Thursday, April 29, 2004

Why not leave him in?

If the Royals don't get their starting pitching figured out soon, this team is in big trouble. Gone are the days when we could hand the ball to Saberhagen, Cone or the Appier of old and expect a victory. We have several guys in our rotation that can look brilliant at times, but not on a consistent basis. I think Affeldt could be on the verge of a break out year, but his ERA is 4.94. Anderson's ERA is 6.44. Appier's is 13.50. May's is 7.32. Gobble is the only with a good ERA, coming in at 2.82. However, he didn't look all that great yesterday.

Reyes got the spot start today and he gave up five earned runs in just four innings. He doesn't appear to be the answer to an already battered and injured starting staff. Glass reiterated recently that we don't want to bring Greinke up yet and "do him more harm than good." Okay, good enough, but with Appier gone for the next month, and with May's injury status up in the air, what exactly are we going to do? Kris Wilson has strung together a few good starts in Omaha after getting off to a shaky start down there, so he may be an option to fill a spot for now.

Today's game was another tough one to watch. Two more errors by the Royals, another bad outing for a starting pitcher, missed opportunities to blow the game open with bases loaded in the third inning and then again in the sixth inning. And the list goes on and on. I'll get to the rest of the list in a minute. But there I was, sitting in the Royals press box (trying not to cheer—"No cheering in the press box" they tell me—I wasn't always obedient to the unwritten code by the way) hoping like crazy that we would pull this one out somehow.

Justin Huisman came in and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning and things were looking good. Then he repeated the task in the eighth. Then Pena brought in Leskanic for the ninth. I know it is not standard baseball practice anymore to leave in a guy like Huisman when he is pitching well because the closer is supposed to close, but I don't understand why Pena would not leave in a guy who just breezed through the last two innings without allowing a base runner. Of course, Michael Young goes deep and tied the game at 7-7. Oh they weren't through. Brad Fullmer then hit a two run shot and Pena still left Leskanic in. Why? I don't know. But Leskanic finally got through the inning and we were down 9-7. That's how it ended.

Inside the Royals locker room

Royals 5, Rangers 3
W-Gobble (1-0), L-Rogers (3-1), S-MacDougal (1)
Royals Season Record: 7 Wins, 12 Loses

Today I got to go inside the Royals locker room to conduct an interview with Joe Randa for a couple of articles I'm working on. I'll post a couple of the Q & A in the coming days from that interview.

Here's a run down of the days events . . . Jason Grimsley got things started in the clubhouse before the game by firing up his gas propelled scooter and making several laps. Maybe he was declaring war on the Texas Rangers. Maybe he was just letting off a little steam after several difficult loses. Maybe he's a little crazy. Whatever it was, it seemed to set the tone for the game tonight.

With the game tied 1-1 in the fifth inning, Ken Harvey smoked a ball down the left field line. The third base umpire called it fair. Showalter charged out of the dugout, the umpires met and the crew chief overruled the third base umpire causing Pena to charge out of the dugout. To no avail. Harvey had to come back up to the plate—where he smashed a line drive home run over the left field wall. This time it was called fair.

Gobble didn't pitch well. He gave up ten hits, but he fought hard and only gave up two earned runs. He had to leave in the sixth inning with muscle cramps. Grimsley and Shawn Camp picked him up and took the game into the ninth inning with the Royals leading.

Out came Mike MacDougal. What a welcome site that was. He was wild, but isn't he always? More importantly, he closed the game and got his first save of the season.

Way to go guys. Let's keep it going tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I'll be back in the locker room tomorrow afternoon and I'll bring you as many interviews as possible in the coming days.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Affeldt sharp, offense flat

Rangers 3, Royals 2
W-Dickey (3-1), L-Affeldt (0-2), S-Cordero (6)
Royals Season Record: 6 Wins, 12 Loses

Another difficult loss. Jeremy Affeldt gave up two earned runs in seven innings and he still lost. His curve ball looked sharp. His fast ball had smoke trailing it and he was able to get inside early and often.

Unfortunately, the offense that the Royals put on the field tonight just couldn’t break through. Gonzalez was a late scratch with the flu. Sweeney took bp, but was still out of the line up. They don’t look like the same team without them. Sweeney has to be close to returning though because he came in as a pinch hitter late in the game.

