Thursday, June 29, 2006

Royals Lose Close Game

I’m glad to see the series in Cincinnati come to an end. We don’t have the pitching it takes to stay in games there. The Royals put up a good fight tonight—coming back from a 5-2 deficit, but after rallying to tie the game in the eighth, the Reds came back and scored a run in the bottom of the eighth and the run held up.

Bobby Keppel had another poor outing. He only lasted 2.1 IP and he gave up 4 ER and 5 hits. His ERA has climbed to 5.50 after several bad outings in a row. You have to wonder if his shot at the rotation is almost gone at this point. He showed a lot of promise in his first two starts of the season, but it’s been all downhill for him ever since.

Jeremy Affeldt was solid out of the pen—going 3.2 IP and giving no earned runs. Wellemeyer had good stuff in relief of Affeldt. Dessens struggled, as did Jimmy Gobble.

The Royals are on to St. Louis where they will take on the Cardinals this weekend in a three game series. Tomorrow night, Brandon Duckworth (1-1, 4.96) goes against former Royal Jeff Suppan (6-4, 5.09).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Too Much Long Ball

Players hit five more home runs last night at the Great American Launching Pad. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them were hit by the guys in red. Scott Elarton was atrociously bad—giving up 3 HR, 6 ER, and 8 H. He’s a fly ball pitcher in a stadium that resembles a little league park. Not a good combination.

The Reds won the game 7-2. Hopefully the Royals can bounce back and win the final game of the series to continue their hot stretch. It’d be nice to see them take a four-series winning streak into St. Louis—especially since the Cardinals are playing so poorly right now. I’m planning to visit family in the St. Louis area this weekend and I’ll be at one of the games. Hopefully I can provide you with a few good pictures next week of the Royals playing at the new Busch Stadium.

Tomorrow night, the pitching match up favors the Reds again. Bobby Keppel (0-4, 4.78) goes against Bronson Arroyo (9-4, 2.58).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 6 walks in 71 games.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stairs' Blast Wins Game

The Royals prevailed 9-8 tonight at the Great American Launching Pad in Cincinnati on a two-run home run by Matt Stairs in the top of the ninth with two outs. Stairs turned on an offering by Todd Coffey and the ball was last spotted somewhere over Kentucky. He absolutely crushed it.

As a guy who follows American League baseball much more closely than National League baseball, this is one of my first looks at the park and it seems to be a bit of a joke. It’s 370 feet to the power alley in right and 379 in left, but it doesn’t even play that long. The Royals hit four home runs and the Reds hit two. I don’t know how a pitcher can make a living in that ballpark, but obviously Bronson Arroyo has found a way to do it (he’s 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA at home—just to show you how good he is).

Unfortunately, Mike Wood wasn’t sharp tonight and he was chased after just 3.2 IP. He gave up 4 ER and 7 H and seemed to be running out of gas in the fourth after just 58 pitches. Wellemeyer was outstanding in relief—giving up no runs or hits in 2.1 IP. Dessens had a rare poor outing, but Affeldt picked him up (and ended up with the win). Burgos got the save, but not before giving up another home run.

Emil Brown finally had a break out game—going 3-for-4 with a home run and 4 RBI. He was right on everything that came his way. In addition to Brown’s home run, DeJesus, Buck, and Stairs all hit dingers.

This was another one of those not so pretty games, but a victory nonetheless. The Royals have now won 9 of their last 12 games and with the Pirates loss tonight, the Royals have caught the Pirates in the battle to no longer be the worst team in baseball. The pitching match ups over the next two days in Cincinnati favor the Reds, but let’s hope that our confidence wins the day in at least of the two games.

Tomorrow, Scott Elarton (3-8, 4.87) goes against Aaron Harang (8-5, 3.59).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sweeney Stays with Team for Now

Mike Sweeney was supposed to be headed to Wichita today, but Bell decided against it saying he wants Mike to be 100% when he returns. Sounds like Sweeney will begin his rehab assignment in Wichita on Saturday if all goes well this week in Cincinnati.

What's Going On?

“What’s going on?”

Remember that call by Denny Matthews in early April of the 2000 season after Rey Sanchez hit a walk off home run against the Baltimore Orioles? It was the third game in a row that the Royals won with a walk off home run, which is an incredible feat, but to see Sanchez do it left Matthews almost speechless.

After the worst start in franchise history to start this season, the Royals are beating up on other bad baseball teams and all of a sudden, they’ve won 8 of their last 11 games—which includes winning three series in a row. They are getting timely hitting. They are playing relatively good defense. They are patient beyond belief at the plate. And their bullpen is almost unhittable (with the exception of Burgos).

So, what is going on?

Regarding the timely hitting—I suspect that it has a lot to do with their newfound patience at the plate. Royals’ hitters drew 15 walks in the Milwaukee series, and by working the count better, they had better pitches to hit. They aren’t missing those pitches right now. But where did all of this patience come from?

The Royals currently rank 27th out of 30 teams in total walks with 206. But since Dayton Moore took over on June 8, they have walked 62 times. So, nearly 30% of their walks for the season have come in the last 17 games. The Royals are 10-7 since Moore took over and you have to wonder if his initial team meeting didn’t go something like this…

“Guys, I’m honored to be your new GM, but you need to know something. If you continue to swing at every pitch, and if you continue to show more concern for your individual stats than the success of the team, and if you continue to play poor fundamentally, you will be gone faster than Juan Gonzalez at game time. Got it?”

The Royals get a day off today. Tomorrow, things get tougher. The Royals play a surprisingly good Cincinnati team and then the Royals are off to St. Louis over the weekend. Let’s see if they can continue to play good baseball against better competition.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Winning Streak Ends

So much for the winning streak. Getting behind in games early and often isn’t the greatest game plan. And while it’s not actually part of the game plan, it sure looks that way. Our starters continue to give up runs in the first and second inning, and Bobby Keppel did it again last night, but this time, the Royals weren’t able to overcome it and they lost 7-2.

Keppel gave up 5 ER, on 8 H, in 2.1 IP. He seemed to believe that the Brewers hit good pitches. Bell seemed to think that Keppel was up in the zone. Either way, he gave up way too many runs. Affeldt was good in relief—giving up just one run in 4 innings, but the Royals couldn’t get the bats going. Although Doug Mientkiewicz did have two hits, and John Buck had three.

In fact, here’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever say—John Buck is on fire right now. He was 3-for-3 last night. He was 2-for-2 on Thursday. And he was 1-for-2 on Tuesday. He’s hitting the ball the other way and his stroke looks quite confident right now. His numbers this season are even respectable: 5 HR, 21 RBI (a little low), a .256 AVG, and a .322 OBP.

Berroa got the night off. Bell said it was a planned day of rest for Berroa. And maybe it was, but I think the fans needed a rest from Berroa as well.

Tonight, Brandon Duckworth (0-1, 3.18) goes against Doug Davis (4-4, 4.69).

Friday, June 23, 2006

Final Results of RR Poll #4

What is the main reason the Royals are so bad?

73% (22 votes): David Glass
13% (4 votes): Poor scouting
7% (2 votes): Allard Baird
3% (1 vote): Poor instruction at lower levels
3% (1 vote): Other
0% (0 votes): Realities of small market baseball
0% (0 votes): Poor managers
0% (0 votes): Underachieving players

A new poll will be up soon.

Royals Sweep the Pirates

The Royals didn’t exactly put on a baseball clinic at Kauffman Stadium yesterday en route to their 15-7 win, but the name of the game is winning, right? They completed a three game sweep of the Pirates (who have to be feeling lower than lower right now) and in the process, won their fourth game in a row for the first time this season.

Scott Elarton picked up the win while finally getting his ERA under 5.00 (4.87). Wellemeyer and Peralta stumbled in relief, but Jimmy Gobble threw two more shutout innings and saw his ERA drop to 3.99. You hate to see a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds pitching in middle relief, but Gobble does seem to excel there and we definitely need somebody like him in that position since our starters never seem to make it six innings.

Esteban German finally got a little playing time and he took advantage of it—going 3-for-4 with 2 RBI and 1 BB. Reggie Sanders was 1-for-4 with 2 BB and he scored four times. Emil Brown was 2-for-5 with 3 RBI. Tony Graffanino was 3-for-4 with 3 RBI. And John Buck was 2-for-2 with an RBI, a walk, 2 HBP, and a home run. All of those rather college “baseball” like numbers came against some horrendous pitching, but it’s nice to see that we can hit bad pitching when given the opportunity.

