allowing 0 runs on 0 hits, 0 walks and struck out a batter. Joakim Soria tossed one inning and had one strikeout. Robinson Tejeda and Jamey Wirght each had holds with a scoreless inning apiece out of the 'pen.

Shealy finished 1-for-2 with 3RBI. Mike Aviles went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Miguel Olivo finished 2-for-3.

Randy Johnson took the loss for the Giants. He gave up a run on one hit through two innings of work.

NOTES: Despite the win, the Royals stranded 16 runners ... Stranding runners was a problem with last year's club, so you can bet Trey Hillman didn't like what he saw on Friday ... Miguel Olivo threw out a basestealer, but was also caught stealing as well ... The Royals didn't commit an error defensively.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Royals struggle in first Cactus League outing

It wasn't a pretty start to the Cactus League season for the Royals on Wednesday at Surprise Stadium. Royals starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez, fresh off a free agent contract that guarantees him $1.8 million, couldn't get out of the first inning. Mark Teahen, well, he looked like a guy that is re-learning how to play second base and had a very shaky game. And Yasuhiko Yabuta picked up where he left off last season by allowing at least one run per outing.
Mix all of that together and you have the Rangers whipping up on the Royals, 12-7. Not all went wrong for Trey Hillman's squad though.
Newly acquired slugger Mike Jacobs belted a 3-run homer - his first in a Royals uniform - in the third inning with the Royals trailing 9-1. Later, Mitch Maier - who is vying for a spot on the team as the fourth outfielder - drilled a two-run dinger in the ninth.
The damage had already been done. The Rangers scored six times off of seven hits in the first against Ramirez. Despite the late-inning comeback, the 9-1 lead Texas built by the second inning proved too much.
"You never want to get hit around like that," Ramirez said. "But I’ll take it for what it is. I’ve just got to tighten the screws a little bit."
Teahen committed two errors, and he looked like a guy with some jitters at second. He threw an out away early in the first and failed to turn a potential inning-ending double play. There were a couple of other plays where he seemingly started late on the ball and failed to make the play. One of those misplays resulted in another error.
Still, it's only the first outing of the spring for these guys, so Hillman isn't sweating it.
"We didn’t win, but I saw some good things," he said. "I saw some good swings. I saw some great takes. More walks than strikeouts. We just didn’t pitch well. The errors, obviously, affected the early innings."
Teahen, known as guy who likes to crack a joke now and then, managed to make light of the performance at his new(est) position.
"There’s no point of peaking in the first game," he cracked.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Please tell me DeJesus won't be batting third

