Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Anderson and Bautista Nearing Return

Brian Anderson and Denny Bautista can't return quickly enough. It sounds like they'll both go back into rotation after the break, which according to this article in the KC Star, could be the end for Lima.

I love Lima's attitude and presence, but he's bordering on delusional in recent weeks. He makes these crazy statements about once he wins his first game, he'll get on a roll and put several wins together. Well, that didn't happen. And now he's saying this: "If you look at my ERA, all of the damage has come in one inning. There's always one inning where I give up three or four runs. Erase five or six bad innings this year, then I'd be in good shape."

Couldn't every pitcher who is having a bad season say the same thing? It's not like pitchers who are struggling give up three runs every inning. They usually have one or two bad innings per game and before they get out of it, their team is several runs down.

Anyway, Anderson threw 35 pitches in a workout yesterday and claimed to have good stuff. He's supposed to throw a bullpen session this weekend in Kauffman and then head to Wichita to begin a rehab assignment on Monday. Anderson hasn't exactly been lights out since 2003, but we could certainly use him in the rotation right now. He's got a great attitude and he knows how to pitch.

I will say that I'm less optimistic about Bautista. Before he went down, he wasn't listening to Pena regarding pitch selection and he's got a 5.80 ERA to show for it. But he does have good stuff and perhaps Bell won't put up with his attitude.

I'm wondering if our rotation won't look something like this after the break:

1. D.J. Carrasco
2. Runelvys Hernandez
3. Brian Anderson
4. Denny Bautista
5. Zack Greinke

That rotation won't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams, but it'll have to do. It's hard to believe that our best starter is a guy who started the year in Omaha, isn't it?

Royals Give One Away; Then Stop the Bleeding

Nice to see Carrasco coming up big this afternoon after the fiasco last night when the Royals extended their losing streak to eight games.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. J.P. Howell is not ready for the major leagues yet. This time last year he was pitching in the CWS. He certainly pitched well there, but college baseball is hardly even baseball. He looks completely outmatched right now. Why put a rookie through that?

In the first inning, he threw 21 pitches, giving up a hit to Stewart to start the game and then walking Williams. We should have been out of the inning, but Teahen made a poor throw to Gotay with one out in the inning, pulling Gotay off the bag. That mistake cost us one run.

In the second inning, Howell was even less impressive, throwing 27 pitches. He walked Jones to lead off the inning, who then stole second and third. After striking out LeCroy, he walked Cuddyer. Redmon came up and drove in both guys that Howell walked, giving the Twinkies a 3-1 lead. And so the night went for Howell. He was gone after just 3 1/3 IP. Too many walks.

The Royals stayed in the game with a little offense. Costa hit a home run. And in the fifth inning the Royals got to Silva for three runs.

Sisco came on in relief of Wood in the sixth and got out of a jam, but then in the seventh inning he walked two guys. Starting to sound like a common pattern, isn't it? And of course, the Twins cashed both walks into runs.

Losing a game 11-8, especially the way we did it is frustrating to watch. I'm having a difficult time understanding why our guys are walking so many people. Is it because they are afraid to throw strikes? Bell thinks it's because they are afraid to throw fastballs.

"Some guys think the fastball is an easy pitch to hit," said Bell. "But it's not an easy pitch to hit. It's the best pitch for the pitchers and it's the toughest pitch for a hitter to center. I just think we go to our breaking stuff too much, especially when we're ahead in the count."

The Royals played considerably better this afternoon, putting up a two-spot on the board in the first inning and going on to win 3-1. D.J. pitched 6 2/3 IP and only gave up 1 ER. He walked three guys and that's a concern, but he worked around them.

The big story today was DeJesus going 4-for-5. Emil Brown went 1-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to 16 games. All those hits in the clean up spot, and he didn't pick up one RBI this entire 9-game road trip. That tells you how infrequently the top of the line up was on base.

Gobble was effective in relief of Carrasco, except for walking one guy, which could have come back to bite him. And MacDougal pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to pick up his 9th save.

We've got an off day tomorrow. On Friday we open a new series at home against the Angels, followed by the Mariners, and the Twins before the All-Stat break.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Streak Reaches 7

Zack Greinke and Jimmy Gobble pitched well enough to win this game, but not with an offense that manages only 6 hits and 1 walk. The Royals lost 3-1 and the losing streak is now at 7 games. Where it stops, nobody knows.

Before we are too hard on the offense, Greinke didn't help himself. In the second inning, with one out in a scoreless game, he fell behind Torii Hunter, and like most good hitters do, Hunter made him pay with a single. Greinke threw over to first and made a poor throw, hitting Hunter in the back as he dove toward bag, and he advanced to second on the error. Jacque Jones singled him home and ended up at second on the throw. Then, for some reason Jones stole third. The replay showed that he was out, but third base umpire Paul Schrieber called him safe. Lew Ford's sacrifice fly made it 2-0 and that was all Joe Mays needed.