With two outs in the Pittsburgh half of the sixth inning, and with the Royals leading 7-3, Angel Berroa dropped a pop up and two runs scored to make it 7-5 Royals. Fans booed him incessantly after the play and then twice more when he came up to bat in later plate appearances. He later said that he lost the ball in the sun. In the Star this morning, David Boyce said “the treatment might have been a bit harsh considering all the blunders committed by both teams.”

That might be true if we weren’t talking about Angel Berroa, but we’re talking about a guy with tremendous athletic ability who doesn’t seem to have a clue how to play the game and he doesn’t seem all that interested in learning. We’re talking about a guy who routinely makes baserunning blunders that most little leaguers don’t make. And we’re talking about a guy who has never seen a pitch that he hasn’t considered swinging at. If I had to guess, fans are simply tired of seeing Angel Berroa as our starting shortstop and they want somebody else. His error gave them another chance to voice their opinion.

The Royals begin a new series tonight at home against the Brewers. Bobby Keppel (0-3, 3.64) goes against Dave Bush (4-6, 4.81). Milwaukee has won six of their last ten games and they are 5-4 in interleague play.

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 5 walks in 67 games.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Royals Come from Behind Again

The Royals’ 6-4 win against the Pirates last night was their third straight win, their fifth in their last seven games, and it guaranteed that they will win back-to-back series for the first time since last August. We’re winning ugly right now, in spite of committing too many errors and leaving too many pitches out over the plate.

We continue to get down early in games, but ever since that 16-12 come from behind victory against the Rangers a couple of weeks ago, we actually seem to believe we have the ability to come back when we get down early. What’s caused that? Who knows. Maybe the arrival of Dayton Moore has helped to boost the players’ confidence. He’s saying all the right things right now. He wants to leave guys in the minor leagues longer and fill in the gaps with veterans when possible. He’s looking for starting pitching. He’s unwilling to dump salary. And he certainly has shown that he doesn’t have any allegiances to unproductive high draft choices.

A couple of days before Moore took over, I asked Reggie Sanders what he thought about the mix of veterans and young guys on the team.  

“I think the mixture is good,” Sanders said. “I do believe that they’re going to have give up a lot more money to get some quality veteran pitching into this clubhouse—which is what we need. It’s important, so hopefully we can do that.”

Nearly every major league team is in the same quandary regarding starting pitching, but Moore has already made two attempts (Etherton and Duckworth) to improve our rotation and I’m guessing that he’s going to follow through and make many more attempts. Maybe the players have seen his actions so far and they are finding hope once again. Maybe they simply ran into an Astros team that hit a bump in the road and a bad Pirates team. It’s hard to say, but it’s fun to see them string a few wins together.

And it’s nice to see Mark Teahen turning on the ball like he did yesterday when he hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning. Going into the game yesterday he was hitting .315 since his recall from Omaha. He went down there for one purpose, to increase his bat speed on inside pitches. Opponents aren’t convinced yet that he can get to the inside pitch.

“I just tried to be aggressive,” he’s quoted as saying the Star this morning. “They’d been throwing me in all night. I got another pitch in, and I finally got to one.”

His home run bought him a reprieve after his otherwise poor performance. He made an error, bungled another play that should have been ruled an error, and he got picked off at second base by the catcher. Bell was complimentary of Teahen after the game saying that “a young kid with poor makeup doesn’t respond like that.”

So, all is well that ends well.

This afternoon, the Royals send Scott Elarton (2-8, 5.09) against Paul Maholm (2-5, 4.50) in what could be Joe Randa’s last game at Kauffman Stadium.

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 4 walks in 66 games.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Randa to Retire After Season

Joe Randa was on WHB this afternoon and he announced that he would retire after this season. He said that the wear and tear on his body has caught up with him. And he said he’s ready to watch his kids play little league and enjoy family life in Kansas City. Don’t be surprised if you see him around Kauffman Stadium next season in some official capacity.

Royals Have Signed 16 of 50 Draftees

According to Baseball America, the Royals have signed 15 of their 50 picks made in the 2006 draft. Jason Taylor doesn’t show up as a signed player yet. He makes number 16. You might want to bookmark this site if you want to keep up with who the Royals have signed.

New Royals Site

Royals Corner has joined forces with and they have a new Royals site up and running at Check it out when you get a chance.

Jason Taylor Signs

According to this article, the Royals second round pick, shortstop Jason Taylor, agreed to terms with the Royals and he’ll report to Surprise, Ariz. later this week. He put up big numbers in his senior year in high school—including a .455 average and 26 stolen bases. He’ll reportedly receive a $750,000 signing bonus.

Gathright to Start in Center

Now I'm even shaking my head more over the Howell for Gathright trade. According to an article in the Star this morning, "Gathright is expected to arrive tonight and become the club's regular center fielder." Bell said that he'll move DeJesus to left field to make room for Gathright. Emil Brown will become our 467th designated hitter, behind Mike Sweeney, and presumably, in front of Matt Stairs.

I love the fact that Gathright has speed. He stole 165 bases in his four-year minor league career and he's shown a propensity to be patient at the plate—he drew 126 walks in 320 minor league games. And he's certainly played the outfield well for Tampa Bay. He's only made 4 errors in 140 games at the major league level. And maybe that's enough. But the guy can't hit a lick and Bell is planning to hit him in the nine hole—below Angel Berroa, and below John Buck.

Moore's thought process is simple. He'll take speed and good defense over power and average since speed and good defense don't go in slumps. We've certainly lost our share of games in the past few years because of bad defense. But taking a legitimate stick out of a line up that already has a hard time getting big hits is a bit of a risk. We'll see if it pays off.

Royals Down Pirates 10-6

Mark Redman was up in the zone early last night and Pirate hitters made him pay by scoring four runs in the first inning. He really never looked sharp, but he found a way to stop the bleeding and he exited the game after five innings with the Royals up 8-5, picking up his fourth win in his last four starts.

Royal hitters had no problems with Kip Wells last night in their 10-6 victory. They got six runs off him in 3.1 IP, and they worked him for five of the eleven walks the Royals had on the night (Angel Berroa was the only Royal without a walk—big surprise, huh?). The nice thing about the victory last night was, the Royals didn't need the long ball to come back and they didn't need to string a lot of hits together. They just took what was given to them—walks, errors, wild pitches, and passed balls—and turned them into a ten spot. Nice work.

Joe Randa got a nice ovation from the Royal-faithful. Some even gave him a standing ovation when he was announced for his first at bat. That was nice to see.

"Kansas City is very similar to the town I grew up in," Randa said. "My wife and I felt people treated us the way we needed to be treated, and that was really No. 1."

One of Randa's sons, Jacob, wore a Royals jersey at the game last night and his other son, Justin, wore a Pirates jersey. I guess that tells us all we need to know about what the Randa family still thinks of Kansas City. They live in the Leawood area.

The Royals have won three of their last four games and if they win tonight, they might actually be considered hot by anybody's definition. But let's not get too crazy. The Pirates are a bad team (they've lost six games in a row and they have the second worst record in baseball—behind the Royals, of course). Instead, let's be happy that we are playing them right now.

Tonight, the Royals send Mike Wood (3-2, 4.69) against Ian Snell (7-4, 4.71).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 4 walks in 65 games.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Appier Released

I totally missed this story about Kevin Appier being released by the Seattle Mariners. According to this story, he actually asked for his release because he intended to retire. He was 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 10 appearances with Tacoma. I was hoping he'd get one more shot at the big leagues after working so hard to come back. But what a career he had.

He was 169-137 in his career with 1,994 strikeouts, a 3.74 ERA, and a 1.29 WHIP. He threw career 12 shutouts. He pitched more than 200 innings in eight different seasons. He finished third in the AL Cy Young Award balloting in 1993, going 18-8 with a 2.56 ERA. And he was an All-Star in 1995. Quite a career—especially considering that he pitched in the 1990s when so many factors (both legal and illegal) reversed the game in favor of the hitters.

Hats off to Apes. RR wishes you well in your future endeavors.

Howell Traded for Gathright

First, the Royals waived former first round pick Kyle Snyder, and now, a few days later, J. P. Howell (a guy who was a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds in 2004) is on his way to Tampa Bay. The Royals traded Howell for outfielder Joey Gathright and infielder Fernando Cortez.

Howell was horrible at the major league level for the Royals in 2005, going 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA. But this seems a little soon to be giving up on the guy. He was 3-2 with a 4.75 ERA in eight starts in Omaha. For a team that desperately needs pitching, it seems a bit odd to trade such a high draft pick for two unproductive players.