Allow me to address, in my own opinion, the saga surrounding the Royals and the three spot in the batting order. Right now, buzz around the Royals camp seems to be focused on who is going to hit third, presumably in front of Jose Guillen, in '09.
Undoubtedly, some of you will disagree with me on this one, but it just scares me that the swirling word is David Jesus will be the guy. Hear me out on this one. I'm not going to throw a bunch of stats in your face that half of the baseball world doesn't even understand. Rather, I'm just going to talk baseball sense here.
As much as I respect DD, in no way is he made to be a three-hole hitter.
For a guy who is coming off a year in which he reached a career plateau with 12 dingers, I can put together a pretty good case here. Some of you are going to throw out guys like Joe Mauer (who hit third in the lineup with 13 homers while the Twins went to the playoffs) at me and try to compare DeJesus to him, but it isn't going to convince me.
I have heard the Mauer comparison already. Heck, a buddy of mine just tried using that excuse on me this morning after reading the national papers, and our conversation quickly turned into a pretty fun debate.
My response was: "How many titles have the Twins won with Mauer batting third?" Frankly, I don't give two craps about winning the division or all of that other garbage. Yes, you want to be a team that makes it to the playoffs, but it doesn't mean jack when you get tossed out in the first round each time you get there.
DeJesus needs to be in the two spot in this lineup - right behind Crisp leading off. The reason I say this is that DeJesus is a gap-to-gap shooter that can spray the ball all over the field. Is he going to suddenly hit more homers batting third in the lineup? The answer is no. In fact, at that position in the order you begin to see more and more breaking balls and the likelihood that DeJesus hits 12 home runs again is very unlikely. He's just not a power guy. Never will be. That's fine when you hit .300, but not for a guy at No. 3 in your order.
Yes, you want a consistent bat at the three spot. Royals new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said as much on Monday. Over the course of his career Jose Guillen has been pretty consistent with the bat. He's your No. 3.
Getting back to my point about DeJesus at No. 2, let me use an example of what it could do for a lineup. Even though he is a great hitter, it has long been obvious that DD is NOT a leadoff hitter. Dayton Moore also believed this and that's why he went out and got Crisp. The thing is his speed. Leadoff guys get hits, draw walks and steal bases. Crisp will fill the void on the basepaths that has been lacking for years at the top of this lineup.
A coach of mine once told me to do what he called "going to the movies" before every pitch. The theory was that if you see it happen in your head then you will be prepared to make the play when it happens in real time.
Let's "go to the movies" together, shall we?
Imagine Zack Greinke has pitched a really good game (seven innings, two runs, five hits, eight K's) but the team is trailing 2-1 in the top of the 8th with the leadoff spot coming up in the order, and Greinke is on the hook for the loss. Kyle Farnsworth is warming in the pen, so Zack won't be coming out for the bottom of the inning. The Royals need a rally.
Crisp steps to the plate and homers to tie it. No, no, NO. Hang on, that screws everything up. I was trying to make a point. Let's see.
OK, so let's say that instead of a homer Crisp gets drilled in the leg by a pitch and takes first. Let me tell you, he got drilled so friggin' hard in the calf that there is no way he's running (even if John Buck is the one trying to throw him out). Oh, SNAP!
Anyways, DeJesus is at the dish now and flips a liner into left center that allows Crisp to shake it off and take third easily. Jose Guillen does his famous "homer-in-a-silo" routine and allows Crisp to tag up and score from third. Mike Jacobs grounds into a double-play and pretty soon the inning is over, tied 2-2.
In the bottom of the inning Farnsworth tackles the entire opposing team after drilling their leadoff guy in retaliation for Crisp getting hit. Suddenly, he's ejected and Joakim Soria has to come in and clean things up - Mexecution style. Somehow the Royals win in this mess.
Holy crap, my imagination runs wild. I'm sure someone is gonna want to call me out on this one. I'm being unprofessional. Better straighten up my act here. There's no need to stress and flip out on me here; I'm fully aware that there are a countless amount of combinations (good or bad) that can come from DeJesus hitting at No. 2 or No. 3. I know I am being ridiculous, and am sure somewhere in this column that I'll be accused of being too "fantasy" on someone.
The point is, DeJesus sitting behind Crisp gives this team many more opportunities to score runs. Yeah, if Mike Aviles is in the two spot and DeJesus is hitting third then that could just add to the fun. But what if Aviles doesn't return to the caliber of play that had him in Rookie of the Year discussions all over baseball last season?
The guy looks the part of being the surest of sure things, but we just have no way of knowing how he will respond in his sophomore season. Major league pitchers adjust to young guys. Ever heard the term "sophomore slump"? There's a reason it gets tossed around the neck of every second year player who had any sort of success in his inaugural year.
I expect Aviles to be really good again this season, but there's just no way to be sure. Yeah, he could have a good spring. I still think it would be a wise decision to hit him behind Guillen, Jacobs, Gordon and Butler. Down in the order he sees more fastballs which will help ease his transition into year two. The last thing this team needs to do is kill his confidence and the hot streak. If he steps in and hits then you can move him into the two spot. Just keep DeJesus out of the three-hole. Hit him down in the order.
Billy Butler and Alex Gordon need to put on big boy pants and prove themselves to be the middle-of-the-order guys they were projected to be. Hit one of them at No. 3 if you want to and make him prove himself. Just don't try and imitate a team that is ready to win by putting a guy with a career high of 12 homers in the middle of your lineup. Pitchers thrive off of confidence that they can handle opposing hitters. No pitching staff is going to take you seriously with David DeJesus batting third.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tug is now a Royal

Yes, you heard it here. Tug signed with the Royals today. But have no fear everythingroyals bloggers, it's not this Tug.
Rather, the boys in blue signed former Mariners infielder Tug Hulett today and designated left handed reliever Neal Musser for assignment - meaning the club has 10 days to trade or release him.

Hulett, a 25 year old native of Springfield, IL, hit .283 last season at triple-A Tacoma with the Mariners and made hit big league debut on June 12 last season at, where else - Kauffman Stadium, and hit .224 with one homer and two RBI in limited action. He is a left handed hitter who can play second, short and third in the infield. The move gives the Royals more depth as they struggle to find cap room to sign veteran second baseman Orlando Hudson.

He was a 14th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2004 out of Auburn University. Hulett was traded to the Mariners in 2007 for Ben Broussard and made his big league debut after the M's released Richie Sexson.