I'm amazed at how many Royal hitters made first pitch outs against Mays. Berroa did it in the first inning (what's new?) Stairs did it in the second inning. Long did it in the fourth inning. Stairs did it again to lead off the fifth. Teahen followed him in the fifth and did it. And DeJesus did it in the sixth inning. It's no wonder Mays only threw 92 pitches in 8 IP. This team appears to be incapable of working the count.

Greinke gave up 4 hits and 2 runs in 6 IP. That's a quality start, but quality starts don't take into account an offense like ours. A quality start for our club should be 1 run in 6 innings instead of 3 runs in 6 innings.

On a positive note, Mike Sweeney took BP before the game and according to Bell he was "pretty much pain-free for the most part…" I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good. The team plans to activate Sweeney on Friday. He's scheduled to come off the DL then.

As a side note, has anybody noticed what Aaron Guiel is doing in Omaha? He's got 16 HR, 54 RBI, and he's hitting .266. He's obviously healthy because he has 290 AB's. I know that Emil Brown has established himself on the major league roster, but do we really not have a roster spot available for Guiel in Kansas City? We're not going to designate T-Long, that's for sure, but are Matt Diaz and Shane Costa better than Aaron Guiel? You make the call.

Tomorrow night, the Royals send J.P. Howell (1-2, 5.63) up against Carlos Silva (6-3, 3.18).

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A New Low

If sweeping the Yankees was the highlight of the season, how close does getting swept by the Colorado Rockies rank towards the lowlight of the season? And to see the Rockies put up 25 runs in three games left little doubt about whether the sweep was a fluke or not. Our offense is getting shut down by the best in the game and the worst. And we've lost six games in a row, dropping our record to 25-49. Even Colorado has a better record now at 25-48.

There's plenty of blame to go around. Jose Lima didn't fool anybody today. The Rockies hit several liners back up the box, nearly decapitating him on more than one occasion. Sixteen starts into the season and he's got an ERA sitting at 7.81. How much longer can Bell keep giving him the ball? I know our options are limited, but isn't this the time to give a young guy a shot? How much worse could he pitch than Lima has?

The Royals staff in general was horrible in Denver this weekend—walking 23 batters in the series, giving up 32 hits, and the aforementioned 25 runs. Looking at numbers like that, you'd think this was college baseball (if you can really equate the use of aluminum bats with the term baseball—I certainly don't) or little league.

The team is now 12-12 under Buddy Bell and it looks like the boost he brought to the club has worn off. The Royals have 88 games left. Even if they played .500 from here on out, winning 44 of those games, they'd still end up with a 69-93 record and does anybody really expect that to happen?

We keep hearing that this is a rebuilding year, and it is. But rebuilding year or not, 23 walks in three games is so unacceptable at any level that I don't have words for it when a major league pitching staff does it. Going into the game this afternoon, our staff ERA was 5.49, 13th in the American League, ahead of only Tampa Bay who has a laughable 5.83 ERA. Our WHIP was 1.51, again ahead of only Tampa Bay. How does a team ever win when their pitching staff is allowing 1 ½ runners per inning?

And obviously, the pitching staff is only part of the problem. Going into the game today, the Royals were second to last in the AL in runs scored (321), third to last in home runs (60)—we don't even have a guy in double digits yet, fourth to last in batting average (.260), tied for second to last in on base percentage (.319), and third to last in bases on balls (196). Our offense is undisciplined and lacking in power. That equation equals poor run production and lots of loses.

I want the Royals to win as much as anybody and I'd love it if somehow Bell turned this team around. But at some point, maybe after this season is over and all of the rookies have been given ample AB's in which to evaluate them, somebody needs to be held responsible for the lack of talent in our system.

Yeah, we've had a couple of big guns who got away—Beltran and Damon. But we've also had way too many guys like Carlos Febles, Chris George, and Dee Brown who simply aren't good enough to play in the major leagues, but somebody was convinced that they were.

Well, enough of that.

Tomorrow, things won't get any easier as the Royals open a new series in Minnesota. Zack Greinke (1-8, 6.14) goes again Joe Mays (3-3, 4.22).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Out Pitched, Out Played

If it's not Roger Clemens, it's Roy Oswalt. If it's not Oswalt, it's Jon Garland. We keep going up against top notch pitchers and we keep getting mowed down by them. We don't even put up a fight. Garland was certainly on tonight. He threw 102 pitches in 8 1/3 IP and only gave up 4 H and 1 ER. He worked quickly. He threw strikes. He had good control. And we never had a chance.

