Sunday, April 30, 2006

85 Royals Down 05 Evil Yankees

A friend sent me a link to a website called "" a couple of days ago. It's a site that is "designed to simulate games between past and present sports teams." Check out the link he sent to me that pitted the 85 Royals against the 05 Evil Yankees. Royals win 10-7. Bud Black pitched 8.1 innings to beat Kevin Brown. Steve Balboni was named the Player of the Game.

Oh, for 1985 again, huh?

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Making of a Royals Fan

When I hear fans of good teams take shots at fans of bad teams, I don't believe that the offending fan even understands what it means to be a fan. I discount him as yet another bandwagon-jumper who claims he's been with the team since day one, but the empty stadium during that same era indicts most such "fans." But being a fan is about so much more than cheering during the good times and then slinking away into obscurity during the bad.

I met a man in church a few years ago. Everyone calls him Bear. He hadn't been to baseball game since the early 90s when he lived in Pittsburgh. He's never really considered himself a baseball fan, generally speaking, or of any team specifically. But as we became friends, he listened to me talk about the Royals and how I've been a fan since I was a little boy. I never imagined that it would prompt him to turn on the television one night a few weeks ago to watch a Royals game, but that's what happened.

He began asking me all sorts of insightful questions. He wanted to know how certain statistics are tabulated, what the difference between the American and National League is, and he even asked me what the difference between a four-seam and two-seam fastball is. He's curious about the strategy of the game and he's doing a little research on his own to find out more about the players on the Royals. Most of this happened during the 11-game losing streak. The goal is to win, but the struggle to build a winner is part of the fun and Bear already seems to understand that.

A couple of weeks ago Bear sent me an e-mail. He wanted to go to Kauffman Stadium to see a game. I took the day off yesterday and we ventured down for the series finale against the Twins. Bear and I had a great time talking on the three hour car trip to the stadium. When we got there, he seemed to be drawn to the field. So, we walked closer and I started explaining why the numbers 5, 10, and 20 on the bottom of the scoreboard are retired. And about where the monster home run that Emil Brown hit in batting practice last season landed (over the truck in left field). We watched the fountains, and the video display board. And the magical baseball atmosphere began to do its thing.

Bear and I headed to the Royals gift shop. He looked at Royals caps. He examined the Royals banners. And he looked at various other trinkets that intrigued him. Then I took him to the Royals Hall of Fame display. I rattled off everything I knew about each player and coach and he took it all in. As game time approached, he treated me to lunch, and then we took our excellent Club Box seats on the first base side—we had to have good seats for his first game.

Throughout the game, Bear stayed engaged. He listened as I complained about Redman not throwing strikes, and then about Bell leaving him in too long. He clapped when Berroa hit his first home run of the season. He commented about how hard Santana threw. He stayed optimistic even though we were down 6-1, and then 7-1, throughout most of the game. He cheered again when we posted a two-spot in the bottom of the eighth. And he never suggested that we leave early. In a sense, I witnessed the making of a real Royals fan, and maybe even a baseball fan.

Here's a photo of Bear at his first game in Kauffman Stadium:

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Redman Pulled Early

When Mark Redman can't throw his "fastball" for strikes early in the count, nobody is going to swing at a 77 mph change up that bounces two feet in front of the plate. I'm not sure why anybody would swing at such a pitch to begin with, but I know the chances are higher if he actually starts out 0-1 rather than 1-0. In the second inning today, Redman fell behind repeatedly and bounced a handful of pitches to John Buck, and unfortunately, Bell didn't yank Redman until he'd given up five runs in the inning. Spotting Johann Santana to a five-run lead, no matter how bad he's been pitching probably wasn't a great idea.

Mike Wood came in and stopped the bleeding and gave up just one run over the next four innings. But Santana was too good—striking out 10 and walking none. He had complete command of his change up and made several Royals hitters look foolish. But he started to tire and in the eighth we got a couple more runs off of him to make the score 7-3, but that's all we could do and that was the final score.

We had a couple of guys playing out of position again. Graffanino was at first. German was in center (probably our best option until DeJesus returns). Mientkiewicz sat because he had a sore shoulder. And this was probably the best line up we could have put out there today, but it's not good enough against a guy like Santana. On a positive note, Mike Sweeney had two hits today. Given that he missed so much time in Spring Training, let's hope that he's just about got his timing back. We desperately need his high average and his ability to drive in runs.

Tomorrow night we begin a new series against the A's. Joe Mays (0-2, 10.59) goes against Dan Haren (0-2, 5.60).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hernandez Outstanding in Debut

I'm guessing that not a single pundit in all of baseball thought that Runelvys Hernandez would throw seven shutout innings tonight and only give up two hits after his horrendous outings in Omaha, but somehow he pulled it off. He didn't even walk one hitter. His diving change up looked as good as ever, as evidenced by the 12 ground ball outs he recorded. And with the exception of Joe Mays, our rotation has finally put together a nice little run.

And while our hitting wasn't quite what you'd hope for, it was good enough to get the 3-1 win. Grudzielanek was 3-for-4, including a triple to lead off the fourth inning that set up the Royals first run. Baker pitched us tough, but we finally broke through against him in the sixth inning on a Grudzielanek single, an RBI double by Stairs, and an RBI single by Brown. Now I'm hoping that we can come up big tomorrow and take the series.

Before the game, Mientkiewicz said something in the pre-game show that I thought was profound. He said that when the Royals win a game, the players are giddy in the clubhouse. And when they win a series, even the Kansas City media seems surprised. Mientkiewicz said that a win shouldn't produce giddiness and that home teams ought to win series. In other words, winning should be expected. Our clubhouse has desperately needed a guy like Mientkiewicz for a long time.

Tomorrow afternoon, we're sending Mark Redman (0-0, 4.91) against Johann Santana (0-3, 4.81). I'm planning to make the trip to KC for the game. Hope to see you there.