Hulett's father, Tim, you may recall, was a 12 year big league veteran for the Cardinals, White Sox and Orioles. Hulett will likely begin the season at triple-A Omaha.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Moore remains perfect 0-0 in arbitration hearings

If Dayton Moore has his way, no player will ever have to duke it out with the club in nasty arbitration hearings. With that being said the Royals and Mike Jacobs, the club's last remaining arbitration eligible player for '09, came to terms on a 1 year, $3.275 million deal on the eve of their scheduled hearing.
Jacobs, recently acquired from the Marlins for reliever Leo Nunez, bopped 32 homers for the fish last year despite hitting just .247. He will likely split first base duties with Billy Butler in '09. The deal came to fruition with many thanks to the recent signings of arbitration eligible boppers Ryan Ludwick, Andre Ethier and Nate McClouth. Both Jacobs and the Royals were waiting to hammer out a deal until seeing what kind of money was awarded to each of those players.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Royals Spring Training ticket info

2009 Kansas City Royals Spring Training ticket info. (Just for you, Mark!)
(Ticket prices)
Lower Dugout--$23
Upper Dugout--$20
*Individual ticket pricing includes free parking
Tickets may be purchased at the Suprise Recreation Campus - Surprise Stadium Ticket Office, located at: 15960 N. Bullard Ave. Surprise, AZ 854374
You can also order online at

Tickets should be easily attainable at the stadium box office.

Full and partial-season tickets are also available for purchase. See for more info on that.
(Opening weekend) Saturday, Jan. 3: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

(Jan. 5-Feb. 24) Monday - Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

(Feb. 25-April 2) Monday-Sunday: 10 a.m. - 30 minutes before game time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Royals farmhand to receive suspension; story from AP

Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Kansas City minor-league outfielder Jarrod Dyson was suspended for 50 games Saturday after testing positive for an amphetamine. The penalty will begin at the start of the season.
The 24-year-old Dyson hit .260 with 24 RBIs and 39 stolen bases for Class A Wilmington of the Carolina League last year.
He is the sixth minor-leaguer suspended this year under the program, the fifth for performance-enhancing drugs. One was banned after a positive test for a drug of abuse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Royals interviews part 4/4

Here is my last installation - for now - of the four-part Royals interview series that has successfully ran us into the start of Spring Training '09. This time around I caught up with former Royals great Dennis Leonard, a Royals Hall of Famer. Leonard spoke about his recently completed tour of duty as an amabassador for the Royals in their annual caravan trips across the midwest.

Q: Talk about what it's like still getting out and representing the Royals after all this time?

LEONARD: "Basically, it's been a long time since I played, and the Royals initiated those caravans in the days that I played. Transportation is a lot different. I remember when we used to pile five or six guys in a mini-van and take off to different things like schools and banks because they were ticket outlets.

About five years ago the Royals asked if I'd be interested in doing them again taking some of the new (players) and putting them together with a little bit of the old (players). For me, I have the free time and it's enjoyable. It's really amazing on some of these (public appearances) that I see some people that I seen 30 years ago and haven't seen since.

It's a lot of fun to meet the people, and I think this is important because these are the people that support the team and come out and watch you play. It's fun to be able to be in their hometown. They're not watching you on TV, they're not at the game watching you on the field. It's a chance to interact with these people just to let them know you're human just like they are."

Q: Being out of baseball for a few years and watching this teams ups and downs, tell us what you expect out of this team in 2009?

LEONARD: "Obviously, they've had a lot of downs. They've had a few ups. It's just a situation where the farm clubs were depleted. I look back towards the tail-end to when John Schuerholtz was there and Mr. Kauffman was still alive. They tried to build a championship team for him before he passed away, and to do that they got some older veteran players, but they had to trade away a lot of the younger talent.

When Dayton Moore took over a couple years ago, the first thing he did was try to re-build the farm system. He traded away some pitchers like (Mike) MacDougal, and (Andrew) Sisco, and (Ambiorix) Burgos and (Jeremy) Affeldt who had a lot of upside, but they didn't exactly get things accomplished in the two or three years they were here. In return, he's gotten a lot of young pitchers to put in the minor league system, give them some seasoning, and hopefully they will get (to the big leagues).