Gathright is a career .245 hitter with absolutely no power. He's never hit a home run at the major league level and his career slugging percentage is .291. He does have a little speed—he has 12 stolen bases in 55 games with the Rays this season, but he was hitting .201.

Cortez doesn't look much better. Last year in Triple-A he hit .227. He can hit Double-A pitching (as evidenced by his .345 average in Double-A last season), but he's 24 years old. If he can't hit Triple-A pitching by now, when will he be able to? And what about major league pitching?

This trade is a bit of a head-scratcher from my perspective.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Royals Go 3-4 on Trip

With the Royals 7-4 win in Houston yesterday, they won a series on the road for only the second time this season. At the Royals' current pace (a .279 winning percentage), they would win 45 games—which would keep them from breaking the 1962 Mets record for the worst record of all-time (40-120). We'd even beat the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119). Yes, the season has come down to this.

But maybe we've finally found a rotation that isn't laughable. Brandon Duckworth has been solid in his two starts with a 3.18 ERA. Bobby Keppel has shown great stuff and has a 3.64 ERA since joining the Royals. Scott Elarton finally got a win (his second of the season) in his last outing. Mike Wood had one of the best starts of his career his last time out and he has a 4.69 ERA. And Mark Redman seems to have figured out something because he's won his last three starts.

The offense is showing small signs of life as well. They scored 16 runs in Houston over the weekend. And defensively, we didn't commit any errors in the series with the Astros (although if the ball that dropped between DeJesus and Brown on Friday night isn't an error, then I don't know what an error is).

What does all this mean? Who knows. Playing good baseball for short stretches is inevitable for any team over the course of a 162-game season. Let's just hope that the momentum from the series with the Astros followed the Royals home to begin a new series against Pittsburgh tomorrow night. Speaking of which—it'll be nice to see Joe Randa play again, even if it is for the opposing team.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

For the Record

In no way do I think that Jason Whitlock was referring to Royal Reflections in his article in the KC Star yesterday (about the media credential controversy) that included this comment: "Moss and Fescoe are not fans who built a Web site and are tickled pink that a pro sports franchise gave them access to a locker room and athletes they idolize."

I think he was probably just speaking in the abstract to make a point in defense of the two reporters. But since Royal Reflections came up in conversation (regarding Whitlock's column) over at the message boards, I thought I'd take a minute to explain a couple of things about who I am and what I do. I don't usually take a lot of space on this blog to tell you about who I am personally because this blog is about the Royals, not me.

As you know by now, the Royals don't credential bloggers (neither do any of the other major league baseball teams the last I checked). But on occasion I do get credentialed—usually about one series per season, to interview players on the Royals and the visiting team for magazines that I work for. I always go into the clubhouse as a journalist (not a fan, or a blogger)—looking for the interviews that my editor(s) has asked me to obtain. If I have material left over, or if a big news story about the Royals breaks while I'm in the clubhouse, then I write posts about it here.

I write mostly for Christian publications, although not always. I'm a baseball columnist for a magazine in Omaha, Nebraska called The Northwest Corner. I'm the sports columnist for a Christian newspaper in Omaha called The Heartland Gatekeeper. I've written for national Christian sports magazines such as Sports Spectrum magazine and Sharing the VICTORY. I've written for numerous regional newspapers, including The Pathway in Jefferson City, Missouri. I've written for magazines such as Breakaway (a Christian magazine for boys 12-17 years of age), Light & Life, and others. I have about 275 writing credits in well over a dozen publications.

Here are a few links to sports stories I've done over the years…

Blue-Collar Royal has priorities in order (Joe Randa)
Albert Pujols Knows What's Important
Home Field Advantage (about Ron Brown)

In addition to writing about sports, I've also interviewed politicians, community leaders, and people with fascinating stories about life. Those articles have also appeared in many different publications across the country.

I've also written four books about various different topics (all of which are written for a Christian audience). One of which has been released, the other three are in the process of being released.

So, hopefully that gives you a bit of an idea about who I am as a writer. And it'll give you a good idea about where I'm coming from when I do indeed have media credentials at Kauffman Stadium.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Derrick Robinson Signs

The Royals signed their fourth round pick, 18-year old Derrick Robinson, on Thursday and from the way it sounds, the guy can absolutely fly. He was apparently headed to Florida to play baseball and or football, but not any more.

Here are a few blurbs about the guy from around the web:

-- "Robinson has been called the fastest player in the entire 2006 senior class…Although he is small for a college star, at 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Robinson brings blazing 4.25-second 40-yard dash speed." –

-- "Derrick Robinson, the fastest man in the draft, is off the board to the Royals with the first pick of the fourth round. The outfielder was clocked at 6.19 in the 60-yard dash…" –

-- "Robinson batted .488 as a senior at P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville, Fla. He had 41 hits in 84 at-bats with 42 steals." –Kansas City Star

-- "Derrick Robinson is undoubtedly the fastest player in high school baseball. In fact, he might be the fastest player in high school history. Not far behind Robinson is super athlete Brent Brewer from Georgia, Jeff Rapoport from California and a couple others." –

Royals Down Astros 7-2

When was the last time the Royals got a lead in the game and you actually felt comfortable? I'm not sure that it's even happened for me this season until last night. Scott Elarton finally looked the pitcher we all hoped he would be when we signed him. He took a perfect game into the sixth inning before giving up two runs. Joel Peralta was a little shaky in relief—giving up two hits in one inning. But Jimmy Gobble was outstanding again—giving up just one hit in two innings. Gobble's ERA is 4.33 and you get the feeling that he's finally found a role he's comfortable with.

While the pitchers were doing their thing, Royals' hitters came up big—pounding out 7 runs on 14 hits, which led to a 7-2 win for the Royals. Sanders and Brown were both 3-for-5 in the heart of the lineup. And DeJesus and Buck had two hits apiece. And how about Elarton blasting a ball down the left field line and then coasting into second base?

Tonight, the Royals send Bobby Keppel (0-2, 3.04) against Taylor Buchholz (3-6, 6.06).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 4 walks in 62 games.

Injury Updates

Mike Sweeney was moved to the 60-day DL (he could come back on July 2). Sounds like he'll head out on a rehab assignment if he has no further setbacks.

Shane Costa has been sent to Omaha to work on his defense.

The Royals purchased Kerry Robinson's contract and put him on the 40-man roster.

Mike MacDougal is finally set to begin his rehab assignment in Wichita. He's scheduled to see action tomorrow against Arkansas.

Snyder Claimed by Red Sox

Kyle Snyder's injury-laden run with the Royals is over. The Red Sox claimed him off waivers after the Royals designated him for assignment.

If you need further proof that the college baseball draft is a bit of a crapshoot, look no further than Snyder. The Royals drafted him in the first round (7th overall) in 1999. Since then he was 2-9 with a 5.91 ERA, and he missed two entire seasons (2001 and 2004) due to Tommy John surgery and various other shoulder ailments.

But starting pitching is so difficult to find that even good teams like the Red Sox are willing to take a shot on guys like Snyder. According to this article in the Boston Globe, Snyder may get to start for Boston on Monday against the Washington Nationals.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Around the Horn in KC

The Royals' front office now has an official blog: Around the Horn in KC. Their first post deals with the media credentials story that you've all heard by now. And it also states the intention of the blog: "In response to fans wanting to know the real stories behind a number of issues, we have created Around the Horn in KC just for you."

Angels Down Royals in 10

The Royals probably shouldn't have even been in the game last night, but thanks to an error in the first inning by Orlando Cabrera, Matt Stairs was able to drive a run home with a double down the right field line with two outs. The Royals only managed two runs and four hits off Angels pitching. John Lackey and his cutter were just too much for our lineup. Donnelly, Rodriguez, and Carrasco weren't bad either.

But Mike Wood had his best start of the season—going 6.1 innings and only giving up two runs. I was impressed with Wood on several levels. First, he didn't get distracted by Chone Figgins in the first inning after Figgins singled. I don't know how many times Mike threw over to first, but it had to be close to ten times—all the while making quality pitches to Vladimir Guerrero. He eventually got Vlad to hit a ground ball at Berroa (who made a poor decision to throw to second even though Figgins was running with the pitch, but Grudzielanek bailed him out by getting Vlad at first).

Wood gave up a two-run home run to Vlad in the third inning, but he didn't seem to let him bother him. And something else that impressed me about Wood was his ability to finally work his way through the heart of the order the third time—something he hasn't been able to do since coming to the Royals. He had good control of his pitches last night and he seemed like he was actually pitching, rather than just throwing.