The Royals still had their chances tonight. Especially in the 9th inning when they had bases loaded with no outs. DeJesus grounded to Soriano who forced Harvey out at home. Pena brought in Mendy Lopez to pinch hit for Blanco and Lopez hit into a game ending double play.

Game over. Frustration continues.

Injury updates

RSTN reported before the game tonight that:
  • Mike Sweeney took BP before the game tonight. No decision has been made about when he will return to the line up.
  • Desi Relaford is rehabbing in Omaha and is set to rejoin the team in New York this weekend.
  • Darrell May is fine and is scheduled to make his start tomorrow night against Texas.
  • Angel Berrora is going to do a short rehab assignment and then return to KC.
  • Kevin Appier is going to miss four to six weeks.

Monday, April 26, 2004

If the Royals are going to lose . . .

Twins 4, Royals 2
W-Silva (3-0), L-Anderson (0-1), S-Nathan (6)
Royals Season Record: 6 Wins, 11 Loses

I’m not any more favorable to losing than the next fan, but if we are going to lose, I want it to be just like this game. Torii Hunter’s three run shot in the third inning was the difference.

Kelly Stinnett called for a fast ball inside off the plate with the count 1-2 to Hunter. Anderson missed and the ball got too much of the inside corner for Hunter to miss. Ball game.

Anderson had another decent outing—only walking one guy in 7 2/3 innings, giving up four earned runs. While Anderson won’t win the Cy Young giving up that many runs, it’s good enough to keep us in most ball games—especially when he isn’t walking people.

Ken Harvey continued his hot streak with two more hits, raising his average to .420. Matt Stairs went three for three. And our bullpen looked solid.

No news yet regarding Sweeney’s return. Oddly, he pinch ran in this game (you have to wonder what Pena was thinking with that move) but I’m guessing that if he was really ready to return, he would’ve been in the line up for this one.

We have an off day on Monday and then start a three game series with Texas at home. I’ll be headed to KC to catch the Wednesday and Thursday games against them. I’ll take photos and post them here.

Hopefully we can get this thing turned around before facing the evil Yankees next weekend in New York. They are busy licking their wounds after the beating the Red Sox have given them, but I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

May goes down

Royals 10, Twins 1
W-Camp (1-0), L-Greisinger (0-1)
Royals Season Record: 6 Wins, 10 Loses

Darrel May looked good tonight until the fifth inning. They he noticed something wrong with his left leg. Turns out, he strained his left adductor muscle. I've never heard of that muscle, but I'm guessing it is painful.

One night after losing Appier (on the DL) for the next 15 days, May ends up with a freak injury. And all this happens just as our starters seem to be getting things turned around. That's how the game of baseball goes sometimes. If May's injury turns out to be serious, surely Greinke is going to get his shot sooner than the Royals really wanted him to.

Over 25,000 fans got to see our new high powered offense do their thing tonight. Even without Sweeney in the line up (still nursing his sore wrist), the Royals scored ten runs. Graffanino had a big night at the top of the line up with three hits and three RBI's. Beltran hit his seventh home run of the season and Matt Stairs hit his second. Ken Harvey went 3 for 5, raising his season average to .413.

Blanco is hitting .300 right now and if he keeps this up, he's going to make me eat my words. I still think that Lopez should have got the majority of the time at short after Berrora went on the 15 day DL, but how can anybody argue with Blanco's average and the defense he has provided? He seems to have a knack for making the difficult play while at the same time he sometimes buries throws at first base on easy plays. Perhaps it is just nerves. Berrora had all kinds of problems the first couple of the months last season and then he won the Rookie of the Year award.

Tomorrow afternoon we've got Anderson (1-0, 7.06 ERA) going against Silva (2-0, 5.82 ERA). Hopefully we can make it two in a row over the Twinkies. Go Blue.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Walking in the rain

Twins 7, Royals 5
W-Romero (1-0), L-Leskanic (0-2), S-Nathan (5)
Royals Season Record: 5 Wins, 10 Loses

When Kevin Appier left with an injury to his right elbow after pitching only one inning, I thought we were in trouble. Then Jimmy Gobble pitched six tough innings and it looked like the game was in the bag.