With that said, Berroa needs to be moved down in the order. Once again, our leadoff hitter showed absolutely no patience. In his first AB, he was down 0-2 before grounding out. In his second AB, he swung at the first pitch, popping up to Iguchi. In his third AB, he was down 0-1 before grounding to short. In his fourth AB, he swung at the first pitch and flew out to right field. Four AB's, 7 pitches. Come on.

Considering Greinke's final line, he didn't look terrible. He threw 94 pitches and gave up 5 ER in 5 1/3 IP, but three of those runs scored after he left. Of course, if he hadn't put all those guys on base, they wouldn't have had a chance to score. I don't think Greinke was as sharp as Splitt and Davis thought he was. The White Sox certainly had their share of bloop hits, but Greinke fell in love with his curve ball and the White Sox have some good hitters. They either waited and dumped the ball in front of the outfield or they found a way to get the bat on the ball. Before the game, Alberto Castillo said that he was going to get Greinke to establish the fastball. I don't know what happened to that game plan, but I wish they would have stuck with it.

In relief, Sisco let all three inherited runners score and a 2-0 deficit became 5-0. It might as well have been 50-0 with Garland on the mound. But Sisco has got to do a better job out of the pen.

Finally, our defense cost us a couple of runs tonight. In the fifth inning, Stairs didn't field a grounder cleanly and a runner scored as a result. Stairs got the out at first, but he could have either looked the runner at third back or had a play at the plate if he'd fielded the ball cleanly. In the sixth inning, with bases loaded and one out, the first batter that Sisco faced in relief hit a grounder to Teahen who couldn't field the ball cleanly and he had to settle for the force at third, but a runner scored. The next two guys (at the bottom of the order) singled, and this game was O-V-E-R.

Terrence Long hit a home run in the ninth, but the Royals still lost 5-1. So, we've dropped the first two games of this series. We have an afternoon game tomorrow in Chicago to finish the series. The pitching match ups don't get any easier. J.P. Howell (1-1, 4.09) goes against Mark Buehrle (8-1, 2.67). Let's not make excuses. Let's just play a fundamentally sound game and win one of three in Chicago.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Shelled in Chicago

Jose Lima looked awful tonight in Chicago. He was supposed to be matched up against Orlando Hernandez, but Hernandez was put on the DL, so the Royals caught a break and went up against rookie Brandon McCarthy. Unfortunately the rookie held his own against Lima. Neither pitched well.

Lima gave up 7 R, 10 H in 4 IP. After giving up hits to Podsednik and Iguchi to start the game, Lima struck out Frank Thomas, but then fell behind Paul Konerko 3-1. The next pitch put the White Sox up 3-0 when Konerko hammered a 3-run home run to left field.

Unfortunately Ryan Jensen wasn't good either when he relieved Lima. Jermaine Dye, the first hitter that Jensen faced, hit a solo shot to begin the fifth inning. Jensen gave up 3 R in 1 1/3 IP before being forced out of the game.

To the Royals credit, they fought back several times—actually tying the game at 8-8. Graffanino, filling in at first base, went 2-for-3 and is locked in at the plate. Teahen picked up 3 RBI, going 1-for-4. Buck and Gotay hit back to back home runs in the sixth inning. Gotay went 2-for-4 and was much more patient tonight—going deep into the count.

The only offensive negative was Angel Berroa again. In his five plate appearances he was behind 1-2, 1-2, 0-2, 1-2, and 0-2. It's a miracle that he ended up 1-for 5. How can Bell justify putting a guy like Berroa at the top of the order who simply refuses to show patience at the plate? He's a total hack—Alfonso Soriano without the impressive numbers.

Contrast Berroa's plate appearances to Emil Brown's tonight. In Brown's five plate appearances, he worked the count to 3-2, 1-2, 3-2, 3-0, and 1-1. He was 1-for-3 and drew 2 BB.

As good as the Royals were offensively tonight, 8 runs wasn't enough. The White Sox pounded out 17 hits and it just doesn't look like we've got the arms to get these guys out. I guess we'll find out over the next two days.

The Royals send Zack Greinke (1-7, 5.97) against John Garland (11-2, 3.61) tomorrow night.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Injury Updates

Mike Sweeney: Sounds like Mike could be headed to the DL. He reportedly attempted to swing the bat (non-contact swings) before the game this morning and was in quite a bit of pain.

When Bell was asked about whether Sweeney was headed for the DL, here's what he said: "I don't think we can rule it out but today, as we speak, we're not going to do that. Tomorrow is kind of going to be key just because of the swings he took today."