His strong effort (coupled with a good relief appearance by Gobble) kept the Royals in the game into the late innings. In the eighth inning, with the Royals down 2-1, the Royals tied the game in a most bizarre fashion. DeJesus was hit by a pitch. Grudzielanek laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance DeJesus. Mientkiewicz walked. DeJesus took third on a wild pitch. Sanders struck out swinging, but the ball got away from the Molina and then he made a poor throw—allowing DeJesus to tie the score at 2-2.

The game went into the tenth inning when Elmer Dessens made a fatal error—he walked the lead off guy. A sacrifice bunt and ground ball later, Cabrera knocked a single over Berroa's head and the game was over—Angels win 3-2.

The Royals open a new series in Houston tonight. Scott Elarton (1-8, 5.24) goes against Wandy Rodriguez (8-3, 4.48).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 4 walks in 61 games.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Case for Stairs & Graf

I've been thinking about a couple of our veteran guys and their lack of playing time. First let me start with Matt Stairs. He's a fourth outfielder who hasn't been given a chance to bat more then 500 times in a season since 1999 in Oakland when he hit 38 HR with 102 RBI. He's older now, but if you project his power numbers out, in even recent seasons, he's still quite productive. In 2005, he hit 13 HR with 66 RBI in 396 AB. Project that at 550 AB and he hits 18 HR with 91 RBI—a shade better than Emil Brown's "breakout" season a year ago (17 HR, 86 RBI in 545 AB). Stairs has 6 HR and 24 RBI this season in just 125 AB. Those numbers project out to 26 HR with 105 RBI in 550 AB. You can see where I'm going with this—why isn't Matt Stairs in the line up every day? Is Emil Brown really the left fielder of the future at the age of 31? Since the obvious answer is no, then why not play the better player?

The other veteran who deserves to play more is Tony Graffanino. That's a tough argument to make given the way Grudzielanek has played. But let's look at the numbers. Graf has never had more than 300 at bats in a season, but if you take his average his career home runs and runs batted in and project them out over an entire season (550 AB), he'd hit 11 HR with 45 RBI. Mark Grudzielanek's best season ever was in 2001 with the Dodgers where he hit 13 HR with 55 RBI in 539 AB. In three other seasons, he had more than 600 AB's and never equaled those numbers. And if project out his career power numbers for a 550 AB season, you get the following: 7 HR with 48 RBI. Grud is just about to turn 36 years old. Graf is 34. So, why all the fuss over Grudzielanek? And before you say fielding, Graf and Grud both have an identical career fielding percentage—.975, and Graf has played many more positions. You might be able to make a case that Esteban German ought to get a shot to start over both of them since he's so young, but in his 201 career at bats, he has only hit 1 home run and driven in 16 runs. And his career fielding percentage is .957.

Veterans Come Up Big

Watching Mark Redman at the beginning of games is difficult. For some reason, he has a hard time finding the strike zone in the first few innings, but if he can weather the storm, he does alright. Yesterday, in the second inning, he gave up a double to Tim Salmon with one out. Then he walked a guy on four straight pitches. And Robb Quinlan hit a three-run home run to give the Angels a 3-1 lead. After that, Redman settled in for a nice outing—going eight complete innings and giving up just the three runs. He only threw 101 pitches and in the process, he became the first Royals' pitcher this year to win three successive starts.

The score was tied 3-3 going into the eighth inning, but Reggie Sanders drew a two-out walk to put runners at the corners. Matt Stairs singled to center, scoring what would eventually become the winning run. Earlier in the inning, Mark Grudzielanek got down a sacrifice bunt. So, three veteran guys did what veterans are supposed to do. They played situational baseball and it led to a win.

Burgos gave us yet another scare in the ninth inning—allowing a single to Vlad to lead off the inning. Then, with one out, he threw a wild pitch (imagine that) that put a guy at second. Then he walked a guy. I don't know how Buddy Bell can stand watching this guy pitch. But he left him in and Darin Erstad grounded into a double play to end the game. Royals win 4-3.

Tonight, Mike Wood (3-2, 4.97) goes against John Lackey (4-4, 3.75).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 4 walks in 60 games. (Who will have more walks by the end of the season—Berroa or Paul Bako, the back up catcher, who also has four walks in just 27 games?)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Moe Drabowsky

You've probably heard by now that former Royals' pitcher Moe Drabowsky died last Saturday. He was 70 and had been battling multiple myeloma—a form of cancer. To read more about his battle, check out Matt Fulks' article about him that appeared on the KCMetroSports website before Drabowsky died.

Denny Matthews' book (with Matt Fulks), Tales from the Royals Dugout, includes a little section dedicated to Drabowsky—who was the first Royals pitcher to ever win a game. He did so (in relief) on April 8, 1969 in a game against the Minnesota Twins. Click here to check out the box score. He pitched for eight different teams in his 17-year career, making a brief stop in Kansas City during the 1969 and 1970 seasons. He was 12-11 with the Royals and had 13 saves. He was 88-105 in his career with 55 saves and a 3.71 ERA.

He was best known as a prankster—as Matthews' book points out. Drabowsky put goldfish in the opposing bullpen's water cooler. He often called the opposing team's bullpen phone to get relievers warming up. He set off firecrackers in the opposing team's bullpen. He ordered Chinese food from the bullpen. He often got guys with "hot foot," in which he'd light a matchbook under someone's shoe. He even did this to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn once. And apparently, he loved the old snake-in-the-locker or shaving kit trick because he pulled this off more than once. So many great stories—but maybe the best one is of a serious nature.

Even after he got cancer, he was still working in baseball as a pitching instructor in Florida for the Baltimore Orioles. He helped guys during extended spring training stints or on rehab assignments. In Matt Fulks' aforementioned article, Drabowsky is quoted as saying this about his staying active in baseball: "This job has been great therapy for me because I don't lie around in bed and worry about what's going on."

Thanks for the memories Moe.

Royals Go Quietly

Brandon Duckworth might just be a keeper in this rotation. He gave up 2 ER in 5.2 IP—one of which shouldn't have been earned (Costa botched a play in left field in the first inning that wasn't ruled an error). Duckworth walked more guys (3) than I'd like to see, and he threw more pitches (94) than necessary in such a short outing, but given the condition of our rotation, we've got to be happy that we have a guy who has movement on all three of his pitches (fastball, curve ball, and change up). He doesn't throw hard, 87-90 with his fastball, but even his fastball tails quite a bit. The best thing about him is, he seems to understand how to pitch. He's not just throwing pitches and hoping for outs.

Here's what Bell had to say about Duckworth's outing: "I thought it was pretty good. Just from a pitching standpoint, I think he knows what he's really doing out there. He's in and out and I thought he did a great job. I think it was definitely an upgrade.

"I think he did a good job. I just didn't want him to get too deep in the game not being at this level for a while."

Unfortunately, the Royals could only manage one run off Jered Weaver (Jeff's younger brother) and even that wasn't earned. And when Sisco gave up two more runs (what in the world is he still doing in the major leagues with an ERA of 7.81?), we were done. We only managed five hits for the entire game in which we lost 4-1.

Mark Redman (2-4, 6.06) goes against Kelvim Escobar (5-7. 3.72) tonight.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Royals' Stories

Here are a few links to articles that you might enjoy:

Berroa's Mistake Costly

I think somebody needs to event a new statistic called "Games Potentially Lost Because of Bad Decisions or Horrible Plays." We could call it GPLBBDHP for short. Well, that's not really short. How about just GPL? Since nobody has started keeping track of such things, I can't say for sure, but I'd bet that Angel Berroa would lead the world in this category. He did it again yesterday.

The Royals were down 4-2 with one out in the seventh inning, when Berroa ripped a ball down the third base line, scoring Shane Costa from second base. But Berroa kept running, even though Garret Anderson was on the ball in a hurry. Berroa was out by so many feet that he wasn't even in the picture on television when Adam Kennedy stuck his glove in front of second base. So, we were down 4-3 with two outs and nobody on rather than being down 4-3 with one out and a guy on first. Huge, huge mistake, and we never scored again after that. Royals lose 4-3.

Bobby Keppel struggled with his control. He has a tendency to get balls up when he struggles and major league hitters are always going to make you pay when you do that. Keppel gave up 4 ER in 5.1 IP and he walked three guys. Not the start we were hoping for from him, but the thing is, he lasted more than five innings (a rarity for our rotation) and he kept us in the game. Affeldt, Dessens, and Sisco put zeroes on the board behind Keppel.