Pena handed the ball to Scott Sullivan and our lead shrank to 5-4 after he gave up three runs. Leskanic followed Sullivan and blew the game, giving up three more runs while walking two guys. Not to be outdone, Reyes followed Leskanic and walked three guys, including one with the bases loaded.

Bullpens are going to blow games. But to see another game given away simply because we have guys who do no throw strikes is extremely frustrating to watch. Our bullpen walked six guys tonight in the final two innings of the game. We can't possibly win games doing that. I'd rather see an 85 mph fastball thrown right down main street getting smashed into the Little K before seeing hitter after hitter given free passes.

According to Pena in a post game interview, we don't know how serious Appier's injury is. But if it is serious, and if we need to bring somebody up, let's give Greinke a shot. He's a confident kid. (Check out his website: Zack Greinke for proof.) If he gets hit hard, he gets hit hard. So what? Gobble got hit hard last year when he first came up. He has turned in two fantastic outings this year and his confidence seems to be growing.

This was another tough loss tonight. But let's not panic. We are only fifteen games into the season and we've been in almost every game we've played. If we would have had any kind of pitching, our record may be reversed. But there's nothing we can do about that now. What we can do is stress the importance of throwing strikes and when a pitcher starts to nibble, he needs to be reminded of it or he needs to be removed.

Tomorrow night we have May (0-3, 8.80 ERA) going against Greisinger (0-0, 10.80 ERA). Let's see if Darrell can get put one in the W column.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Gift wrapped

Indians 5, Royals 4
W-Betancourt (1-2), L-Grimsley (1-1), S-Riske (2)
Royals Season Record: 5 Wins, 9 Loses

As Denny Matthews said after the game today, the Royals gave this one away. The Indians scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to win 5-4, spoiling a great outing by Jeremy Affeldt who gave up only two hits and no earned runs in seven innings of work.

Jason Grimsley was as wild as all get out in the eighth inning, walking two and giving up three earned runs. This is Grimsley's second straight outing where he has exhibited such wildness and now we have reason to be concerned about him. Hopefully pitching coach John Cumberland pulls him aside and figures out what is wrong before he takes the mound again.

For some reason, Pena did not have anybody warming up behind Grimsley. Last year, when MacDougal struggled, he didn't hesitate to warm up Leskanic behind Mac. Maybe he wanted to show Grimsley that he was confident in him, but after losing so many games this early in the season, he needs to be more concerned about winning games than hurting somebody's ego.

D.J. Carrasco warmed up in a hurry and then came in to blow the save giving up two hits and allowing all three inherited runners to score.

This one is going to hurt for a while.

Andres Blanco tripled today but was shaky in the field again, dropping one ball for an error and making another bad throw to first base that Harvey made a good play on and scooped out of the dirt.

Mike Sweeney was scratched from the lineup just before game time with a sore wrist. No word on how serious it is.

Tomorrow night we have Apes (0-1, 15.00 ERA) going up against Lohse (1-2, 7.88 ERA). Go get 'em Apes.

Looks like I'll be making my first trip to the K next week for the Rangers series. I'll be taking photos and posting them here. So, check back.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

An offensive explosion

Kansas City 15, Cleveland 5
W-Brian Anderson (1-0) L-Chad Durbin (1-2)
Royals Season Record 5-8

Brian Anderson was given a five run lead in the first inning and he became our first starter to win a game this year. He gave up just two earned runs in six innings. He threw strikes early in the count and he gave up a few hits early, but I'd much rather see pitchers throwing strikes and giving up hits than walking guys and then giving up hits.

Matt Stairs got the opportunity to hit against Cleveland lefty Jeriome Robertson with the bases juiced and he took advantage of it. He hit his eighth career grand slam in the sixth inning and the route was on. And Mike Sweeney going 4 for 6 with 2 RBI's certainly didn't hurt.

Andres Blanco looked much more solid—both in the field and at the plate, driving in his first 2 RBI's of his MLB career.

Nights like these are fun to watch. The offense did what we know it is capable of doing. We got a good outing from the starting pitcher and our bullpen did a good job in relief. There were smiles all around.

