Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 8

--Buddy Bell is saying that he's going to limit Mike Sweeney's playing time this spring so that he'll be healthy for the beginning of the regular season. The Royals play their first game of the spring tomorrow, but Sweeney won't be in the line up. Bell is saying he probably won't be in the line up until early next week. Even though Sweeney doesn't like it, how can you argue with Bell's logic? Click here to read the entire story.

--Billy Butler is taking extra balls in the outfield, hoping to improve his "substandard" defense. In an organization that is already loaded with potential DH's, Butler knows that his ticket to the major leagues will be paved with leather. Everybody already knows the guy can hit. With Sweeney sitting during spring games, Bell is planning to DH Reggie Sanders and give Butler a lot of playing time. Should be interesting to watch. He's expected to play most of the season in Omaha.

--Odalis Perez reported to camp 10 pounds lighter and he has a few goals according to this article, "I just want to be healthy the whole year. If I don't win 10 games, it won't matter if I pitch 200 innings. That's what I want, to throw 200 innings. I want to be able to do my job every time I go out there." If Perez meets all three goals (stays healthy, wins 10 games or more, and throws 200 innings, I'm guessing that most of Kansas City would be happy. However, 10 wins seems a little low for a number two starter who made nearly $9 million last season.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 7

--The Royals are looking at 10 different pitchers as possible starters. They are pairing them up for a couple of cycles as Cactus League play begins. This comes from an article in the Star: "Plans call for Gil Meche and Dewon Brazelton to pitch Friday in the first of three straight games against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Odalis Perez and Todd Wellemeyer will pitch Saturday, and Luke Hudson and Zack Greinke on Sunday. Jorge De La Rosa and Brandon Duckworth are scheduled next Monday against the San Diego Padres in Surprise."

--Apparently, Gil Meche has corrected the "mechanical flaw" in his delivery. During his first bullpen workout, his stride was off, which caused his pitches to be high and they didn't have good velocity. Hopefully he was just rusty after the winter break.

--The Royals signed two more players to one-year contracts: Jorge De La Rosa and Carlos Rosa. They still have six unsigned players on their 40-man roster: Brian Bannister, Shane Costa, Joey Gathright, Ken Ray, Ryan Shealy, and Mark Teahen.

--Esteban German is probably going to get quite a bit of playing time at shortstop this spring because right now, the Royals aren't planning to include a back up for Berroa on their roster. That's a scary thought.

--Scott Elarton threw 45 pitches on Monday in this third bullpen session of this year. He said that he was strong and didn't feel any fatigue. He's scheduled to throw 55 pitches on Thursday and eventually move up to throwing BP in March. He's still expected to be ready by May 1.

--If Zack Greinke and/or Brian Bannister don't make the starting rotation, Bell is saying that he will not put them in the pen to start the year. They'll be sent to the minor leagues because the Royals want their "younger guys to be in roles that we see them as in the future." Personally, I think this is the right move. Injuries and trades happen. When they do, Omaha is a short drive.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Keeping Alex Gordon

I received an e-mail that asked some insightful questions recently. I've received permission to include it here:

By any chance do you know what Alex Gordon's contractual status is? I assume he is under a minor league contract with the AA team, and not a major league contract with the Royals? I also assume that would change were the Royals to keep him on the 25 man roster? Do you know?

What I'm getting at, I suppose, is if he turns out to be everything everyone says he'll be, how long might the Royals keep a hold of him before he follows Damon, Dye, Beltran, Ibanez, etc. out of town? --Michael, a transplanted Royals fan in Chicago

Here was my response:

Your concerns about Alex Gordon are well founded. During the negotiation process, Gordon wanted a $4 million+ signing bonus and a spot on the 40-man roster, which would have started the started the clock ticking regarding Gordon's options, and consequently it would have forced the Royals to pay him big money sooner (or risk losing him). Thankfully, the Royals didn't budge regarding the spot on the major league roster and they inked Gordon to a minor league contract. As a compromise, they bumped up their signing bonus offer to $4 million. Here's a link to a story on the Baseball America website that goes into more details about Gordon's signing.