Ambiorix Burgos left the game today with a sore right shoulder. He had it packed in ice after the game and it will be evaluated tomorrow. He left the game after pitching to only one hitter.

Update (June 20, 2005):

Jeremy Affeldt went on the 15-day DL. He re-aggravated his groin injury. Mike Sweeney went on the 15-day DL with a strained left wrist. Ambiorix Burgos went on the 15-day DL with a strained right rotator cuff.

Jimmy Gobble and Justin Huber were called up to take two of the available roster spots. The Royals will announce one more pitcher before the game in Chicago on Tuesday to fill the final spot.

Brian Anderson's Blog

You've probably heard that Brian Anderson has a new blog. I've added a link to it on the right hand side of the page. Check it out if you get a chance. It's a neat behind the scenes look at what goes in the clubhouse, in the dugout, and on the plane.

Elvis Stops Skid at Two

When was the last time you saw a series completely dominated by starting pitchers? Clemens and Oswalt were way too much for the Royals line up to handle during the first two games of this series. Then today, Runelvys Hernandez turned the tables and one hit the Astros for seven innings.

It looked like the Royals might jump on Brandon Backe early in the game this afternoon. He walked Berroa to start the game (which is a difficult thing to do given the fact that our lead off man only has 11 BB this year). And after two innings, Backe had walked four guys already and was down 2-0. But he set the Royals down in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings and the score was 2-1 Royals.

Emil Brown came through big time in the sixth inning though. Long singled. Stairs drew a walk and Brown hit on 0-1 pitch over the left field wall and gave the Royals a 5-1 lead. That was plenty to win this one.

Runelvys was razor sharp (7 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 3 BB). His breaking ball was especially nasty and he seemed to have the Astros off balance all day long. I wasn't crazy about the three walks he issued, but the strike zone was miniscule and his control was the best I've ever seen it. That's three wins in a row for Elvis and four quality starts in a row.

After giving Mark Teahen a hard time about his play at third during the Dodger series, he definitely deserves praise for the way he played the hot corner today. From barehanded throws to diving stabs to long throws—he did it all.

The Royals finished the home stand at 4-2 and their record since Bell took over is now 12-6. They face an unbelievably good staff in Chicago over the next few days. Lets hope they can get this long road trip off to a good start against the Sox. Lima (1-5, 7.38) goes against Orlando Hernandez (7-2, 4.88).

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Give Me Five!

The Royals won tonight 9-6, completing the sweep of the Dodgers, and winning their fifth straight. We made a ton of mistakes, but the offense covered those mistakes rather nicely. First let's talk about the good stuff.

For the third straight night, the Royals got off to an early lead by scoring in the first inning. Berroa and DeJesus singled in the first and Stairs hit a sac fly to left field to get Berroa in.

In the second inning, Teahen doubled and Castillo came up with a big single to give the Royals a 2-0 lead.

Lowe settled down and got the Royals in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. In the sixth inning though, the Royals sent 11 guys to the plate and broke the game open. One of the big blows came off the bat of Castillo again when he doubled in two runs. The Royals scored 6 runs on 7 hits in the inning and they tacked on a run in the seventh inning to make it 9-3.

Now for the negatives.

Greinke, while he was sharper than he's been in recent outings, still didn't look like he had his act together. He fell behind hitters too often, and ended up throwing 111 pitches in 5 IP, giving up 3 R, 8 H, 2 BB, and hitting two guys in the fourth inning—both times when he had two strikes on the guy. He's not going to win many games with those numbers.

Teahen, while going 2-for-4 with a RBI at the plate, looked less than average in the field again. He knocked down one ball that he should have fielded cleanly. He made a bad throw on a play in the eighth and he should have been charged with an error in the ninth. He's not looking like the guy we heard about who was solid with the glove, but needed some AB's before he'd start hitting at the major league level.

Berroa went 2-for-5 tonight, but he's driving me crazy at how undisciplined he is at the plate. He swung at the first pitch during his first AB (a hit). In his second AB, he put the second pitch in play, grounding out to third. In his third AB, he put the third pitch into play. In his fourth AB, he put the second or third pitch into play (I lost count) and during his final AB, he put the second ball into play. I know that the game plan was to be aggressive against Lowe, but how can a guy not get past the third pitch in five AB's?

Gotay is another one who shows no patience at the plate. In the second inning, Teahen doubled and Castillo drove him in. Royals were up 2-0 with one out. Gotay swings at the first pitch and hits into a double play. In his second AB, he put the third pitch into play. In his third AB, he put the second pitch into play. And in his final try, he actually drew a four pitch walk from a wild Scott Erickson who walked three guys in the inning.