Not only that, they've went out and spent a little bit more money. Pitchers like Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar, there's a bright future for the staff. I think most teams would agree, and most people, you're gonna build a winner around good pitching. The Royals are starting to do that. Obviously, they have some needs which they tried to fill getting (Mike) Jacobs trying to hit some home runs. But they need some people to step up who 'haven't reached their potential yet.' They need to reach it pretty soon. As long as they keep their confidence and keep going in the direction they're doing it's not going to be a miracle, nothing over night. I think they'll have a good chance to compete again."

Q: How are you enjoying retirement?

LEONARD: "Retirement is both good and bad. Especially through the spring and through the summer and into fall. When I look out the window and there's no wind and it's a nice day I say, 'It's time to go fishing.' There's other days - especially in the winter - when I look out the windown and say, 'I don't even want to go out.'"

Q: What are you doing to keep yourself busy?

LEONARD: "The wife and I own two Hallmark stores in the Kansas City area. I keep myself busy. In the early spring I help coach a high school baseball team in Raytown, Mo. and I get my little fix of baseball for two and a half months. The Royals have been gracious enough to ask us occasionally to go do some baseball clinics. So I stay busy, but I can always can find time for a little bit of fishing and a little bit of hunting."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Royals add depth with new, old pitcher

The Royals have added some extra depth to the pitching staff on Monday by inking former Royal Jamey Wright, 34, to a one-year deal with a Major League invite to Spring Training.
Wright, a 13 year vet of the Royals, Rockies, Giants, Rangers and Brewers, went 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA with Kansas City in 2003. He went 8-7 with a 5.12 ERA in 75 relief appearances with Texas last year - his first since pitching exclusively in relief.
Wright, 6-foot-5, 230, boasts a 79-110 career major league record. He will be competing for a long relief role in the bullpen in 2009.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Teahen avoids arbitration

The Royals and 3B/LF/CF/RF/1B/2B Mark Teahen came to terms this evening on a one year, $3.575 million contract that will allow the club and himself to avoid arbitration. Teahen, who will be competing for the starting job at yet another position, second base, hit .255 with 15 homers and 59 RBI last season.
Since Dayton Moore took over the reigns from Allard Baird the Royals haven't had to go to arbitration with a player yet. Newly acquired first baseman Mike Jacobs is the lone player eligible for arbitration with the club this year.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Royals interviews Part III: Kila Ka'aihue

Sorry, I know it's a day late but here's part three of four Royals interviews leading us up to Spring Training '09. I caught up with Kila Ka'aihue, A.K.A. "Hawaiian Punch", to talk about his amazing ride to the big leagues in '08 and what may come of the logjam at first base in Kansas City. Despite being a Nebraska Cornhusker, Kila is a pretty cool customer, I'd like to note.

Q: What has been the most shocking thing about being a Kansas City Royal?

KA'AIHUE: "One of the things that some of the guys have explained to me is that we have a lot of fans in the Midwest region. I didn't realize we had this many fans. I'm new to the team. It's been really fun, its been exciting (meeting the fans)."

Q: You have some experience in the big leagues now. What are you expecting to see out of the league this year?

KA'AIHUE: "You know, I'm not sure? I'm just going to Spring Training and I'm gonna to try to win the job (at first base). At least battle for it and see what happens. It's crowded over there (at first), and I'm just hoping for the best."

Q: There's a lot of young talent still on this team. Just the moves you guys have made this offseason has got to excite you guys - first of all the competition against each other, and then to just see what this lineup could possibly do?

KA'AIHUE: "I think Dayton is doing it the right way. He's keeping a lot of the guys together that he's drafted, and we have all played together. We were on teams together (in the minors) at some point and we are still together ( in the majors). He's brought some guys in where he felt that there were some holes. Hopefully it just keeps getting better. It seems like we have been. September was just awesome in whatever we did there. We're just hoping for the best this year."

Q: You obviously have a baseball background in your family. Talk about what that was like last year getting called up to the big leagues and the support you got from your family.

KA'AIHUE: "You know, it was real exciting. My dad played (in the minors) for 11 years and never got his chance. He was there and they all saw my first hit, my first home run, they saw me play the field. I mean, it was just a family thing. It was great."

Q: Does what Tampa Bay did last year give you guys some hope that you can get it turned around too?

KA'AIHUE: "Hopefully! Nobody expected that out of Tampa Bay, and nobody expects a whole lot out of us. I'd rather be in that situation than to be in a situation where New York feels like they have to win every single day or if they don't it's a failure. It's been our role, we've just been that team. We've been at the bottom of the division, we've been at the bottom of the league. It's fun. I mean, we get to go out there and do what we did in September and spoil a lot of teams chances to be in the playoffs. We just get to have fun. We get to go out there and do what we get to do.
We're hoping for the best. What Tampa Bay did would be great for us, but that's not our goal. We're not out there trying to be Tampa Bay. We just want to win our division first, get into the playoffs, have a chance to play in October. Then we can talk about what Tampa Bay did. Right now we're just trying to take it game by game and hopefully we (succeed)."