Matt Stairs had another home run—his sixth of the season, which means he is second on the team in home runs even though he only has 115 at bats.

Tonight, the Royals send newly acquired Brandon Duckworth (0-0, 0.00) against Jered Weaver (3-0, 1.86).

Berroa Walk Watch: 3 walks in 59 games.

Shane Costa

Some of you who are parents may be glad to hear what I'm about to tell you. As I was interviewing players last week in the Royals clubhouse, I noticed that on one particular day, players received bundles of fan letters. Of course, some of the players received much more than other players, but regardless of how much a player receives, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to find the time to read all of it.

I saw Shane Costa taking the time to go through his. He was seated at a table and reading the letters—several of which had baseball cards depicting Shane's image, and the letters contained an obvious request for an autograph. Shane signed each baseball card he pulled out. He could have been doing a lot of other things—especially while he was at the ballpark, but he took the time to interact with fans on a personal level and I thought that was a story that needed to be passed on.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Royal Reflections Poll #3

Here are the final results of the Royal Reflections Poll #3:

What should Dayton Moore concentrate on first?

--67% (26 votes): Evaluating our entire system
--3% (1 vote): Solidifying our rotation
--8% (3 votes): Finding a new manager
--8% (3 votes): Dumping unproductive position players
--13% (5 votes): Public Relations
--3% (1 vote): Other 1

A new poll is up. Voice your opinon.

Rays Bury the Royals

The Royals offense didn't show up yesterday against the Devil Rays and Scott Elarton was in the middle of the plate all day. Devil Ray hitters took full advantage and blasted three home runs off him (and six for the game) en route to an 8-2 Devil Rays victory. Our lone highlight was a bizarre triple play in the second inning.

After the game, Bell said something that I had to read twice to make sure I read it correctly. "We are being so passive offensively," Bell is quoted as saying in an article in the Star. "We're not ready to hit early in the count. We seemed to be too concerned with working the count. That's all well and good, but in this league, you don't get a whole lot of pitches to hit. So you got to be ready the first one you see."

For a team that has drawn a pitiful amount of walks (163—which ranks the Royals at 28th out of 30 teams), I can't imagine how anybody on the entire planet could ever consider the Royals as being "too concerned with working the count"—let alone our manager who routinely sees guys swing at the first pitch.

While we're at it, let's look at the rest of the pathetic offensive team numbers…the Royals rank:

--30th in runs scored with 242
--27th in hits with 535
--30th in home runs with 45
--30th in runs batted in with 232
--21st in batting average with .260
--27th in on base percentage with .319
--26th in stolen bases with 22
--28th in bases on balls with 163

The Royals open a new series in Los Angeles tonight with the Angeles. Bobby Keppel (0-1, 2.11) goes against Ervin Santana (5-3, 4.32).

Royals Trade for Duckworth

Dayton Moore is obviously convinced that we have pitching problems. His first two moves were to acquire more of it. First, he claimed Todd Wellemeyer off waivers from the Marlins and now he's traded (cash) for Brandon Duckworth, 30, from the Pirates organization and he will immediately go into our rotation.

Duckworth was 8-3 with a 2.42 ERA. He gave up 67 H, 23 BB, and 57 K with Indianapolis this season in 73.1 IP. He's appeared in 91 games at the major league level during his career (66 of which were starts) with the Phillies and Astros—going 16-21 with a 5.34 ERA.

Kyle Snyder was designated for assignment—which just goes to show you what can happen to former first round picks. Snyder can be traded or claimed by another organization in the next ten days—although after his last outing against Texas, I'm guessing that won't happen.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sanders Hits Number 300

A big congrats to Reggie Sanders for hitting career home run number 300 this afternoon. And in so doing, he became the fifth player in the history of major league baseball to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases. I'm sure he would have preferred hit his milestone home run (which came off Chad Harville in the bottom of the ninth inning) in a Royals victory, but unfortunately the Devil Rays won the game 9-5.

I interviewed Reggie a couple of days ago and during the interview I asked him what it would mean to him when it did happen. Here's his response:

"It will be exciting once it happens. It really just for me—just the battle of the good, the bad, through so many years, having the ability to withstand through it all and continuing to withstand—that really is a testament to my faith and what I believe and what I stand on."

Congrats Reggie!

Grudzielanek's Errorless Streak

Mark Grudzielanek has been outstanding this season for the Royals offensively, but his defense has been overlooked. He hasn’t committed one error yet this season in 52 games (242 chances). His errorless streak now stands at 70 straight games—stretching back to last season in St. Louis. His 52–game streak to begin the season is the third-longest by a second baseman since 2000. Luis Gonzalez had an 83–game streak in 2005 and Damion Easley had a 60–game streak in 2000. Since 2004, Grudzielanek is second among all current major league second baseman with a .990 fielding percentage (12 errors in 1,263 chances).

Wellemeyer Claimed from Marlins

Yesterday, the Royals claimed RHP Todd Wellemeyer off waivers from the Marlins. Wellemeyer will be added to the 25–man roster before the game today and Leo Nunez will be sent back to Omaha. Wellemeyer, 27, was 0–2 with a 5.48 ERA in 18 appearances for the Marlins this season. He started his career with the Cubs in in 2003. He’s 5–5 lifetime with 2 saves in 105.2 innings of work.

Bell Speaks About Moore

I was in the dugout before the game against the Rangers on Thursday (just a few hours after the Dayton Moore press conference). Reporters asked Bell about his private meeting with Moore, about Moore’s plans for for the team, and a few other miscellaneous topics.

Here’s a little of what he said:

Did Moore lay out his plans or did he get specific?

“No. The one interesting thing is that he doesn’t have a two-year plan. He’s just trying to get the best players as quick as possible.”

Who did you send down?

“Bautista. The reason we did Bautista is just because he wasn’t going to get the kind of innings he needed to out of the bull pen. And we still want to get him in the rotation at some time…so we sent him down to be in the rotation in Omaha. Hopefully, he’ll straighten himself out.”

Is his problem still mechanics?

“Yeah. Absolutely. Just being able to repeat it. Certain situations dictate whether he can stay in his mechanics, so we’re hoping that it is what it is—that he can understand the situation he’s in and slow down and stay in his delivery.”

What are you expecting from Kyle Snyder?

“We’ve been told he was throwing the best down there. It’s nice to see Kyle back. He’s a loyal Royal and it’s nice to see him back up here.”

What are your thoughts about Zack’s most recent start?

“It was pretty good. It was better than the previous one. I think he was 88 to 95–-something like that. He used all his pitches. Better command. They hit a home run off him when he kind of got out of his delivery for a hitter or two, but he was able to regain it. All in all it was pretty good.”

Any idea when he’ll be back?

“No. We discuss it after every start, but we just want to slow it down. We don’t want this situation up here to dictate when he’s going to come back. That’s the thing we’ve got to be careful of.”

Did you and Moore discuss “how bad it is” here right now?

“No. When Dayton and I talked I told him that there’s certain things that we need. I think most of our players belong in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of the situation. A few players here and there would obviously help make all these other guys better. I believe it’s not as bleak. I mean, we’ve got some young players that obviously have to get better, but I have a lot of confidence in their ability to get better—Burgos, Sisco, Gobble, Wood, I could go on and on, Keppel, and Teahen, DeJesus, Berroa—so, there’s some pieces there, and obviously they have to get better, but I’m sure there’s going to be a few changes. I’m sure he has some ideas. This is a tough situation for him to get into. I came in the middle of the season last year and that was tough enough, but I can’t imagine what he has to go through in terms of putting an organization together.”

Did you talk about your job status?


Are you worried about whether your going to be here to see it all?

“No. No. No. I want to be here. It’s where I want to be so I don’t really think about that much.”

Two in a Row

Yeah, our winning percentage is .271 and we’re 21 games out of first place. But we’ve managed to win two games in a row after blowing an unbelievable pitching performance by Bobby Keppel on Wednesday night. We were down in both games and came back. And while we have a long way to go, let’s just enjoy the last couple of wins for a few hours. Then we can get back to our regularly scheduled complaints about a team that does so many things incorrectly.

Last night, Mark Redman finally looked like a guy who deserves a spot in the rotation. He gave up two runs in eight innings of work and he had several Devil Ray hitters frustrated with his change up—one of whom was slugger Jonny Gomes who struck out twice. Redman’s ERA still stands at 6.06, but at least we now know that he’s capable of getting guys out on occasion. Seeing Burgos trot out on the field for the ninth with the game on the line for the third straight night is a little tough on the heart (I still can’t believe we have a closer who has a 7.36 ERA in June.), but after walking a guy, he was able to close out the game for his eighth save of the season.