In spite of all that, the Royals won anyway. Let's see if we can keep it going against Roger Clemens (4-3, 1.64) tomorrow night. The Royals send J.P. Howell (1-0, 1.80) to the mound.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Royals Win 4th Straight

I have no clue what's going on with this team, but it's a blast to watch. The team that couldn't hit cut off men, couldn't move runners, couldn't throw strikes, is suddenly doing all of these things and a lot more. The Royals have now won four games in a row with the 3-1 victory tonight over the Dodgers and they are 10-4 under Buddy Bell.

In by far his best outing of the season, Jose Lima was lights out—giving up 1 ER, 5 H, and picking up 6 K in 8 IP. He stayed ahead of hitters and had good control all night. You've got to feel good for a guy who looked like he might be out of work a couple of starts ago. He finally has his first win of the season.

Mike Sweeney got hurt in a nasty looking collision at first base when Jayson Werth tried to bunt his way on base in the fourth inning. Teahen made a good barehanded throw that was a little up the first base line. Sweeney stretched to make the catch and Werth, who was a couple of feet inside the foul line, slammed into Sweeney's arm bending Sweeney's wrist and elbow back. Why home plate umpire Bill Miller didn't call Werth out is a mystery. Sweeney has a sprained wrist and elbow and will be evaluated tomorrow.

In the 6th inning, Werth hit a little dinker off the plate and when Lima fielded the ball, he had to make sure he didn't hit Werth with the throw. Werth was at least five feet inside the line this time. Again, Miller made no call. I can't believe that Werth didn't get a ball under the chin during his next at bat in the sixth inning. Guys are going to get hurt in this game, but there's no excuse for a guy who just doesn't know how to play the game right. He's putting first baseman in jeopardy and someone has got to call him on it.

Emil Brown came up big again tonight, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. And Matt Stairs picked up another RBI, going 1-for-3. That was all the Royals would need behind Lima's strong effort. MacDougal pitched the ninth inning and picked up the save.

I didn't get a chance to say anything yet about Shane Costa's performance in the Royals 3-2 win last night, but his 3-for-3 effort was impressive—especially the home run he hit in the fifth inning against Jeff Weaver on a 3-2 count. He hasn't got enough AB's yet for us to really know how good he is, but he's 8-for-19 (a .421 average) and he's only struck out once in 8 games.

With the win tonight, the Royals are still 18 games under .500, but it's hard to believe the difference since Pena picked up his ball and went home. When the Royals were searching for a new manager, baseball pundits continually said that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager is only about 6 or 7 games over the course of a season. If that's true, then Tony Pena must have been one of the worst managers in history.

I still am not convinced that this turn around is completely due to Bell, but its tough to make that argument when they are playing so well. So I won't. I'll just enjoy it.

Tomorrow night, the Royals put Zack Greinke (1-7, 6.01) on the mound hoping for a sweep. The Dodgers will send Derek Lowe (5-6, 3.62) to counter Greinke and to try to stop the bleeding.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Royals Win Arizona Series

The Royals took two out of three games again on the road and finished their trip through San Francisco and Arizona at 4-2. The Royals are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 8-4 since Bell took over the club. Unfortunately they dug themselves such a deep hole, that they are still eight games out of fourth place in the division. But it's nice to see them winning two road series in a row.

On Friday night in Arizona, the Royals dropped a heartbreaker in extra innings after coming all the way back from an 11-3 deficit at the end of seven innings. The Royals scattered a few hits in the eighth inning, one of which was a Gotay home run, with six walks given up by Arizona pitchers. Still down by two runs going into the ninth, Matt Stairs came up with a hit to tie the game. But as you know by now, Mike MacDougal gave up the big fly to Glaus in extra innings and the game was over.

Greinke started the game and looked awful again—giving up 11 runs. His control isn't good and he's leaving the ball up. After 13 starts, he's 1-7 with a 6.01 ERA.

Former University of Texas star J.P. Howell got the start for the Royals on Saturday. It was his major league debut and he gave up 1 run in 5 IP and struck out 8. He's worked his way through all three levels of the minor leagues (posting a combined 6-1 record with a 2.34 ERA in 12 starts) in the Royals system this season already. I'm sure that the original plan didn't include him starting games on the major league level this soon, but we had little choice with all the injuries.

Emil Brown had a big game, going 4-for-5 with 2 RBI and he made a great catch in the outfield. Graffanino, filling in for the still-injured Sweeney, came up big again hitting third, going 3-for-5 and raising his average to .307. We've got to find a way to keep this guy in the line up when Sweeney comes back.