Elarton's Effort for Naught

Scott Elarton pitched shutout ball for seven innings last night, working his way out of a difficult jam in the seventh inning, only to see the bullpen blow the game. But first, regarding Elarton—the guy looked masterful. He only walked one guy, while allowing just three hits. His command was dead on, but I was most impressed with his curveball. He threw it for called strikes and he kept it down, so that when Twinkie players took a rip at one, they weren't able to do much with it.

Now for the bullpen. You'd think that the set up guy (Sisco) would automatically get the call in a one-run game going into the eighth inning. But for some reason, Bell turned to Luke Hudson, who gave up three successive singles to Ford, Sierra, and Stewart in just seven pitches. I'm guessing that Twinkie hitters had no problem seeing Hudson's stuff. Throw in passed ball, a throw on a sacrifice fly from Emil Brown from short left field that bounced at least four times, and later an error by Mark Teahen, and that spells a 2-1 loss—as well it should.

In addition to struggling defensively, the Royals couldn't score against Kyle Lohse who had an ERA over 11.00 coming into the game. They got on base—but couldn't do anything about it. In fact, the Royals left 27 guys on base. Reggie Sanders was responsible for eight of them. You just can't expect to win when you do things like that.

Tonight, Runelvys Hernandez will make his first start of the season after proving very little in Omaha (1-2, 10.67). The Royals point to his "poor location" as his culprit while in the minors. Isn't that pretty important in the major leagues as well? Isn't it more important? And while the Royals claim that Hernandez is back on track physically, he has a long way to go to make amends with teammates. Wood and Sisco have voiced their displeasure with him. And he's refusing to talk to reporters. That's not going to make for a good mix if he gets shelled again tonight.

The Twinkies are sending Scott Baker (1-1, 3.31) to the mound against Hernandez. This going to be a tough one to watch.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Photos from the Cleveland Series

Affeldt Shuts Down Indians

Behind another strong effort from Jeremy Affeldt, the Royals won their second straight game against the Indians yesterday. Affeldt gave up one earned run in 5.1 innings. He threw 94 pitches, which is more than I'd like to see in just five innings of work, but he rarely nibbled. Indian hitters worked the count, but Affeldt wasn't afraid to go after guys. He struck out six and in addition to spotting his fastball early in the count, and then changing speeds nicely with his curveball, he was also able to locate his cutter. And finally, on April 23, a Royal starter has a win.

Reggie Sanders got another day off (which again is an odd thing to me considering that today is an off day), and we had guys playing out of position again on defense, but we found a way to win anyway. Graffanino started at third and played adequately in the field (he also went 3-for-4 at the plate). Esteban German made a nice grab in center—especially for a guy who has never played the outfield before this season. He may turn out to be a valuable guy to have on our bench. Considering the fact that he's hitting .429 average right now, he'll probably see more playing time than originally anticipated.

As much as I've harped on Berroa this season, I've got to give him credit for playing a huge role in our 5-1 victory on Sunday. He was 4-for-4, and made a couple of great plays at shortstop—one of which was a marvelous diving stab to his right in the final inning that he converted into a double play to end the game. And after blowing Affeldt's last outing in Chicago by booting a ball, Berroa picked up Affeldt this time.

Mientkiewicz, who Bell penciled in as the clean up guy, continued to hit, going 2-for-4. And he made several more outstanding plays at first base on poor throws from infielders. He's turning out to be more valuable than I would have ever imagined.

Elmer Dessens had another excellent outing, going 2.1 innings and giving up no runs.

I don't have a ton of great photos from either game this weekend, but I'll post a few of them later today.

Tomorrow, we start a new series with the Twinkies by sending Scott Elarton (0-4, 4.07) against Kyle Lohse (1-1, 11.57). Let's see if we can extend the streak to three games.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Losing Streak Ends

The losing streak is finally over. The Royals hammered the Indians tonight 11-5, boosted by timely hitting, and an abnormally wild Paul Byrd. And while Joe Mays pitched well for the first few innings, he started falling behind guys. And, with a 7-run lead in the fifth inning, he started walking guys. Bell removed him with two outs in the fifth inning and Mays wasn't happy. To a degree I can understand why he wasn't happy, but I hope he was dissatisfied with himself. He's the one who walked guys with a huge lead.

Mike Wood came on in relief and pitched 4.1 innings without giving up any earned runs. He changed speeds nicely and often had hitters guessing. Wood seems to be a perfect fit for such outings and while he actually got the win, he really saved the game for the Royals. After Mays gave up four runs in the fifth inning, you couldn't help thinking that we'd find a way to lose this game. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

Mark Teahen didn't play tonight because he has a sore throwing arm. Sounds like he'll get the day off tomorrow as well. Esteban German took his spot at third and looked out of place. I can see Graf getting the start there tomorrow. Shane Costa still doesn't look comfortable in center. He doesn't seem to be able to pick up the ball. He misplayed a ball out there again tonight and it fell in for a double. As much as Shane is hitting, I still think we need to bring Guiel up to take over center until DeJesus gets back. Guiel hit his sixth home run of the season in Omaha tonight.

This afternoon, we got word that Runelvys Hernandez will probably be activated and start the game on Wednesday against the Twins in Kansas City. I have no clue what the Royals are thinking on this one. Hernandez is 1-2 with a 10.67 ERA in Omaha. Why not wait to see if he can get his ERA under double digits before bringing him up?

Tomorrow, we're sending Jeremy Affeldt (0-2, 8.10) against Jason Johnson (2-0, 1.83 ERA). Let's make it two in a row.

Royals Lose Eleventh Straight

The 6-5 loss last night to the Indians extended our losing streak to eleven games, but at least we still have a little fight left. We were down by three runs early, but we fought back to tie the game in sixth inning—only to give up three more runs the next inning. But we rallied for two in the bottom of the ninth—falling one run short of extending the game.

With that said, you have to question the idea of pulling Mientkiewicz from the lineup and giving the start to Graffanino at first base. If this were a platoon situation, you could understand it, since Cliff Lee is a big lefty, but Mientkiewicz was right on the ball against Randy Johnson last week, and he doesn't appear to bail out against lefties, so the move didn't make a lot of sense. And it ended up hurting us defensively.