Two veteran hitters stepped up big last night. Tony Graffanino came up with the game-typing RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning and Reggie Sanders plugged the right-center field gap with a two-run double to give the Royals the 4–2 lead, and that turned out to be the final score. Having a guy like Sanders on the club is vital right now. Here’s a guy sitting on career home run number 299 on a last place team. He could easily just be thinking about himself right now and swinging for the fences every time he’s at the plate. But last night, he went with the pitch and plugged the gap. That’s how the game is supposed to be played and I hope some of our younger players realized and learned from what Sanders did.

Now let’s see if we can make it three wins in a row. This afternoon, Mike Wood (3–1, 4.68) goes against Casey Fossum (1–2, 5.46).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 3 walks in 56 games.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Royals Win 16-12

The Royals jumped all over Rangers starter Kameron Loe for four runs in the first inning. Problem was, Kyle Snyder also had a disastrous start. Snyder was called up from Omaha before the game (Denny Bautista was sent to Omaha). He gave up nine runs (five of which were earned), and ten hits in two innings. He fooled nobody, even though he should have been out of the second inning without any damage, an error by Mark Teahen changed that and the Rangers took advantage by scoring three runs.

Then a college "baseball" game broke out. The Rangers exploded for eight runs in the third inning when the Rangers sent 13 guys to the plate. To their credit, the Royals came back and scored four runs in the bottom half of the third and the score was 11-8 Rangers. The game turned around for the Royals in the fifth and sixth inning when Sisco threw two perfect innings and kept the Royals close. By the end of the sixth inning it was 11-10 Rangers. In the seventh inning the Royals had an explosion of their own—scoring six runs, including a towering 3-run home run by Matt Stairs. The Royals went on to win 16-12.

The 7-run come from behind win was the largest by the Royals since September 1, 2001 when they were down 7-0 against the Rangers at Kauffman Stadium and came back to win 8-7 in 11 innings. The win also meant that the Royals ended the 9-game losing streak at Kauffman Stadium. If they had lost tonight, it would have been the first time in Royals history that they lost 10 games in a row at home.

Mark Teahen was 4-for-4 tonight with 2 RBI. David DeJesus was 3-for-5 with 4 RBI and everybody else had at least one hit. A big win for the Royals and that ends my run in the press box for now. I'll be posting more interviews in the coming days. I hope you've been enjoying a behind the scenes look at the Royals.

Sweeney Takes Air Swings

Mike Sweeney was asked yesterday in the clubhouse about his health. Here's some of what he said…

What do you have going on today?

"I swung a lousy bat today and it felt great."

When are you expected back?

"I don't know."

What's a lousy bat?

"There's no ball marks on it, so it's lousy. I was able to just take air swings today. Hopefully I can get back soon. I miss my teammates and I miss contributing and I miss being around the guys. I hope that today is just the beginning of the race and hopefully the race will be not a marathon. And I'll be back in the clubhouse soon."

Was it pain free?

"Pain free. Yes."

How many air swings did you do?

"I think about 30 or 40. I think my little two year-old took more swings than I did today."

Sweeney on Grimsley

I was in the clubhouse yesterday when Mike Sweeney was asked about the Jason Grimsley story. Here are some of his remarks:

"I don't know what Jason did when we were not at the baseball field or when we were not working out together, but I love the guy and I'm going to support him."

Were you surprised by the story?

"Yeah, absolutely. I think everyone in our clubhouse is surprised. There are only probably a few guys in here that actually played with Jason when he was here, and I'm privileged to say I was one of them. He's been a great teammate. He's been a great friend. And I love him and his family dearly. He's obviously going through a tough time right now and the last thing he needs is to have his friends tear him down right now rather than build him up. That's what he needs."

Were you aware of, while he was here, of anybody on the team taking steroids or any sort of performance-enhancing drugs?

"The story is about Jason and to my knowledge I knew nothing about Jason or anyone he hung with doing steroids or human growth hormone. I was shocked. I really was shocked and I just want to support Jason through this because it's obviously a very tough time for him. "

How do you feel about the fact that he named names?

"I spoke with Jason today and he said a lot of the stuff that's going to come out is not necessarily the truth. I've been around long enough to where I know that sometimes the media twists things. And Jason is my friend and I don't know who the people are that wrote these things about him or what he said, but I'm going to side on the side of my friend."

But what about the affidavit?

"I have not read that. And until it comes out as fact—like that Jason says to me that this is something I said, then I'm going to believe him. He's my friend."

Did you and Jason get in touch with each other because of this?

"Yeah, well, Jason and I, we talk all the time. We're good friends. Unfortunately, when I got home from the game last night I needed to talk to him about what I saw on the ticker…I love the guy. I can't say it enough. He's a great friend. He's one of the best teammates that I've ever had here in Kansas City. He took the ball every single night whether he was hurt or feeling great and until I see facts, he's my friend, I'm going to support the guy."

Does he live here in town?

"Jason, his wife, and his three kids, they live in town. I think a lot of times people lose sight of the fact that he is a human being and we've all made mistakes. I don't think it's right to crucify a man. He has a wife that loves him. He has three kids that adore him and look up to him. Rather than tear the guy down, it's our duty to build him up and be with him."

He was a team leader and the player's rep, does this make it more shocking?

"Well, it's just surprising because he's my friend and I love the guy. I just hope that this can get resolved and I just hope the best for him and his family because your family comes before the game of baseball and I just hope that something like this does not tear him and his family apart because that's much more important than the game."

Can you give us a perspective about what really goes on in a clubhouse (regarding steroids)?

"Sure. All I can do is speak for myself. I'm proud—I'd place my hand on the Bible or on my children and say I've never used a greenie, I've never used steroids, never used growth hormone, never done anything that would give me an edge. And I'm proud to say that. As far as my teammates go, if I ever had any knowledge of them, I love them, I would never sell them out publicly. To my knowledge, I know I've never done anything and I love Jason Grimsley and I want to support him through this."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Burgos Blows Keppel's Masterful Performance

The original "Master of Disaster," Apollo Creed, has nothing on the 2006 Kansas City Royals. Creed destroyed his opponents—thus earning the title. The Royals destroy themselves. After a masterful performance by Bobby Keppel for 8.0 innings, Burgos threw it all away when he allowed a single to the first guy he faced, then he hit Kevin Mench two hitters later, and after a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler, he gave up a game-tying single to the number nine hitter, Rod Barajas.

Burgos was horrible. No other word will do.

Elmer Dessens wasn't much better in relief of Burgos. Gary Matthews was the first hitter he faced and Matthews doubled in two runs to make it 4-2 Rangers. For a team that is supposed to have such a good bullpen, they blow a lot of games.

But on to the feel-good story of the night—Bobby Keppel, who was unbelievably good tonight. He was good because he threw strikes. Several guys hit balls hard against him, but he seemed quite content to let his defense do their job. And do their job they did. Berroa made a great play covering second base in the sixth inning on a 1-6-3 double play ball when Keppel made a high throw to the second base bag.  Berroa stayed on the bag and turned the double play. Mientkiewicz made a great play to stay on the first base bag on another occasion when Teahen air-mailed a throw. Reggie Sanders made a good catch against a ball that Teixeira hit a ton to right field—driving Sanders up against the wall.

By my count, Keppel only went to ball three four times during the game—and during one stretch, from the fourth to the eighth inning, he never went to ball three. The guy simply threw strikes and he reaped the benefits—going eight shutout innings before being yanked in the ninth after giving up a hit to Blalock to lead off the inning. Bell heard plenty of boo-birds for his decision, but in his defense, under normal circumstances, removing Keppel would be the right thing to do. But this team is anything but normal—and therefore, probably not subject to conventional baseball wisdom.

Royals lose 4-2.

Millwood Out-duels Elarton

If you want to see the difference between a $12 million a year pitcher versus a $4 million a year pitcher—the game last night at KauffmanStadium was the place to be. Kevin Millwood pitched seven strong innings, only giving up two earned runs and walking one. The Royals manufactured a run against him in the second and Mark Teahen hit a solo home run in the fourth. Besides that, Millwood minimized the damage and the Rangers won 6-2.

Elarton faced a good hitting team and they did what they arepaid to do. Here was Elarton's line: 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1K, in 5.0 IP. He didn't pitch as bad as his line looks, but did throw way too many pitches (96) for only going five innings. Bautista didn't look sharp in relief. He gave up two earned runs in three innings. Affeldt pitched a scoreless ninth.