In shades of 2003, MacDougal made things interesting at the end, but eventually closed the door on an Arizona comeback. Affeldt pitched 2/3 of an inning of scoreless ball in front of MacDougal and you have to wonder if it isn't time to give Affeldt the closer's role permanently. His velocity is good. His ERA is 3.12. He's healthy. And he looks confident.

Howell picked up the win as the Royals defeated Arizona 8-5.

The Royals won a bizarre game yesterday 9-4 in 12 innings. After nine, the score was tied at one. But then the Royals took a one run lead in the tenth, only to lose it in the bottom half of the inning. They took another one run lead in the eleventh, and lost it as well. Finally, in the twelfth, they scored 6 runs and put the game away.

D. J. Carrasco got the start, and once again, was outstanding. He gave up 1 run in 6 IP to lower his ERA to 2.33. He's proving to be the only stabilizing force in the rotation right now.

Emil Brown had two more hits. Mark Teahen was 3-for-6. And Tony Graffanino was 3-for-3, raising his average to .321.

The Royals get the day off today. Tomorrow, they open a new series at home against the Dodgers. Runelvys Hernandez (3-7, 5.03) goes against familiar foe Jeff Weaver (6-5, 5.27).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Royals Get 2 out of 3 in SF

I was a little greedy this afternoon. I was really hoping for a sweep, but if you would have told me ahead of time that we'd take two out of three in San Francisco, I would have been thrilled.

What in the world is going on with D. J. Carrasco? He pitched out of our pen in seasons past and always showed promise, but all of a sudden, he's the best starter on our staff. Sounds like Guy Hansen is a big reason for Carrasco's success since he got him to cut down on his many different arm angles and he got him to cut down on his pitch repertoire. D. J. looks confident and he should—he's winning ball games.

Zack Greinke has been an odd one to figure out. To start the season, he was lights out, but got zero run support—almost literally. Over his last few starts, the offense has manufactured a few runs and he's just been hit too hard to keep us in the ballgame. With an ERA nearing 5.00, he looks quite confused. Let's hope that Hansen can work a little magic on Zack. We know Zack has the stuff, now he's got to learn how to pitch.

Runelvys Hernandez picked up the win yesterday, but he's still only 3-7 with an ERA over 5.00. He looks like a shadow of the guy who dominated hitters early in 2003 before he got hurt. And his 1.53 WHIP isn't going to keep us in many games.

I really thought that Jose Lima would be released before he was given the ball again, but Bell said that as far as he's concerned, Lima was only 0-1 since Bell has only seen him pitch once. Lima gave up 3 ER in 5 IP today and looked decent, but not good enough to win, and 13 starts into the season, he still doesn't have a win. I guess on a positive note, he did lower his ERA from 8.39 to 8.16 today.

For the second day in a row, Tony Graffanino hit in the three hole, and he continues to produce there. He was 2-for-5 today with an RBI, raising his average to .298. He's swinging a hot bat and I don't see how Bell can take him out of the line up even when Sweeney does return.

Speaking of which, Sweeney missed his second straight game. Yesterday, Bell said that he was just resting him. Now we find out that he's got a sore rib. I'm hoping this isn't one of those things that takes 7 or 10 games to heal again. Harvey is due to come off his rehab assignment any day, and we've still got Stairs and Graff who can plan first, so we're okay in that regards. But we really do need Sweeney's bat in the line up.

Tomorrow night, the Royals open a new series in Arizona. Zack Greinke (1-7, 4.91) goes against Russ Ortiz (4-5, 5.62).

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bell Shows Fire; Cordero Shows No Class

After losing 14-9 and 8-1 the last two days, the euphoria of the winning streak has definitely left the building. Now we get to find out how good of a manager Buddy Bell really is.

One thing I like about him already is his fire. After Francisco Cordero hit Shane Costa in the ninth inning with an 8-1 lead, an apparent retaliation for Greinke hitting Soriano in the third inning, Bell let his displeasure be known to both Cordero and the umpire.

Our guy hits one of theirs, their guy hits one of ours—fair enough—even though the circumstances were quite different. But after Cordero struck out Teahen to win the game, Cordero walked toward the Royals dugout and grabbed his crotch. Nice. Especially in front of a stadium full of kids who were there for the build-a-bear giveaway.

Both benches cleared and Bell led the charge, but thankfully the situation didn't escalate any further than that. The last thing that sports need right now is another ugly on the field brawl.

Speaking about on the field…the Rangers just overpowered the Royals during the final two games of this series. And Kenny Rogers was too much for Royal hitters. The Royals managed only five hits in the game yesterday—three of which came off the bat of McEwing. Greinke looked awful again and suddenly his ERA is 4.91.