The left side of our infield is bad. Mientkiewicz makes Teahen and Berroa much better by scooping their bad throws and by coming off the bag when necessary. Nothing against Graf. He's just not a first baseman. And when Grudzielanek and Teahen made poor throws yesterday, Graf wasn't able to make either play. First basemen must be able to scoop the ball.

I suspect that David DeJesus' injury was one of the reasons that Graffanino was in the lineup. We really don't have a leadoff hitter when DeJesus is out, but since Graf handles the bat well, he's a good candidate in a pinch. But we've got to find a place for him to play defensively where he can excel. Right now, I'd even vote for having him play short, but for whatever reason, Berroa seems entrenched in there—even though he ran into another out on the bases last night.

The Royals added relief pitcher, Joe Nelson, to the roster before the game and they placed DeJesus on the DL. Nelson pitched one inning last night, striking out one, walking one, and he didn't give up any runs. He's the twelfth pitcher on the roster, and I'm thinking that the way things are going, we need at least twelve pitchers.

I'm headed to the K tonight to see Joe Mays (0-2, 11.68 ERA) go against former Royal Paul Byrd (2-1, 7.02).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gordon's Rookie Card

Alex Gordon's rookie card is apparently going for as much as $2,500 and he's never played a single inning at the major league level. Turns out that Topps wasn't supposed to release his rookie card since he didn't play at the major league level in 2005 and he wasn't on the 25-man roster when they went to print, but for some reason, an undisclosed amount of his cards were printed before Topps realized and fixed their error. You can read the full story in the Wichita Eagle if you are interested.

Joe Ruocco, the owner of Rock's Dugout, took a bit of a swipe at the Royals in the article when asked why he thinks people have so much interest in Gordon's card. According to the article, he said that he "believes the interest in the card is connected to Gordon being a high draft pick, as well as collectors considering it an extremely limited card." And then he said this, "It's not because he's with the Royals." I haven't collected cards in years, but I never remember rookie cards having value based upon the team a guy played for, but rather because he was putting up big numbers, so demand for his rookie card was high. I'm not sure why Ruocco said what he did, but maybe he's just frustrated like all the rest of us.

Apes Set to Return

Kevin Appier is set to make one final run at a return to the big leagues. He accepted the Mariners' invitation for extended Spring Training after he partially tore his right calf muscle in mid-March, and they are about to give him the ball in Tacoma where he'll work in blocks of four or five innings. His desire to prove that he can still pitch is strong, and his 90 mph fastball may just help him do it. Yes, he's throwing 90 mph again.

Apes hasn't pitched at the big league level for two full years, but at 38, he's convinced he can still do it. And if you look at the Mariners' rotation, in which Jamie Moyer is the ace, you have to think that Apes has a shot. Nothing against Moyer. The guy knows how to pitch and he knows how to win. But that's the point. So does Appier. Now the question is, will his body cooperate? I sure hope so.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

And the Streak Hits Ten

If your team has lost nine games in a row, the last thing you do is give your two best hitters the day off—especially when the next day is an off day. But for some reason, Bell gave Sweeney and Sanders a vacation day and we ran an odd lineup out onto the field. Costa played right field—so much for the "he can play center" claim. Esteban German played center even though he has never played a single game in the outfield in his major league career. And of course, he misplayed a ball. And Paul Bako played again in place of Buck. That's not a huge drop off, and some might even say it's an improvement. But overall, this lineup looked like a few that Pena ran out whenever he wanted to waive the white flag.

And predictably, we did nothing at the plate (this is a glimpse at what a post-Sweeney lineup might look like). Jose Contreras, the number three guy in the Sox rotation, nearly no-hitting us. And while you'd like to see a solid single break it up, I'll take the check swing dribbler up the third base line that Mientkiewicz hit. Anything to avoid further embarrassment. We went on to get two more hits—but couldn't find a way to cross the plate, so we lost 4-0. The Royals only managed one run and eleven hits in three games in Chicago.

Scott Elarton wasn't sharp, and that didn't help matters. He walked five guys and gave up three earned runs in 4.1 innings. Hats off to Hudson, Dessens, and Burgos for not allowing any runs once they got the ball.

But now the losing streak stands at ten and people are talking. And googling. In the past couple of days, people have found this blog by googling things like "royals miserable" and "royal's losing streak 2005." I don't know what is worse—the fact that they are looking for such things or the fact that I've written about them. But as Royals fans, we are in this together, and since most of these inquiries are coming from the Kansas City area, I'm going to assume that Royals fans really do want to see things turned around, but they are just trying to become more informed about the team. Yeah, that might be a stretch, but I'd hate to think that our own fans are finding glee over our struggles.

On a positive note, Zack Greinke is back in camp in Arizona. The Star published an article about his return this morning. The guy is obviously struggling emotionally and you've got to feel for him. I'm proud of the way the Royals treated him though:

"I couldn't have done this without Allard, (manager) Buddy (Bell) and my parents," he says. "They’ve done so much more than they needed to do or should have done. I'm still amazed by it. When I left, I thought they'd just kick me out the door. The way they've done it, I wasn't expecting it. It's just been incredible."

What a great reminder that life is about so much more than baseball.

The Royals head home now to begin a series against the Cleveland Indians. I'm going to make it to the K for two of the three games. Hopefully I'll have some decent photos to post upon my return. Tomorrow, the Royals will send Mark Redman (0-0, 5.40) to the mound against Cliff Lee (1-1, 2.89).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Affeldt's Outing Ruined

Here's the thing about Angel Berroa. He's a horrible fielder, who doesn't hit, and who doesn't run the bases well. And he often takes mental vacations during the middle of games. So why exactly is he on a major league roster? Granted, he has a strong arm and a little pop in his bat, but give me a sure-handed, light-hitting, hard-playing, run-of-the-mill shortstop any day over Berroa.