If Gordon wins a spot in spring training, he'll be inked to a major league contract, and that starts the ball rolling. I think the Royals' climate is a little different than when Damon, Dye, Beltran, Ibanez, and others were in KC. Allard Baird's hands were tied by the Glass family when it came to paying top dollar to retain players. Dayton Moore gave Glass little option regarding personnel (within reason) if he was going to accept the position. Glass has bumped up the salaries considerably and with guys like Sweeney and Sanders in the last year of their contracts, an additional $16 million will be freed up after the 2007 season. Sweeney may re-sign with the Royals (I hope he does), but his base salary will be considerably lower and his contract will be heavy on incentives. I don't expect Sanders to be in a Royals uniform next season. And don't forget revenue sharing. The Royals have been receiving sizable checks the past couple of seasons (thanks largely to the Yankees) and I expect that to continue. In my opinion, the Royals have a better chance of retaining young talent than they've had in a long time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 6

--Alex Gordon continues to shake off attempted comparisons between George Brett and himself--justifiably so, given that he hasn't even played in a single major league game yet. But look at what George Brett himself said about Gordon yesterday: "When I watch him play, he makes the game look pretty easy. When I played the game, I knew how hard it was. He's better than I was at (23). Much better."

--You might want to read the story that is running in the KC Star today about Gordon. Putting his initial contract negotiations aside, he sounds quite humble. And he's actually seen George Brett play. According to the story, Gordon's family used to make the three hour drive once in a while from Lincoln, Nebraska to watch the Royals.

--Gil Meche had problems with his stride yesterday while on the mound. As a result, he lost velocity on his pitches and he left a lot of them up. He sought out McClure to help him get the problem fixed. This sort of news is a little unnerving given the enormous scrutiny that the Royals are already under for giving Meche $55 million for five years. Let's hope he gets the problem rectified soon.

--Bell said that the top four spots in the line up are already solidified: David DeJesus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mark Teahen, and Mike Sweeney. Ryan Shealy will probably hit fifth, and Alex Gordon will probably hit sixth.

--According to Angel Berroa, his many problems over the past few seasons have been the result of him spending too much time dwelling on his blunders. I'd like to give Berroa the benefit of the doubt, especially during spring training, but I'm not sure how he could be as concerned as he says he is while at the same time going mentally AWOL as often as he does.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 5

--Yesterday Reggie Sanders said that he didn't know about the Royals plans to move Mark Teahen to right field until Sanders reported to spring training. How odd is that? Guess he doesn't keep close tabs on the team during the off season.

--The KC Star has a couple of vlogs (video blogs) up on their website. If you check it out today, you'll find Bob Dutton reporting on Zack Greinke's mindset as spring training begins. Another vlog contains a short interview with Gil Meche. Check them out if you get a chance.

--Speaking of Greinke...the AP released a story about Greinke that is running in newspapers across the country today. Greinke will make his first appearance of the spring against the Texas Rangers on March 4.

--Joel Peralta is back in camp. He went to the hospital a couple of days ago with severe headaches and a fever. Test results were negative. He isn't expected to begin throwing again until early next week.

--If you haven't had a chance to read Joe Posnanski's column about Denny Matthews receiving the Frick award, it's a must read. I love the beginning of the article. Posnanski said he couldn't reach Matthews by telephone because "Denny is one of the last Americans who does not have call waiting."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 4

--Mike Sweeney turned to Yoga during the offseason, hoping that it would add to his flexibility. Here's what he had to say about it in the Jefferson City News Tribune: "It has been amazing. I can touch my toes, easily. I can touch my palms (to the floor). I was doing things over the winter that I never dreamt of. I'm hoping that three years from now, I'll look back at three healthy years." We hope so too Mike.

--Speaking of Sweeney, he took Alex Gordon out for a salmon dinner last night--something that impressed Gordon. Sweeney did it because that's how he was treated when he first came up. "When I was the rookie, Jeff Montgomery, Mike McFarlane and Tim Belcher took care of me," Sweeney said in an article on the Royals website. "They paid for my dinners and cabs and always told me, 'Mike, when you are a veteran, you do the same thing we're doing.'"

--Dayton Moore said that the Royals decided to move Teahen to third (given that Alex Gordon wins a spot on the roster this spring) because Teahen's athleticism makes it easier for him to switch positions. Hopefully that'll make Mark feel a little better about the change.

--The Royals signed three more players to one-year contracts on Thursday: Zack Greinke, Luke Hudson, and Angel Sanchez. That leaves them with eight unsigned players.

--Joel Peralta missed the workout yesterday after being sent to the hospital with severe headaches and a fever. No word yet on the cause.

--Joe Nelson has tightness in his shoulder. X-rays didn't reveal anything. Hopefully his arm just needs a little rest.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Matthews Wins Ford C. Frick Award

I've been waiting for this day for a long time. Denny Matthews has just been named the 2007 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. He'll be honored in Cooperstown on July 29, 2007. You can read more about the award and the process by reading this article on the Royals website.