The Royals travel to San Francisco to open a series against the Giants tomorrow night. D.J. Carrasco (1-1, 3.04) goes against Kirk Rueter (2-3, 4.27). Let's hope that D.J. can give us another solid outing.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Enjoying the Moment

Baseball ought never be hurried. It is the only unhurried institution we have left, which is one reason, I think, we love it. -- James Kilpatrick

I just started writing a sports inspirational book that is due to my publisher on five weeks, so if I miss a day or two of posting, that's why. But I ran into this James Kilpatrick quote during my research and I think a modified version of it applies to this winning streak the Royals have put together.

In the big picture, the Royals are nowhere close to turning this season around. They are still nine and a half games behind the fourth place Indians. But so what? Let's not hurry beyond the four game winning streak before we enjoy it. Baseball is a game of numbers, and more specifically, wins and loses.

But it's more than that.

It's enjoying four game winning streaks in an otherwise dismal season. It's watching guys like Emil Brown turn on a Randy Johnson pitch and hammer it into the left field waterfall. It's watching a 21 year-old Leo Nunez come into the game and contribute to the streak. It's about enjoying the individual moments that make up the streak.

So, as you head to the ballpark today, or flip on the radio to listen to the game, enjoy all the moments that make baseball such a great game.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Royals Sweep the Yankees

Who knows why the Royals pulled off the sweep against the Yankees? Baseball is a funny game. One where the worst team can choose five smooth stones from a riverbed, and fire one from their slingshot, hitting the overpaid, arrogant, aging giant right between the eyes with the first shot—knocking him off his feet and make everything seem okay for a while.

Terrance Long points to the attitude that Buddy Bell brought with him for the Royals new swagger. "A lot of guys know what he expects before he opens his mouth," Long is quoted as saying in the KC Star this morning. "A lot of stuff that went on — no disrespect to Tony and Schaef — is not going to go on anymore. Guys know that, and they're trying to avoid that. We're playing with a little more enthusiasm, I think. It's natural when you bring in a new guy."

I can't figure out why a team of grown men would need a guy with a reputation for expecting prompt, disciplined, enthusiastic players, but apparently some on the team do. And by Bell simply having that sort of reputation, it seems to have made a difference—at least for now.

Congrats to Matt Stairs for slamming his 200th career home run. I can't say enough about what the 37-year old means to the Royals. He's accepts responsibility when he plays poorly. He's not afraid to get on players who aren't playing hard. And he plays whatever position he is asked to play. Last night he made a good play at first to end the game on a low throw from Berroa. He's everything the Royals need right now. I hope he sticks around for another year or two.

And hats off to the bullpen last night. The combined efforts of Wood, Sisco, Nunez, and Burgos gave up no runs in the final four innings of the game. Burgos didn't exactly pitch well trying to pick up his second save of the season, but ultimately he got the job done.

Tonight the Royals open a new series at home against the Rangers. Runelvys Hernandez (2-7, 5.67) goes against Pedro Astacio (2-5, 5.57).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Down Go the Yankees

D. J. Carrasco stepped up big time last night and shut the evil Yankees out for 6 innings. Guy Hansen has been working with D.J. trying to get him to cut down on the number of arm angles he uses and the number of different pitches he throws. Hansen wants D.J. to throw over the top, rather than dropping down three quarters or even side arm. And he wants D.J. to stay with just his fastball, his change, and his curve. He thinks that in minimizing both D.J.'s arm angles and pitches, he'll be able to solve his control problems and be around the plate more consistently.

Sounds good in theory and it seemed to help D.J. last night. Although, the two bases on balls that he issued were 4-pitch walks and in both instances, D.J. seemed to lose focus. And he dropped down side arm at one point in the game, probably more out of habit than anything. But for the most part, he kept the Yankees guessing and frustrating some of them with his biting change up.

Stemle continues to impress, throwing two innings behind Carrasco and giving up 0 runs. And MacDougal is starting to look like the MacDougal of old (2003). He gave up a one-run shot to Bernie Williams and then he gave up a double—that definitely reminded me of the 2003 season, but he isn't as wild. He's issued 12 BB this season in 27 innings. His WHIP is 1.48, which certainly isn't good, but when you compare it to his 2004 WHIP (2.21), it looks almost normal. Just slightly better than the 1.50 WHIP he posted in 2003. I still think the closers role belongs to Affeldt when he comes back, but now that MacDougal is back on track, he'll be good in set up situations and for an occasional save.

Anybody noticing Mike Sweeney's improved glove work at first in recent games? He made several more good plays last night. He's not getting caught in between hops. He's moving well. He looks fluid. Dropping some weight and working harder to become a better fielder is definitely paying off. He's only made one error this season in the 32 games he's played at first base.