Seeing Mark Teahen turn on a ball was nice. He seems more relaxed at the plate after ripping Triple-A pitching to shreds. Bell had him hitting eighth in the order last night, probably to help ease Mark back into the majors. But, a third baseman hitting eighth just can't happen for long. We need more production from the position than the eight spot will allow. Hopefully Teahen has things turned around.

As I told you yesterday, Sweeney was in good spirits yesterday. He hugged guys, chatted, and sounded optimistic about his return and about the direction the Royals areheaded. And his presence in the clubhouse seemed to lift everybody's spirit. Of course, we went out and lost the game, but with a new GM coming, and with the addition of Hochevar yesterday, I got the sense that people in the organization are hopeful for the first time in a long time.

I interviewed Bobby Keppel yesterday before the game and I may post it here in the next couple of weeks. Keppel (0-1, 2.70) gets the start tonight against John Koronka (4-3, 4.87).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sweeney Speaks

I was in the Royals clubhouse this afternoon when a jovial Mike Sweeney spoke about Luke Hochevar, Dayton Moore, and his health…here's what he said:

On Hochevar: "Well, I've had a lot of time to read and look on the computer at the potential number one picks and I think we've chosen a winner. Up until a few hours ago everyone thought it was going to be the kid from Houston or North Carolina. But Hochevar is hopefully going to be here really soon in Kansas City and hopefully with the addition of him and getting Zack Greinke back will really help our team a lot."

On Moore: "I've heard wonderful things about him as a man. He reminds me a lot of Allard. His characteristics and what he's made of and the type of person he is—they say he's a born leader with a passion to win and really just a desire to bring this organization to where it used to be in the 80's. Hopefully with these new toys—these are his new little fun things to play with, the Zack Greinkes and the David DeJesuses and now our first pick—you know, hopefully he'll mold these guys into the stars they were born to be and hopefully I'm around here to be a part of it."

On Change: "Change is good at times, but never at the expense of a friend. And Allard Baird is our friend. Even though he's no longer our GM, he's still part of this family. We just hope that we can win, because if we win in the next few years, then I believe that Allard would still feel like he's a part of it. Quite frankly, Allard deserves that."

On Baird: "I've spoken with Allard and what we talked about really stays between us. The blessing for Allard is, he's with his family and I'm happy for that. He deserves that. He's truly been married to the organization for the last seven, eights years and hasn't really spent much time with his wife. So, I think Allard deserves that.

On his health: "I'm doing well. Every day is getting better and better. I can't wait to be back on the field with my boys. I'm hurting still physically, but emotionally it hurts a little bit more. Watching the guys on TV—I'm proud to be the captain of this team and I know that being on the sidelines on the DL is not what I'm supposed to be doing. I just need to get back on the field with these guys. I'm sure I miss them a lot more than they miss me."

The Hochevar Teleconference

Here's the transcript of the Luke Hochevar Teleconference with the media this afternoon:

Opening Statement: "It's definitely a humbling honor to go to a great organization and to go first overall is definitely humbling. I'm ecstatic and I'm ready to put my head down and work my butt off for the Kansas City Royals."

On last year's negotiations with the LA Dodgers: "I learned a great deal of lessons through all of that. I learned about the people I can trust, which is definitely Scott Boras. The negotiations last year with the Dodgers, the scouting director felt that I wasn't worthy to be paid with the top college pitchers of last year's draft. And I learned that a scouting director can make an organization. I'm going to bust my tail to make (the Royals) extremely happy and to do my best to help the team out and help the organization. God had a plan in this and his master plan definitely worked. It was tough through it but you go through and when it all comes down to it, God has a plan and it definitely worked a miracle in my case."

On his demands from last season to this year: "That's in Scott Boras's hands, and mine as well. We want to be treated fairly. The Royals are a great organization and they are willing to get it done. We're excited to proceed and move forward with this."

On getting a deal done quickly: "That is the plan—to get going. I'm fresh. I'm game-ready right now from pitching down in Fort Worth. I have 22 innings under my belt and I'm continuing to throw bullpens here. Whatever their plan is for me, I will be prepared for it. I have to keep my nose in the day in, day out grind and do things I need to do to get better. When the time comes I will head out and start pitching my tail off for them.

"It should be a pretty quick negotiation. It sounds like the Royals are ready to get it done and get me out playing. Like I said earlier, I'm game-ready. I'm up to a 100-pitch pitch count. Now that I'm done throwing in Fort Worth, I am back in Knoxville throwing bullpens and keeping my arm in that game-ready shape and staying in that shape mentally as well. As soon as they get me out, I'll be ready to go for them.

"Whenever they are ready, we're ready."

On the Royals new GM Dayton Moore: "I have followed the story. I have not met him, but all I have heard of him is great things. It sounds like he's the guy who is going to step into this organization and make some good changes and really get it going for them. I am just extremely humbled to be in this situation and extremely excited to take forth what the Lord has in store for me."

On the timing of his draft day: "I got up and got a good workout in. It was a workout that drug out a little longer than usual having the draft on my mind. I ended up getting a good work out in, work always comes first. After the workout I did a lot of praying and did some conversing with God. It was a busy morning but it turned out to be great."

On his intense preparation and workouts: "That's where I get my confidence. That's where I live. I love seeing improvement and I love taking my briefcase and going to work. I take more pride in that than anything, it's my bread-and-butter and I enjoy doing it. I love seeing the improvements from the physically, to the mental, to learning the game, all aspects of it. I just eat it up and I really love it. It's really not work for me when you enjoy it that much. I put in good hours and in return I have the opportunity to go to a great organization like the Kansas City Royals."

On what playing in the Independent League taught him: "It really opened my eyes to how lucky really I am. Playing with guys that are scrapping to play the game that they love and to see how hard those guys work in the Independent League. To be given this opportunity is extremely humbling. I just thank God for giving me this opportunity to be drafted by a great organization like the Royals. I am beside myself right now to tell you the truth.

"It was really good for me to be in the 5-man rotation going from the 7-day rotation in college. We simulated that a lot in my off season training I went from a 7-day rotation down to a 6-day and then to a 5-day rotation, to get in that rotation shape. Going to Fort Worth was a great experience. Those hitters, they're older, they're experienced, and they're a lot smarter. I learned a great deal playing there due to the change of game and the discipline of hitters—they control the strike zone a lot better. The speed of the game overall, I believe it has helped me a significant amount. Just learning the game at the next level, pitch selections, count selections, stuff like that has been very helpful for me. Due to the physical part of the 5-day rotation I had to tweak my workouts, my lifting, my running to really get comfortable. My arm is extremely resilient and I bounce back pretty quick for that 5-day rotation, but it is more about how I wanted to feel on game day. Changing my lifts and workouts to feel how I really wanted to feel. I am just extremely grateful to the Fort Worth Cats for the opportunity to play and keep getting better."

On how the Independent League helped him off the field: "It is the game and that is about it. There are not many perks except going to the yard—the travel, the bus rides, the locker rooms. I was extremely lucky at Fort Worth, we had great facilities, good locker room, great people in the front office. My experience was very, very good. It opened my eyes to guys loving the game and how much I loved the game, how much I missed it when I wasn't able to play while going through negotiations with the Dodgers. I wouldn't change it for anything."

On what was learned last year that will help in this year's talks: "Scott Boras probably knows the situation better than anybody and I trust him a lot. The negotiations with the Dodgers were with a scouting director that didn't think I was worthy of a contract that the other top pitchers in the draft had received. I have all the respect for the organization but that's how it turned out. I could advise younger players not to believe the young, inexperienced agents who make salesmen pitches to try to get players, just to get clients. The way that Scott handles things is extremely professional. He is by far the best in the business. The Scott Boras Group is surrounded by ex-players and very good attorneys. I feel extremely comfortable that he knows the situation better than anybody else and knows when it is time to get me out and get me going."

On a possible ballpark figure: "Those discussions will be between Scott and the Royals. They took me with the understanding of getting me out quick and getting me going. The business side, Scott and the Royals will take care of that. They work well together. I am just excited to be a part of the organization and I am ready to bust my tail for them and work as hard as I can for them."

On his knowledge of the Royals and his fit with: "The opportunity that I have to work my tail off and help the club means a lot to me. I take great pride in that—helping the club. I know that they will get it together and the new general manager and things will be good. With the great history of the Royals, they are a solid club. They have good prospects in the minor leagues. I have played with Alex Gordon with Team USA and I know him pretty well and we're pretty good friends. They are doing good things right now. I am just in the mode to go out and make them proud that they took me with their first selection."