I’ve been listening to Matthews for the past twenty-eight years (since I was 12). He’s been the voice of the Royals all across the Midwest for longer than many Royals’ fans have been alive. And I can’t imagine the Royals Radio Network without him. I bet you can’t either.

I’ve met Denny a couple of times while working on assignment for different publications and he’s just as personable as you might imagine. And now, after being bypassed for too long, the baseball world has acknowledged something we've known for decades-- Matthews is Hall of Fame material. Congrats Denny!

The Soul of Baseball

Many thanks to Garth over at Royal Ingenuity for the interview he did with Joe Posnanski about Joe's new book, The Soul of Baseball, about Kansas City legend, Buck O'Neil. O'Neil died last October at the age of 94, but his legacy lives on. I can't wait to get my copy of Posnanski's book. It comes out in five days and I've already placed an advanced order for it.

If you get a chance, check out The Soul of Baseball website and Posnanski's blog.

Spring Training Notes, Volume 3

--With Reggie Sanders' arrival in camp, all 59 invitees are now present. According to this article, Sanders seems to be the odd man out in outfield right now--which indeed seems odd given his $5 million salary. But as soon as an outfielder (or Sweeney) goes down, Sanders will slide into the vacant spot.

--According to this article, here are the eleven remaining unsigned Royals: Brian Bannister, Shane Costa, Jorge De La Rosa, Joey Gathright, Zack Greinke, Luke Hudson, Ken Ray, Carlos Rosa, Angel Sanchez, Ryan Shealy, and Mark Teahen.

--The Royals have chosen not to resign Mark Redman, who is still a free agent. What does that say about his 2006 Royals pitcher of the year award?

--The first official full-squad workout is today.

The Royals Sign 8 Players

According to an article running on KMOV’s website, the Royals signed eight players on Wednesday to one-year contracts. They include:

John Buck
Joel Peralta
Joakim Soria
Neal Musser
Danny Christensen
Ryan Braun
Leo Nunez
Justin Huber

According to the article, the Royals still have 11 unsigned players in camp.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 2

--The Royals added another youngster to their 40-man roster (to protect him from the Rule 5 draft) over the winter whom you may or may not be familiar with. Danny Christensen took Luke Hochevar’s spot in the AFL after the Royals shut down Hochevar for the season. Christensen, a 23-year old lefty, had a 1.80 ERA in five games. His fastball tops out at 90, his curve is considered a “plus,” and his change up is average. At this point, the Royals are planning to use him in Double-A.

--Mark Teahen continues to take fly balls in right field. The concern right now is his shoulder. Will he be able to make the throw from right field to third base or home if necessary? Here’s what he said about his shoulder, as quoted on the Royals website: “These last two or three weeks it started feeling a lot better. I’m not really worried about it. Obviously, I’ve got to be smart with it and not just go air it out. It is feeling good. Honestly, now it feels better than it has in the last year and a half or so.”

--Scott Elarton threw 25 pitches off the mound yesterday and said that his shoulder feels good and strong. He’s still hoping for a May 1 return.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spring Training Notes, Volume 1

--Reports say that Mark Teahen’s right shoulder is good to go following off season surgery. He brought his infield and outfield glove with him—anticipating the switch to right field. I’ll be interested to see how this experiment with Teahen shakes out during the spring. Presumably, he’ll be taking Reggie Sanders spot in right and Sanders will move to left, which leaves Emil Brown as the odd man out—or maybe he’ll platoon with Sanders. I can’t see taking Teahen’s bat out of the line up, except when he needs rest.

--Zack Greinke is throwing “free and easy” so far. If Zack can get past his social anxiety problems and if he can learn to pitch for the sake of getting guys out, rather than simply selecting pitches and arm angles simply because they look “cool,” then he would be a welcome addition to the Royals staff.

--Alex Gordon knows that he’s probably going to break camp with the major league ball club and be the starting third basemen on opening day. He’s even wearing number 7 already—as opposed to 89 or some other crazy number other rookies might be forced into. Here’s what Bell said about his chances of making the club: “We’re going to give him every opportunity to make the club. But we’ve got to make sure we do what’s best for Alex Gordon. Because if we do that, that’s what will be best for the organization—and the fans—in the long run.” I guess he’s leaving the door open for sending Gordon to Omaha to start the year if he only hits .269 in the spring. I don’t see that happening.