And how about Tony Graffanino? With the aid of his five hit performance the other night, his average is at .292. He's only had the chance to play second base 14 times this season though. He has played 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B already this season and he may be the new version of Desi Relaford.

Emil Brown seems to be settling down and playing like management thought he could. His two run shot off Randy Johnson gave the Royals an early lead and they never looked back.

Tonight, the Royals have a chance to do something that they haven't done in their last 78 series—sweep. And how sweet would it be to use the brooms against the evil Yankees? I think we've got a good shot. Ryan Jensen (1-1, 9.72) goes against Carl Pavano (4-3, 4.18). Pavano has put up some decent numbers this season, but he doesn't look like the Pavano who pitched for the Marlins. Go Blue!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Buddy Bell Era Begins

If ever the Royals were going to beat the evil Yankees, it was yesterday. I liked the Greinke vs. Brown pitching match up. And all the talk in the locker room about some guys not caring had to serve as fuel for extra effort—if only for a day. And it was Buddy Bell's coronation. Oh yeah, and the Yankees are old.

Greinke didn't look to be at his best, but he was good enough to beat Kevin Brown. How nice is it to see a Yankee starter with an ERA over 5.00? Especially a highly paid Yankee starter. Wood was a little shaky in relief, walking two guys and giving up two hits in 1 2/3 IP, but nobody crossed the dish against him. Sisco and MacDougal were outstanding behind Wood and the new era of Buddy-ball has begun.

I listened to Bell's press conference yesterday afternoon. He certainly had an attitude that let us know he'd been there before. He didn't seem to be all that phased by the media attention or his apparent lack of knowledge about the Royals organization—including the names of our players.

Before the press conference, Joe Randa was on WHB and they asked him about the selection of Buddy Bell since he'd played for Bell in Detroit. Randa said that he thought Bell was a good choice for the Royals and he compared him to Tony Muser—in that he expects his players to show up on time and play hard. If Bell turns out to be that sort of manager, then we're on the right track. What I can't figure out though is why we dumped Muser to begin with if we needed somebody like him.

The obvious word of the day yesterday was patience. Here is Bell's response to a question posed at the press conference about the future direction of the club.

"I don't think you ever want to ask a player to do more than what they can do," Bell said. "But we won't know that until we get inside them. It's going to take some time. Obviously the direction of this team is at some point to get to the point where we can contend. I don't know when that's going to be. I don't know if Dan or Allard can tell you when that's going to be.

"But I will tell you this—I've been in this situation, they tell me twice, but I only think I was in it once, and that was in Detroit. The people I was with in Detroit, I feel pretty much the same way I do about the people I'm with now. The problem in Detroit was that we weren't patient enough. I'm very impatient with impatience.

"And I really believe that this is where we're at right now. This is going to happen. We understand that this is a hard game to play. That this game is going to take some time for us to turn the attitude around at times—I don't even know what the attitude is to be frank with you—I've been reading this, reading that. I really could care less. There's some intangible stuff that's going to have to take place, but the direction is to hopefully bring these guys up together. They've certainly learned how to lose right now together. So that's not all that bad.

"We're going to find out if they really want to get it done or not. And that's part of the process. But we have to be patient with that process. Just because a kid's 20, 21, 22 years old and makes an error every once in a while—I'm sure you guys say enough about it, but in our particular case, there's got to be some patience and there's got to be some understanding. We've got to be able to see past all that.

"So, the direction is just being patient. Seeing what we've got. Hanging on to the people we've got. And hopefully bringing these guys up together so they can have a little fun together."

I wonder if he realizes that the Royals organization hasn't shown a willingness to be patient in the past 15 years. We've had youth movements and then let them get away. We've had a mixture of youth and veterans and when that didn't work, we went back to a youth movement. When we didn't have enough talent in the organization to fill all the positions at the major league level with major league talent, we went out and got more veterans and even made a mini-run with them in 2003. But two years later, we're back to another youth movement.

This time Baird does appear to be serious though. He didn't re-sign Randa (big mistake). He traded Jason Grimsley and Curtis Leskanic. He designated Eli Marrero for assignment yesterday and we've got another Double-A guy, 23 year-old Shane Costa, making the jump to the major league roster to take his spot. (Costa wasn't exactly tearing things up in Wichita. He was hitting .274 with 5 HR and 27 RBI. But he's left handed and we certainly could use a little pop from one of the corner outfield positions.) Teahen is that guy at third even though Truby is healthy again. So, Kansas City, this is your youth movement. Let's hope that Baird assembled the right players and hired the right guy to direct them.

D.J. Carrasco (0-1, 4.08) goes against the Big Unit (5-3, 3.99) tonight at Kauffman. Let's go up 2-0 against the Yankees.
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