Bell said that Berroa was caught in between hops yesterday when Berroa committed the error that led to the 3-run fourth inning. It looked more to me like he nonchalantly approached the ball and failed to get in front of it and the ball skipped off the heal of his glove. If that play happens in little league, the shortstop is running laps for not staying with the ball and for not knocking it down with his body. But this is the major leagues—where prima donna's like Berroa are accepted and expected.

I certainly would have liked to have seen Jeremy Affeldt close the door on the White Sox after Berroa's two-out error, but when you give four outs to a team like the White Sox, they are bound to take advantage of it, and they did by winning the game 3-1. Afterward, Affeldt didn't make any excuses: "You’ve just got to make the pitch," he said about his battle with Juan Uribe, "and keep it from getting out of hand. I just had a little brain cramp."

Unfortunately, the Royals couldn't take advantage of an otherwise outstanding outing from Affeldt who pitched six innings, giving up no earned runs, striking out three, and walking three. Affeldt was aggressive—often getting ahead in the count, and he changed speeds much better this time out. He threw his change up for strikes the second time through the line up and he mixed in his devastating curve ball. This was the Affeldt all of us were hoping to see, and I'm thinking that as much as our bullpen needs a little help, our rotation needs Affeldt more.

This afternoon, we're sending Scott Elarton (0-3, 3.60 ERA), back to the mound. He'll go against Javier Vazquez (0-1, 6.23 ERA).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Royals Drop Eighth Straight

You know you are having a bad season when you're number two starter gives up six runs in five innings and his ERA goes down. I guess it could have been worse for Mays. He gave up five runs in the first inning. And it's the same old story:

"Just sitting there trying to aim the ball too much—not being aggressive and up in the zone," Mays said.

At least he's honest. He's nibbling, passive, and that almost always puts pitchers behind in the count and forces them to throw strikes on hitters counts. I don't know what the Royals ought to do about Mays. They are paying the guy $4 million to be a starter. But after the Lima fiasco last season, you have to be a little gun shy about a guy like Mays and you have to wonder if he's ever going to get it turned around. He hasn't had a good season since 2001 when he went 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA. But that's the only season in his six year career in which he's even been over .500 and it's by far his best ERA.

At some point, you've got to chalk this up as a mistake and take the ball from him. But of course, admitting a $4 million mistake won't be easy for Baird—who must already be looking around his office and wondering if this will indeed be his last season. Our problem of course is that we don't really have a number two starter to take his place, so we'd have to move another guy there who doesn't match up well with numbers twos on other teams. But somebody has to be at the top of the rotation and I hope that the next time through, Joe Mays is not one of those people.

Of course, it hardly mattered that Mays was awful last night. Jose Contreras one-hit us for seven innings and we lost 9-0. While his stuff was nasty, I'm getting a little tired of that being an excuse, aren't you? First it was Rogers, then it was Buehrle, and now it is Contreras. All three are fine pitchers and all three can be dominant at times, but that hardly excuses the .174 average of DeJesus, the .114 average of Sweeney, the .216 average of Teahen, the .220 average of Brown, and the .231 average of Buck.

Thankfully, Stemle was placed on the DL and Joel Peralta was called up to fill his spot—hopefully for good. He made 28 appearances for the Angels last season and was 1-0 with a 3.89 ERA. Peralta didn't look all that steady though when he came in last night during mop up duty. He gave up one run and he walked two guys in 1.2 innings.

Tonight, Jeremy Affeldt (0-1, 14.73) goes against Jon Garland (1-1, 13.94).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Royals Embarrassed by the Rays

The Royals 9-5 loss last night was our seventh straight at Tropicana Field. If the Devil Rays ever lick their chops, it must be when they see us coming. The sad thing is they are missing Huff and Baldelli. With the exception of Greinke, we aren't missing anybody and they ran us out of town.

This was also our seventh loss in a row. And references to the 19-game losing streak from last season are already being made. I'm sure the joke writers for Leno and Letterman are huddled together to see if they can put a new spin on old story and still make it funny. The thing about jokes is—they always contain an element of truth. If they didn't, they wouldn't be funny.

This streak is different that last season though. Last season, we were about as fundamentally sound as a group of 35 year-old recreational league softball players. We missed cut off men. We had no clue how to run the bases. We swung for the fences on every pitch as if we'd never heard of the concept of situational baseball. And, as you remember, it was difficult to watch.

This season we are bad in a different sort of way—our pitching. Somehow we've amassed a staff who is absolutely terrified of the strike zone. Five of our twelve pitchers who have seen action this season have an ERA over 12.00. Our staff ERA is 7.45—the worst in MLB, by far. We've walked 58 guys in 93 innings. Opponents are hitting .315. And half way through the month of April, not one of our starters has won a game.  

Redman made his season debut yesterday, and while he wasn't exactly sharp, after throwing 87 pitches in five innings, he left the game with a 4-3 lead. Stemle, in what is sure to be his last appearance in Royal blue for a while, gave up 6 ER in 2.1 IP and we had no chance after that. According to an article in the Star this morning: "Club officials planned to discuss possible personnel moves Sunday night on the charter flight to Chicago." Let's hope they follow through.

Affeldt has been placed back into the rotation because Denny Bautista went on the 15-day DL again. Mays is staying in the rotation (talk about a good plot for a horror movie). And Wood's spot start will be just that as he moves back into the pen—at least for now.

Tonight, the Royals will send Mays (0-1, 12.86) against Jose Contreras (1-0, 1.93 ERA). Contreras in 5-0 lifetime against us with a 2.23 ERA.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More Walks, Another Loss

What can you say about a pitching staff who is afraid to throw strikes to the Devil Rays? Eight more walks—four of which came around to score, and we lost by three runs, 6-3. Wood walked Gomes to lead off the second and he scored. And Wood walked Crawford to lead off the third and he scored as well. Then in the big three run seventh inning for the Rays, the Royals walked two more guys. Another pathetic performance by a staff who looks clueless.

