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:

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

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.


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.


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.