Tonight Jeremy Affeldt (0-1, 10.24 ERA) goes against C.C. Sabathia (1-0, 1.71 ERA). Sabathia always seems to give the Royals problems. Let's hope that Affeldt has figured out his early season problems. We need him to throw a gem tonight.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Pitching woes continue

Twins 8 Royals 3
W-Roa (2-1), L-May (0-3)
Royals Season Record 4 Wins, 8 Loses

Darrell May threw 120 pitches during his third outing on Sunday, giving up 4 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. His ERA for the year is now 8.80. He's not this bad. Really he's not.

Before last season began I thought he might be. I saw him pitch early in the season last year and thought Pena should have pulled him late in one game. He pitched his way out of trouble and made me a believer. Then he pitched well the remainder of the season—hitting his spots and throwing strikes.

That's the difference this year. He isn't throwing strikes. He had a bad outing his first time out and he nibbled during his second start. He did strike out 8 hitters on Sunday during his third start, but he also walked 3 guys.

Pena has little choice but to keep giving the ball to May, Affeldt, Anderson—the three starters who are struggling right now. And as I said in the last post, these guys are not bad pitchers. They'll come around. But they must throw strikes for that to happen.

Joe Randa hit a home run during Sundays loss and he's now hitting .341 for the season. After his slow start last season, it's nice to see him off to such a hot start.

Oddly, Andres Blanco started at short again. What is Pena thinking? Is Blanco better than Lopez? Blanco is going to be with the team for two weeks until Berrora returns from the DL and I can understand wanting to give him a little playing time in the bigs, but starting over Lopez doesn't make sense. We are already four games under .500. Lopez has proven to be an ample replacement during the past two seasons. Let's use him.

Graffanino went 3 for 4 on Sunday, raising his average to .324 for the season. He's been a pleasant surprise so far and if we didn't have him on the roster, we'd really be hurting up the middle.

Brian Anderson (0-0, 8.62 ERA) goes up against a familiar name tonight, Chad Durbin (1-1, 8.59 ERA). Looking at his ERA, he'd fit right in on our staff right now. Actually though, it's nice to see him in the majors and in a rotation.

I have a soft spot for most former Royals.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Five loses in a row

Twins 8 Royals 4
W-Lohse (1-2), L-Appier (0-1), S-Romero (1)
Royals Season Record: 4 Wins, 7 Loses

What a difference a year makes. Last April we couldn't lose. This year, no matter how many runs our offense produces, our pitchers give up even more.

Seeing Kevin Appier return to the mound tonight was a thrill for me. I can still remember when he came up with the Royals and the many successful seasons he had in a Royal uniform. Time will tell if he has anything left after having surgery on his pitching elbow at the end of last season, but I'm pulling for him big time.

He did hit 88 mph on the radar gun tonight which answers the questions about whether he could regain his velocity or not. His slider looked like Affeldt's curve ball—breaking from noon to 6:00 and fooling a few batters. But overall, Appier did not have good control of his fastball. The times he threw borderline pitches, he didn't get the calls. He gave up 6 hits and 5 earned runs in 3.0 innings.

Andres Blanco, up from Wichita, made his major league debut at shortstop tonight replacing Angel Berrora, who went on the 15-day DL today with migraine headaches. With Desi Relaford already on the DL, the middle of the infield looks far less solid now than it did to start the season. Blanco made one horrible throw to Sweeney at first base and he went 0-3 at the plate. He did make amends later in the game for his throwing error by fielding a ball behind second base and after bobbling it, making a good throw.

We needed to bring a shortstop up with both Berrora and Relaford on the shelf, but I'd like to see Mendy Lopez get a shot at playing shortstop until one of them returns. Lopez has always had an above average glove and in the past couple of years he has started to show a little potential with the bat. And who will ever forget the three run shot he hit opening day? He's got a great attitude—willing to play anywhere Pena needs him to play and it would seem to me that he has earned a chance to play during a time like this.

Carlos Beltran hit his 6th home run of the season and Mike Sweeney demolished his 4th home run of the season. If we can ever get a starting pitcher to hold the opposing team under 7 runs, we have a great chance to win. I'm not giving up hope though. Anderson, May and Affeldt are good major league pitchers. All three of them just happen to be off to bad starts.

Tomorrow is another day. Go get 'em Royals.
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