During the fourth inning, we had a shot to put up a big inning, but after Mientkiewicz doubled to leave off the inning, followed by a single by Brown, Teahen hit into a double play. And then in the seventh, with two guys on and one out, Sweeney hit into a double play. Horrible pitching and a failure to get the job done with runners in scoring position will almost always lead to a loss. Tonight was no exception.

We did get a little good news. Mark Redman will be activated before the game tomorrow and make the start. Affeldt will move to the pen for now, and the plan is to move Wood back there as well. And according to an article in the Star today: "Tentative plans call for Greinke to resume baseball-related activities before the end of the month at the organization’s year-round complex in Surprise, Ariz." So, maybe help is on the way. But Greinke is going to need to go through a simulated spring training first.

Let's hope we can end this losing streak tomorrow because things aren't going to get any easier in Chicago next week.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Royals Let One Slip Away

Who would have thought that it would be possible to lose a heartbreaker to the Devil Rays? But obviously it is possible and we just pulled it off. After pitching a gem through six innings, and with the Royals up 2-0 going into the seventh, Elarton looked to be on cruise control.

Then he walked Ty Wigginton on six pitches. After recording an out, Tomas Perez put down a decent bunt on the third base side that was intended to advance the runner and for some reason Elarton hurdled the ball and made the barehanded play for Teahen almost impossible. Perez beat out Teahen's throw. When Elarton walked the number nine hitter, Joey Gathright, he was clearly overthrowing the ball because he was out of gas. He probably should have been taken out of the game after Perez's bunt single, but that's easy to say now.

Dessens came in and got force at home for the second out, but the bags were full. Jorge Cantu hit a ball to deep center field and Costa took a bad route to the ball and looked like a ballet dancer as he jumped too early and missed the ball entirely. All three runs scored. That's all the Rays needed, but just for good measure, they added a four spot in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach. They went on to win 7-2.

The argument for keeping Costa instead of Guiel was that Costa was younger. We were assured that Costa could play center, but after seeing the fiasco in Yankee Stadium and now this one, he's not even close to being a major league center fielder. Aaron Guiel would have made both of those catches. And the outcomes might have been different. Even if they weren't, we would have still been in both games. We've got to have somebody on the roster who can back up DeJesus. And right now, the only guy who fits that role is Aaron Guiel. Hopefully Guiel and Costa trade places in the next day or two.

Mike Wood (0-1, 8.31) gets his first start of the year tomorrow against Seth McClung (0-2, 13.50). We're already sinking in the standings (we're 2-7 after tonight). We need Wood to step up big tomorrow night.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Evil Yankees Just Too Much

Denny Bautista's line wasn't exactly stellar today (4 ER in 5 IP), but he really didn't pitch as bad as the numbers indicate. He threw strikes—striking out seven guys. And the only inning in which the Yankees got to him, they hit 49-hoppers up in the middle that found their way into the outfield—well, that's not entirely true. One ball almost knocked Bautista off the mound, but the others just found a hole. Four successive singles in the second inning, which led to three runs, was all the evil Yankees really needed to win this game. But Bautista hung tough, and when he left the game after five innings (which I thought was a little odd—his pitch count was at 90, but he clearly had more left), the Royals were down 4-1.

Sisco wasn't exactly impressive in the sixth, but after throwing 23 pitches, he got out of the inning without any more damage. Stemle got us through the seventh. And when Graffanino hit a solo home run in the top half of the eighth, we pulled to within two runs. Then Bell put in Jimmy Gobble. The evil Yankees batted around and scored five runs off of him. Gobble took us completely out of the game. And it wouldn't have been so tough to take if he hadn't walked the number nine hitter, former Royal Kelly Stinnett, with two outs—to set the table for Johnny Damon to go deep. Although, in Gobble's defense, he was completely robbed on a pitch that was clearly strike three. Damon hit the next pitch out of the park.

We definitely had a couple of good things happen in this game though. Doug Mientkiewicz was 3-for-4 on a day in which he probably thought he wouldn't even play because of the lefty-lefty match up with Johnson. And Esteban German really looked good at the plate in his first start of the year at third base. He got two hits off Johnson, and another later in the game. He's fast, appears to have great bat control and he was patient at the plate (he saw 22 total pitches and ran the count full one time before hitting a double).

After eight games, we're already 3.5 games out. But it could be worse—especially given the way we've pitched. Redman will be back soon. Unfortunately, he won't solve all of our pitching problems. But it would be nice not to see nine or ten runs scored against us during his turn in the rotation.

We're off to Tampa to open a new series against the Devil Rays tomorrow night. Scott Elarton (0-2, 3.29) gets his third start. He goes against Scott Kazmir (1-1, 5.68).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pitching Problems Continue

Our pitching staff has given up 51 runs in 7 games for a nice 7.28 runs per game average. Even if we were playing slow pitch softball (and it sort of looks like we are), we wouldn't be able to score than many runs on a nightly basis. We've scored 32 runs in those same 7 games for an average of 4.57 runs per game.

After Affeldt was hammered for 6 earned runs (one of which was a joke—Costa simply dropped a ball that was ruled a hit) in 3.1 innings, his ERA climbed to 14.73. We have another starting pitcher, Joe Mays, with two outings who has a 12.86 ERA. And over the past two days in New York, our staff has walked 17 batters—9 of which have scored.

What is it about our staff that makes them afraid to throw strikes? Yes, they are playing the $200 million evil Yankees. Yes, the evil Yankees have a lot of power. So what? Even the best of them (Rodriguez) only hit 48 home runs last year. Yeah, 48 home runs is a lot, but it's not like he hits one every game. I don't know what the answer is, but we need to figure out a way to get our guys to stop being so afraid of giving up the long ball.