On his future with the Independent League: "I am done with the Independent League. I am in Knoxville, Tennessee working out and throwing bullpens to stay in shape and be ready to go whenever they say it is time to be ready to go."

Hochevar Goes Number One

As expected, the Royals made 6' 5", 205-pound Luke Hochevar (pronounced HO-chay-vur) the first pick in the 2006 draft today. The Royals have never had the first pick in the draft before. Let's hope they made the right decision with Hochevar. As the day progressed, more information surfaced about why Hochevar might be a good choice. The main one seemed to be that Andrew Miller would have demanded a higher signing bonus. Secondly, Hochevar hasn't logged nearly as many innings as Miller this season, so he could get plugged right into the Royals system.

Some of the other players that the Royals were interested in slipped down in the first round. Brad Lincoln went number four to the Pirates. Andrew Miller went number six to the Tigers. Robert Stubbs went number eight to the Reds. And Tim Lincecum went number ten to the Giants.

Hochevar had a stellar three-year career at Tennessee. He was 25-10 with a 3.05 ERA in 51 career appearances—which included 33 starts (6 of which were complete games). He had 287 career strikeouts which ranks second in UT history.

Bobby Keppel, a new addition to the Royals starting rotation, was asked in the Royals clubhouse if he had any words of wisdom for Hochevar. Here was his response: "Just to come in and trust his stuff. That's what I'm doing right now. He's, from what I've heard, a phenomenal pitcher with an amazing fastball—good sink on it. I'd say come in and use that and be aggressive."

Keppel was also asked if he believed that Hochevar was helped by playing independent ball. Here's what he said: "Definitely. It's similar to rookie ball. I don't think he lost a year by sitting out last year. He was able to pitch in independent ball—get onto a five man rotation. I think he's going to come in, already pitching against wooden bats, which is a whole different game that college, so I think he'll do fine."

Keppel went on to say this about how quickly he'd like to see Hochevar in KC: "I'd say, 'Get into the system as soon as you can.' That's what I did. I signed shortly after. But if he can in and help us out—we need pitching right now obviously—and it would be good to have a quality arm like that."

Hochevar to be First Pick

We'll know at noon today who the first pick of the draft is, but according to an article running in the Star this morning, the Royals plan to pick Luke Hochevar, former pitcher from Tennessee, and current client of Scott Boras. You've already heard the story about Hochevar—he was drafted by the Dodgers last year, but the two camps couldn't reach a contract agreement, so Hochevar reentered the draft this year. He's currently pitching for the Fort Worth Cats (in an independent league) where he has a 1-1 record with a 2.38 ERA in four starts.

Wood Solid in Royals Loss

Mike Wood didn't win the game last night, but he put the Royals in a position to win. He gave up 2 ER in 5.1 IP—with zero walks. Not bad for a guy who wasn't chosen to be one of our five starters as we broke camp a couple of month ago. And considering what has happened to our rotation since then, well, Wood looks to be secure in the rotation for a while.

"I'll give him a couple of more starts—yeah," Bell said after the game. "We were planning on that anyway, but tonight solidified it because of the way he pitched."

Unfortunately, the Royals couldn't get their bats going—something that couldn't be said for former Royal Raul Ibanez who was 3-for-3 with 2 RBI in Seattle's 4-1 win.

Tonight the Royals send Scott Elarton (1-6, 4.94) against Kevin Millwood (6-3, 4.85). I'm heading to the stadium shortly, and hopefully I'll be able to bring you an interview or two from one of the players.

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): 3 walks in 52 games.

Monday, June 05, 2006

On Assignment

I'll be covering the Royals for a national magazine during the Texas series this week and I'll attempt to bring you a few player interviews. In the past, I've posted interviews with Justin Huisman, Bob Schaefer, and even Allard Baird. At the very least, I'll be writing and posting about what I see as I gather information for the articles I'm writing for the magazine I'm working for. So, check back often in the coming week.

Royals Mulling Draft Options

Joe Posnanski has a great article in the Star today about the Royals' options regarding the draft tomorrow. Everybody expects them to pick Andrew Miller—a tall, slender lefty, who throws a 96 mph fastball and a wicked slider. But the Royals are also considering Brad Lincoln from Houston who is known to be a consistent performer and "more polished." And they are still thinking about Luke Hochevar, the Scott Boras client—that's all you need to know about Hochevar.

According to Ryan Lefebvre's pre-game interview yesterday with Derek Ladnier, the Royals Senior Director of Scouting, the Royals are also considering Tim Lincecum out of Washington. According to Ladnier, Lincecum throws 98 mph, but he's struggling with his command a little right now. The Baseball America website lists Lincecum as having the best fastball in the entire draft as well as having the best command in college, and it proclaims him to be the "closest to majors."

The wildcard in the draft for the Royals, who have the first pick, is Drew Stubbs, an outfielder from Texas. Here's what the UT website says about Stubbs: "a five-tool player who can not only hit for both power and average, but also possesses tremendous speed and a plus outfield throwing arm…expected to be UT’s starting center fielder for a third straight year in 2006." Baseball America's website lists Stubbs as the best college athlete, the second fastest college baserunner, the third best college arm, and the best college defensive player.

We'll find out what happens tomorrow.

Royals Going for Split in Seattle

The Royals got off to a slow start in Seattle, dropping the first two games of the series 4-0 and 12-1. Seth Etherton was awful in his second start for the Royals (in the 12-0 loss) and we were down 7-0 after the third inning as a result.

The Royals bounced back yesterday and picked up a 9-4 in Seattle and put themselves in a position to get a series split tonight and to go 5-5 on the road trip. If it happens, you've got to feel pretty good considering how atrocious we've been on the road this season.

Mark Redman didn't exactly pitch well yesterday, but well enough to put us in a position to win. He gave up 4 ER in 5.2 IP. And he walked three guys. But he left the game with the Royals leading 9-4. Redman was helped by a two-run home run by John Buck, a solo shot by Emil Brown, and three RBIs by Reggie Sanders. In fact, everybody in the lineup had at least one hit and five guys (DeJesus, Grudzielanek, Sanders, Brown, and Teahen) had two hits.

Elmer Dessens was outstanding in relief, going the final 3.1 innings without giving up any hits or runs. He picked up a save for his efforts and he saw his ERA drop to 4.02. Dessens effort will surely help an already weary bullpen. The Royals won't get another day off until June 19.

The Royals send Mike Wood (3-0, 5.12) to the mound tonight against Gil Meche (4-4, 4.87).

Berroa Walk Watch (the quest for double digits): Angel Berroa shocked the world by picking up another walk this series and now has 3 in 51 games.

Odds n' Ends

How about Greinke throwing five innings in Wichita the other night and only giving up one run? His mechanics were reportedly "the best he's ever had." His fastball was clocked at 94 mph. And his curve ball broke a ton. All of which is highly encouraging. Let's hope that he can keep it going.

Mark Teahen hit his way back into the major leagues. He hit .387, with 2 HR, and 14 RBI in 23 games from Omaha. Hopefully the confidence he gained there will translate into higher output at the major league level. Unfortunately, Teahen's return to Kansas City led to Andres Blanco's return to Omaha. I liked having somebody to push Berroa a little for playing time. Hopefully we'll see Blanco again soon.

Denny Bautista has already been moved to the bullpen after seven unsuccessful starts. He was 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA. The real issue was his control. He walked 16 batters in 32 innings. He also hit four guys. As much as I understand where the Royals are coming from in the decision to move Bautista to the pen, I disagree with them. If we believe that Bautista is part of the future, then you have to allow him time to grow into the role of a starter. He's only has 19 career starts. He needs more time.

Friday, June 02, 2006

RR Poll #2

Here are the final results of Royal Reflections Poll #2. The question was: "What Should the Royals do with Alex Gordon?"

50.0% (9 votes): Leave him in Double-A all season
33.3% (6 votes): Bring him up to KC in September
11.1% (2 votes): Bring him up to KC after the break
5.6% (1 vote): Bring him up to KC now

A new poll will be up shortly.

Greinke Returns

All eyes will be on Wichita tonight as Zack Greinke makes his first start of the season. Frank White says that Greinke will be on a 65-70 pitch limit. And it sounds like he'll be there for more than one start. According to this article, he can only be in Wichita for 20 days. The Wranglers aren't going to make Greinke available to the media today. I'm sure the Royals want him totally focused on baseball and they don't want him to have to answer the same question(s) about his health or mental state over and over again. RR wishes Greinke well in his start tonight.
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