Q: Zack mentioned he felt it was close enough that any team could win, or lose, the division this year. Do you see that as well with how tough this division could be?

KA'AIHUE: "I think the major leagues is just like that from top to bottom. I mean, everybody in the major leagues is good. Any starting pitcher can go out there and beat any lineup one through nine. It's a day-to-day game. The hardest part about baseball is just the daily grind. You've got to keep yourself ready to play every day. Yeah, we could be first, we could be last again, we could be second or third. Nobody knows.
That's why we go out there and play. We're hoping that we win the division. That's our first goal. We're just trying to get to the playoffs and we'll take it from there.

Q: Talk about the whirlwind season you had last year. Double-A you tear it up. Triple-A, a lot of players seem to suffer a slow down when they're called up but you didn't, and then when you get to the big leagues and kept hitting. Talk about what that was like.

KA'AIHUE: "It's been a long road. I mean, it's taken me six years to do what I did. I wish I'd have gotten off to a better start in my career. I wasn't that fortunate, but I think that helped me eventually. When I did get my chance to go to triple-A I was ready for it. I got my chance to go to the big leagues and I was ready for it then too.
It's taken me a little bit longer, but there are guys that have taken a little bit longer too. Aaron Guiel, I think, played 10 years in the minors before he got his chance with us and he never looked back. I'm very fortunate. I've had my chance, I've been blessed. I'm on the roster now. I've got my opportunity. I'm just a phone call away. I literally am. So I'm just hoping for the best. Last year was incredible. I did what I needed to do to put myself in this situation, and I'm hoping that I continue to do that."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another arbitration case avoided

This morning the Royals and pitcher Brian Bannister came to terms on a 1 year, $1.7 million deal for the 2009 season. Bannister, who along with Mike Jacobs and Mark Teahen were the only players still in danger of going to arbitration, will get a reported $25,000 bonus if he pitches at least 200 innings this year.
Bannister is likely to be the Royals No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the rotation again this year.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

There's not a lot of news right now

Well, we've almost made it to the dawn of a brand new big league baseball season. Right now could be the most excruciating time of the year for me personally, however. This three week lull in-between the free agent frenzy and the start of Spring Training is taxing on a writer, in the sense that once your team is done making moves there is little else to write about until pitchers and catchers report.
On that front I can tell you that some of the Royals pitchers and catchers have made plans to report early (I'm talking earlier than the usual early) to Spring Training again this year (they did this last season too). Zack Greinke told me that he and a few of his teammates would begin reporting on Feb. 2, to get some early work out of the way so that they can dial it up on Feb. 14 (the mandated day for pitchers and catchers to report).
So I have been really bored lately and decided, "Hey, let's do a mock up of the Royals Opening Day lineup." Yes, I actually said that to myself aloud. Anyways, I understand that guessing who will take the field in two months is pretty unpredictable because so many things can happen before the start of the year -- injuries, trades, etc. But hey, this is my blog and I can do what I want, right? Maybe not, but here goes anyways!!

Tug's projected Opening Day lineup:

1. Coco Crisp, CF
2. David DeJesus, LF
3. Jose Guillen, RF
4. Mike Jacobs, DH
5. Alex Gordon, 3B
6. Billy Butler, 1B
7. Mark Teahen, 2B
8. Mike Aviles, SS
9. Miguel Olivo, C

**** I'm going all out here and saying that Mark Teahen sticks as the club's starting second baseman. I hit Butler in front of him to break up three lefty's in a row. Billy is my starting first baseman, because well, a slimmed down Billy Butler is a better fielding first sacker than Mike Jacobs (who would probably have better offensive numbers if he's not spending as much time still trying to learn how to play first base).
Crisp is my leadoff man because he obviously is going to steal more bases than DeJesus, and will likely be on base just as often. This should allow the team to score some runs with DD being the gap-shooter he is. God willing, Guillen should hit much better in this lineup because he's got DeJesus and Jacobs surrounding him for protection. I know that's still a far cry from the Papi-Manny days, but still. I like the balance of lefty-righties in this set. Make a post if you have a different variation to what I have and explain your reasons.