Affeldt had two strikes on 8 hitters in his brief 3.1 IP, but he only got two of them out. The home run that Sheffield hit in the first inning was on a 1-2 pitch. After he got two strikes on guys, he started to nibble. And I didn't see a pitching chart, but Affeldt didn't change speeds nearly enough either. Thankfully, he's abandoned the fork ball from a year ago that Hanson had him throwing, but now he doesn't seem to be willing to throw his change up. And I have no idea why he isn't throwing his curve ball more often.

Mark Redman can't get back quickly enough. Who would have thought we'd be saying that? Maybe with Redman, Elarton, and Bautista, we'll have some semblance of a chance at keeping teams in the single digits in runs.

Tomorrow afternoon, we get to do it all again. Denny Bautista (0-0, 1.50 ERA) goes against The Unit (1-1, 2.40 ERA). Hopefully the 10-run rule won't be in affect. And hopefully, we can finally break this ridiculous 13-game losing streak in evil Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mays Rocked Again

Joe Mays had another miserable outing (4 ER in 2.2 IP)—the worst of which was the five walks he gave up. His sinker didn't sink and even when it did, he couldn't spot it. The last place a pitcher like Mays should ever throw a pitch to Jason Giambi is low and inside, and of course, that's exactly where his 0-2 pitch strayed in the first inning even though Buck was set up outside. Giambi didn't miss it and the evil Yankees jumped out to a 3-0 lead on his home run.

After getting through the second inning unscathed, Mays walked four guys in the third inning. Thankfully, Mike Wood came in and stopped the bleeding. If Bell would have left Mays in the game he would have given up double digits. This was only Mays' second start, but he just doesn't appear to have able to locate his pitches like he used to pre-Tommy John surgery days. And an 86 mph fastball that isn't located well ends up in the fountains.

Mike Wood has replaced Runelvys Hernandez in the rotation (after his disaster in Omaha a couple of days ago) for now. With Howell and Snyder both pitching well their first time through the rotation in Omaha, I guess we have a couple of other options if Mays continues to pitch so poorly, but neither of those guys are number two types. Our rotation is in big trouble, but we've known that for a while now.

Offensively, we're doing okay. We scored three runs this afternoon in the third inning to tie the score at 4-4. Sanders hit a solo home run. Brown doubled. Teahen had a nice 6-pitch walk. Berroa swung at the first pitch (imagine that) and singled. Then Buck singled. After the Royals broke the tie in the sixth inning, it looked like we might win this one. When we scored two more runs in the seventh inning (a Shane Costa home run and an RBI single from Sanders), we had a 7-4 read going into the 8th—with Sisco coming in. He got rocked, and so did Burgos, who followed him. Burgos gave up the game-winning home run to Jeter.

Tomorrow, we'll try again. We're sending Jeremy Affeldt (0-0, 13.50 ERA) against Shawn Chacon (0-1, 7.71 ERA).

Angel Berroa finally drew a walk today, so the initial Berroa Walk Watch ends. But a new one will start soon. This time we'll be counting the number of games it takes Berroa to hit double figures in walks.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Buehrle Just Too Good

The Royals sported a slightly different line up yesterday. David DeJesus missed his second consecutive game with a strained left hamstring and it sounds like he may be headed to the DL. Bell said that he'd wait to see how DeJesus feels in New York before they make any decisions. With DeJesus out of the line up and lefty Mark Buehrle on the mound, Bell gave Mientkiewicz the day off and put Graffanino at first. Graf hit lead off, and Shane Costa, who played center, hit in the nine hole.

Buehrle shut the Royals down for eight innings—allowing no runs, 6 hits, and only 1 walk. Elarton pitched well, giving up 3 earned runs in 8 innings, but not well enough. I'd sure like to see him in the number three spot in the rotation because he doesn't match up against guys like Buehrle. Unfortunately, we don't really have an ace, so Elarton just needs to continue to keep us in games while hoping that we can find a way to scrape out a couple of runs.

We had a couple of shots in this game. In the sixth inning Graffanino tried to stretch a single into a double, but Scott Podsednik threw him out. According to the replays, it looked like Graf might have beat the tag, but that's the way it goes in baseball sometimes. Then in the ninth, with the Royals trailing 3-0, Sweeney blistered a ball toward third base. Crede made a great diving stab and when he raised his glove to show the ball to the umpire, it came out of his glove. The third base umpire called Sweeney safe but he was overruled by the home plate umpire. The next guy up, Reggie Sanders blasted a home run, but it was just a harmless solo shot and the Royals lost 3-1.

The guys in blue leave for New York this afternoon to begin a series which includes three afternoon games on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Tuesday, the Royals will send Joe Mays (0-1, 12.46 ERA) to the mound against Chien-Ming Wang (0-0, 3.86 ERA).

After the Hernandez fiasco yesterday, the Royals are considering their options for the fifth spot in the rotation, which will come into play in Tampa this weekend. Sounds like Mike Wood may get a spot start.

Angel Berroa Walk Watch: 5 games played without any walks.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hernandez Shelled in Omaha

I went to watch Runelvys Hernandez pitch this afternoon in Omaha in what was supposed to be a tune up before he came up to join the Royals rotation this coming week in Tampa. Reports say he's down 20 pounds from the spring and that he looked sharp in the process of throwing 94 pitches in a simulated game last Tuesday.

The Runelvys Hernandez who showed up today didn't look to be in much better shape and he certainly wasn't sharp. Here's his unofficial line: 8 ER, 7 H, 4 BB in 3 innings of work. He threw 72 pitches by my count. He was up in the zone and the Nashville Sounds jumped all over him. Nashville catcher Mike Rivera hit a towering home run to left field in the third inning and lefty first baseman Brad Nelson took him deep to the opposite field.

Hernandez still looks out of shape and he had an extremely difficult time getting ahead in the count. He seemed to think he could go right after every hitter with his fastball and slider without ever changing speeds. Unfortunately, he couldn't even throw his hard stuff for strikes. I don't see how Baird or Bell can think about bringing him up and starting him in Tampa next weekend. He's not ready.