--Ryan Shealy reported to camp yesterday. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last October. No big deal if you ask him. “I had it cleaned up, it was real minor,” Shealy is quoted as saying in this article on the Royals website: “I was off the crutches in a day and running around a couple of weeks after that. It was just bothering me the whole last part of last year. It was something I could play with and it was fine. But then with getting the time off, I just figured it was a good time to just get it cleaned up. I'm ready to rock and roll now.”

--Brandon Duckworth is reportedly throwing pain free. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in August. He’s put up great numbers in the minor leagues during his career (75-39 with a 3.58 ERA) but his major league numbers are far from impressive (17-26 with a 5.43 ERA). At 31 years old, it would seem that he’s reaching a stage in his career when it’s now or never.

--Sounds like Scott Elarton is making good strides on his comeback. Here’s what the Star is reporting: “Veteran right-hander Scott Elarton will throw a supervised session today from a mound for the first time since July 16, when he made his last start before undergoing surgery Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum.” Elarton said that his doctor is saying he should be ready around May 1. By then, the rotation may have sorted itself out. If my memory is correct, the Royals are paying the guy $4 million this season, so once he’s ready, I’m sure they’ll find a spot for him in the rotation—even after a disastrous 2006 season in Royal blue (4-9, 5.34 ERA).

--Andres Blanco is making small progress after having surgery on his left shoulder at the end of last September. He’s a switch-hitter who can’t swing right handed yet. He is taking ground balls and throwing though. Given his light hitting numbers, he really can’t afford to start the season injured if he wants to make the major league club—especially since Esteban German is expected to see some action at shortstop this season and Angel Sanchez is waiting in the wings, so to speak, as is Alex Gonzalez.

--Bob Dutton is saying that we need to be watching for a left-hander named Neal Musser “as an early candidate to emerge this spring as the big surprise in the Royals’ camp.” The Royals put the 26-year old on the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He’s 50-47 in his 7-year minor league career with a 3.98 ERA—during which he’s primarily been a starter. The Royals noticed that he had better velocity out of the pen and they were impressed by his efforts out of the pen in both Wichita and the Arizona Fall League. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in camp.

--Zach Day is said to be ahead of schedule following his surgery last July to repair a partial tear in his right rotator cuff. According to this, he probably won’t break camp with the club, but he may be a possibility for the rotation as the season progresses.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pitchers and Catchers Report

You gotta love this time of year. Pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona as camp opened for the Royals on Saturday afternoon. Twenty nine of the thirty one pitchers the Royals invited have reported (Nunez and Peralta are on the way). I was glad to hear that Gil Meche and Brian Bannister reported a few days early. Infielders and outfielders will report by Wednesday. Check back for stories as they develop.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Poll Results

I’ve closed the poll that asked this question: Are you happy with the moves the Royals made at the winter meetings?

Here are the results:

81% (26 votes): Yes
19% (6 votes): No

A new poll will be up shortly.

Royals, Wellemeyer Avoid Arbitration

You probably heard that the Royals and Todd Wellemeyer avoided arbitration recently. They agreed to $635,000 for Wellemeyer’s 2007 salary. He said that he thought the Royals “got a bargain.”

He did put up impressive numbers last season after the Royals picked him up off waivers. He was 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 28 appearances—all in relief. And opponents only hit .185 against him when they had runners in scoring position. But the numbers weren’t all rosy for Wellemeyer. He walked 37 guys in 57 innings, uncorked 7 wild pitches, and had a 1.49 WHIP.

And if you look at the big picture, his career numbers are nowhere near what he did in Royal blue last season. He’s 6-7 with a 5.20 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP. He’s also walked 111 guys in 162.2 innings. So, I’m not sure he’s a bargain—unless you compare him to some of the disastrous results the Royals have scene out of the pen in recent seasons. He might be a bargain then.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

De La Rosa Impressive in MPL

Jorge De La Rosa put up some impressive numbers this winter in the Mexican Pacific League. During the regular season, he pitched 9.1 innings in relief—giving up only four hits and no runs. Opponents hit only .133 against him and he struck out 12. His team won the MPL. During the playoffs, De La Rosa pitched 11.2 innings, won two games, and had a 1.54 ERA.

In ten starts with Kansas City last year, his numbers didn’t look nearly as good. He was 3–4 with a 5.18 ERA with a 1.66 WHIP. He walked way too many guys (6.53 per nine innings). Frankly, he didn’t even look like he belonged at the major league level last season. But he’s 25 and he’s spent portions of eight seasons at the minor league level. So, if he’s ever going to shine, now would be a good time.

If you’d like to see how some of the other Royals performed in the winter leagues, here’s a link to an article on the Royals website that will fill you in.
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