Here are a few photos of Hernandez, and one of Casey the mascot:

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Royals Even Their Record

Behind a strong effort by Denny Bautista, the Royals stepped up big today with a 4-3 win to even their record at 2-2 on the season. Bautista walked too many guys (5), but he only gave up one hit in six innings. McClure was certainly happy with his performance.

"He was outstanding," McClure said. "He didn't really overthrow. He used his fastball on both sides of the plate, two-seam and four-seam. He was a lot of fun to watch."

After Mays overthrew the ball a few days ago and after Affeldt did the same thing in the first inning last night, seeing Bautista stay within himself was a nice change—and odd for somebody with as little experience as he has. But knowing that he was able to use his two-seam and four-seam fastball so effectively is encouraging. I don't think I'd say he was "outstanding" since he walked so many guys, but I'm not going to complain about his outing. We needed a good outing against a great offense and we got it.

How about the game that Grudzielanek had? He went 3-for-4 and got a crucial single in the eighth—setting the stage for Mike Sweeney's game-winning two-run dinger. Reggie Sanders had two more RBIs and appears to be the best protection we've ever had behind Sweeney. Hopefully both of them can stay healthy.

Our bullpen stumbled a little when Sisco gave up two runs and the lead in the top of the eighth inning. But Dessens and Burgos were both perfect to end the game.

Tomorrow, the Royals have a chance to sweep the Sox. The Royals send Elarton back to the mound. He'll be going against Mark Buehrle.

Angel Berroa BB Watch: 4 games played without any walks.

Royals Come from Behind

The 11-7 win last night was not exactly what I had in mind when I said that the veterans needed to step up and the Royals needed to play a fundamentally sound game, but a win is a win and who would have expected us to come from behind after trailing by six runs early?

Jeremy Affeldt was overthrowing in the first inning and everything was up. The first six guys reached base and before he ever got an out, he'd given up five runs. But then, he settled down—probably because he was tired—and he found a rhythm. He gave up another run in the third, but he had much better control by then. After the Royals posted a five-spot in the fourth inning to put them within one run of the White Sox, oddly, Bell removed Affeldt from the game. He'd only thrown 79 pitches—which is a ridiculous number after four innings, but after settling down, and after the Royals fought their way back into the game, you would have thought that Affeldt would have been able to pitch another inning or two.

Mike Wood came on in relief and gave up another run to put the Royals down by two. But the Royals came up with two runs in the bottom half of the inning and we had a new ball game. And you could sense that the Royals were going to pull it out. Garland couldn't find his control and the Royals hit his mistakes. Before he got the hook, Garland gave up 9 ER and 10 H in 5.1 IP.

Elmer Dessens came on in relief of Wood and looked as flawless as he did in the spring. Looks like he's going to be quite a find.

A number of Royals had a big night at the plate. Mark Grudzielanek was 2-for-4 with 3 runs scored. Mike Sweeney was 1-for-3 with 2 BB. Reggie Sanders was 2-for-4 with 1 RBI. Emil Brown was 2-for-4 with 1 RBI. Angel Berroa was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. And John Buck had a huge night plugging the gap twice and going 2-for-3 with 2 RBI.

This team can score runs. Now we need to figure out a way to keep the other team from scoring so many. With Mark Redman pitching well on a rehab assignment in Wichita a couple of nights ago, he appears to be ready to join the rotation. And I'll be interested to see how Runelvys Hernandez does in his first start for Omaha tomorrow. Supposedly he's lost quite a bit of weight and is moving closer to being ready to join the rotation in Kansas City. If both guys are healthy and on their game, they would be a nice addition to a rotation that is in dire need of help.

This afternoon, the Royals send Denny Bautista to the mound. He'll go against newly acquired Javier Vazquez for the Sox.

Angel Berroa BB Watch: 3 games played without any walks.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Veterans Need to Shine

In recent years, when the Royals got off to a bad start, I've been one of those fans who calls for patience. I remind people that it's a long season, we don't need to panic, and our team is better than this. But the game tonight against the White Sox is huge. Tonight we find out if the new roster, composed of many veterans, can stay focused, and put together a good performance after an embarrassing performance.

And at the age of 26, after being bounced around from starter to closer to middle reliever, and after missing a lot of games due to injury, we need Jeremy Affeldt to step up big tonight in his first shot at the rotation in a couple of years. We need his noon to six curve ball. We need his 96 mph fastball. We need him to stay within himself. And this might sound odd, but we need Affeldt to be a little off the plate. His career WHIP is 1.49 and it's not because he walks too many guys (he's walked 136 guys in four season). He gives up too many hits (358 in 329.2 IP). And the hits that he gives up tend to come in bunches. He seems to get so pumped up after giving up a hit that he feels like he's got to go right after the next guy, and when that guy gets a hit, the big inning is on.

Tonight is about minimizing big innings from the mound, playing good defense, being patient against Jon Garland (an 18-game winner in 2005), and not making any boneheaded plays on the bases. Actually, that's what every game should be about, but this one especially. Staring 0-3 with two more games against the World Series Champions this weekend, followed by three games next week in New York against the evil Yankees has doomed season written all over it. But starting 1-2, with a chance to even our record on Saturday sounds a lot better.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Mays of Old

What a train wreck. Tigers 14, Royals 3.

We were never in the game. Joe Mays fell behind early and often in the first inning in route to giving up three runs before the inning was over. He gave up 6 ER in 4.1 IP and looked much like the sub-par Joe Mays of 2005. If Joe Mays is the best we've got for a number two starter, we're in big trouble.

At the plate, the Royals only managed six hits and were often overmatched by Jeremy Bonderman and his nasty slider. At one point, Denny Matthews made the funniest comment I've ever heard him make. When Emil Brown swung extremely late at an offering from Bonderman in the fifth inning, Matthews said: "And Brown swings at a memory" Maybe RR needs a new section that chronicles such funny quotes.

Trying to pinpoint the problem in this game is difficult. Horrible pitching from Mays, Stemle, and Wood. Bad defense from Emil Brown and Angel Berroa. Bad base running (can you believe that Berroa got caught napping again and ran into an out at third base on a ball hit to the left side?). And almost no production from the top four guys in the line up—only one hit by DeJesus, who tripled to lead off the game and then we couldn't find a way to get him home. Oh, and zero walks.

Now we've got another day off to think about yet another horrible start. The White Sox come in for a three game series this weekend. Jeremy Affeldt goes against Jon Garland.

Angel Berroa BB Watch: 2 games played without any walks.

Appier Reassigned

The Seattle Mariners reassigned Kevin Appier, a non-roster invitee, to minor-league camp apparently because they believe he's still got what it takes to pitch at the major league level. Unfortunately, he strained his right calf muscle covering first base in mid-March and he hasn't pitched since then. He had a 2.84 ERA in three appearances.

So, he'll go to camp and give his calf time to heal, and who knows—we may see Apes in the majors again. I sure hope so.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Royals Drop Opener

Kenny Rogers owns us. In fact, in his career, he's almost put up a Cy Young season against us. After the Tigers 3-1 win yesterday, in which Rogers gave up just 1 ER in 6 IP, he's now 19-13 against us in his career. The Royals only managed four hits (3 off Rogers) in the game, so it didn't matter how well Elarton pitched—which happened to be much better (2 ER in 5.2 IP) than most of us probably expected.

A couple of things worthy of note about this game:

We actually played good defense. Grudzielanek made a great grab on a line drive off the bat of Christ Shelton—who already had two home runs and another hit in the game. And Mientkiewicz came off the bag at first late in the game to take an errant throw from Teahen and then was still able to tag Craig Monroe out. We finished the game without any errors.

We played fundamentally sound. With the Royals down 1-0 in the fourth inning, DeJesus doubled with no outs—just barely beating the throw from Ordonez. Grudzielanek slapped the ball to Shelton at first to advance DeJesus, bringing Sweeney to the plate with a guy on third with one out and a chance to tie the game. If Ruben Gotay had been hitting in the two hole, the chances of Sweeney even getting the opportunity would have been astronomically low since Gotay seldom even makes contact with the ball as he swings out of his shoes. But Sweeney hit a harmless check swing back to Rogers and the inning looked to be over until Sanders ripped a single into the outfield to tie the game.

Unfortunately, the Royals couldn't get anything else going against Rogers and his supporting cast and three solo home runs by Tiger hitters was enough. But this is one of those games where you just tip your cap and move on without any regrets that we blew the game. We lost. And that doesn't feel nearly as bad.

The second and final game of the series will be played tomorrow afternoon at 1:10. Joe Mays goes against Jeremy Bonderman.

Angel Berroa BB Watch: 1 game played without any walks.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Berroa BB Watch

In discussing what players need to do if the Royals are going to be dramatically improved this season, KC Star columnist Joe Posnanski said one of the funny things I've ever heard: "Angel Berroa (no kid anymore) needs to stop swinging at pickoff throws to first base and keep his head in the game defensively."

Berroa has been in the major leagues for three full seasons and portions of two more. He's walked a total of 80 times while striking out 315 times in 486 games played. Last year he walked 18 times in 159 games. Maybe we should start a Berroa watch here at RR. How many games will it take Berroa to draw his first walk? And how many games will it take him to break double digits?

Opening Day 2006

Here we go. Opening Day 2006. As bad as the Royals have been the past two seasons, I still love Opening Day. Yeah, I love the optimism inherent in the first day of the season. And yeah, I love the fact that we've improved our ball club. But, whether we play well or play poorly, baseball season is upon us and that's a good thing.

How much have we improved? Nobody really knows. With Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek, we've improved our defense a little. Angel Berroa is still a poor fielding shortstop and Mark Teahen isn't the sure-handed player you'd like to see on the hot corner. Emil Brown, who moves from right to left field, leaves a lot to be desired in the outfield, but Reggie Sanders is an improvement in right.

Our offense is much improved over last season. Grud looks to be a good fit in the two hole. A healthy Sweeney in the three hole is always a beautiful sight. And he finally has a legitimate clean up hitter behind him in Sanders. With Brown and Mientkiewicz hitting in the five or six hole, we hopefully won't have to see Teahen, or Berroa, or Buck hitting in the upper two thirds of the line up. With added experience, a little more power in Sanders, and hopefully a couple of better base runners, I expect us to score more runs this season.

My biggest concern is our starting rotation. Elarton and Mays are not number one or two starters. Affeldt and Bautista seem to be on track coming out of spring training. But who knows who long it will be before Hernandez is in decent enough shape to pitch six or seven innings. Thankfully, Redman is due back soon. Greinke on the 60-day DL and if someone goes down, we'll probably need to put Wood in the rotation. I just can't see this rotation matching up well with other teams.

We'll be better than the pitiful 56-106 record we put up last year. My prediction: 71-91. My hope: 81-81. My dream…well, I won't even tell you what that is. But hey, a guy can dream, can't he? Especially on Opening Day.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

2006 Opening Day Roster

C: John Buck
1B: Doug Mientkiewicz
2B: Mark Grudzielanek
SS: Angel Berroa
3B: Mark Teahen
LF: Emil Brown
CF: David DeJesus
RF: Reggie Sanders
DH: Mike Sweeney

BENCH: Matt Stairs
BENCH: Tony Graffanino
BENCH: Esteban German
BENCH: Shane Costa
BENCH: Paul Bako

SP 1: Scott Elarton
SP 2: Joe Mays
SP 3: Jeremy Affeldt
SP 4: Denny Bautista
SP 5: Runelvys Hernandez

RP: Jimmy Gobble
RP: Mike Wood
RP: Elmer Dessens
RP: Andrew Sisco
RP: Steve Stemle

CP: Ambiorix Burgos


Staring the season on the DL:

Zack Greinke (60-day)
Bobby Madritsch (60-day)
Mark Redman (15-day)
Mike MacDougal (15-day)
Clicky Web Analytics