Friday, February 29, 2008

Zack Greinke

I read a comment the other day (wish I could remember where exactly so I could give the proper attribution, but I can't) that said the Royals success or failure for the 2008 season hinges on Zack Greinke. I've been thinking about that and I think that's true. I don't expect Gil Meche to have a repeat performance, but I expect him to be in the mid-four's with a .500 or so record. I don't expect Brian Bannister to have a repeat performance, but I think he's legit, and I think he'll be solid. If Greinke can become the starting pitcher we've been waiting for, that would give us three tough guys at the top of the rotation, and if you can dream a little, maybe Luke Hochevar comes of age this season, and all of a sudden, we've got one of the best rotations we've had in a couple of decades.

Dick Kaegel wrote an article for the about Greinke that is running today. Kaegel points out that Greinke returned to the rotation for seven starts at the end of last season and he posted a 1.85 ERA. Overall he had a 7-7 record with a 3.69 ERA--including some lights out work in middle relief. As you read Kaegel's article, you'll see that Greinke is still Greinke. He lives in his own world. At one point, he told Kaegel that the season is so long that he gets bored doing the same thing, so he's happy that his roles have changed quite a bit over the past two seasons. But now that the Royals have him slotted for the number three spot, Kaegel asked him if he might get bored if he stays in the rotation all season. Here was Greinke's response: "I guess if I'm starting the whole year I'm doing pretty good so it'll be worth getting bored if you're pitching good, especially if you're winning games."

When Greinke first came to the Royals in 2004, I didn't understand him. I know he was young, but he said some of the craziest things. At one point, I remember him saying that he loved throwing a big looping 12-6 curveball at super slow speeds because it looked cool. I sort of went nuts on him in a post after reading that. But since then, I've read enough about Greinke to know that he's uncomfortable talking to reporters, and he's likely to say anything to them. To some degree, I think the Royals bear some responsibility for Greinke's anxiety because they threw him into the fire in 2005 and just left him there. He ended up going 5-17 in 33 starts with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. Opponents hit .309 against him and as the season progressed, it made me want to step in and say, "Enough, already."

As you know, he missed most of the 2006 season as he dealt with his anxiety and he came back strong in 2007. And now he's growing on me. I love the fact that he's battling through his fears, even though thousands of people are watching him. Not many of us can say the same thing. So, I find myself going easier on him now. And I'm rooting for him...not just on the field, but off as well.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ST Game #1

Rangers 6, Royals 1

That was hardly the performance that Royals fans were hoping for to start Spring Training. The Royals play an intrasquad game today and Hillman is saying: "We're setting it up just like a real game. I've got a lineup card. We've got two teams on each side, and we'll play to win. I've got a good feeling for the Royals. I'm betting they're going to win." I'm hoping that this is just a display of a good sense of humor and not a sign of someone who makes a joke out of losing.

The Good

Billy Butler was 1-for-1 with a walk. And he didn't make any errors at first base.

Tony Pena was 1-for-2 with an RBI--the Royals only run.

John Bale looked decent to start the game, striking out the side in the first, but he gave up a run in the second inning. 

Luke Hochevar followed Bale and tossed two perfect innings even though he was sick.

The Bad

Ron Mahay's debut was far from impressive. He gave up an earned run on two hits and a walk in one inning of work.

Yasuhiko Yabuta's debut was even worse. He gave up two earned runs on three hits and a walk in one inning of work.

The Ugly

Can somebody please tell me why Angel Berroa is in camp? I know we're paying the guy a ton of money and that Spring Training is a chance to start anew, but we've seen everything Angel Berroa has to offer, and it isn't good. Jason Botts scored from second base while Berroa "inattentively" (as the Star puts it) held onto the ball. When he finally realized what was happening, he bounced the throw to home. Sounds like Berroa is in mid-season form. I don't know what it would take to make this guy actually be "attentive" while playing the game, but I am really not interested in finding out while he's in Royal blue.

Esteban German had a ground ball go right through his legs.

Justin Huber, who was playing left field, misjudged a ball, resulting in a two-run double by Josh Hamilton. The game was tied 1-1 before the mishap.

The Truth

With the exception of Berroa, none of this stuff really matters. Both teams played a ton of guys. Some are learning new positions. This was the first game action that anybody has seen. And Hillman sounds like he is more concerned with working on the fundamentals this spring than he is with winning. Here's how he phrased it a couple of days ago: "We need to find out some things. Obviously, I'd love to win these ballgames simply to get that winning feeling going into the season but, ultimately, the primary objection is answering questions and getting guys conditioned and ready to play the season."

I don't think that getting questions answered and getting guys ready to play the season is a bad thing. In fact, the Royals have won trophies in Spring Training in the recent past and it hasn't carried over to the regular season. So, I like Hillman's approach. Let's use these games during the spring to be prepared to play more fundamentally sound in the regular season.

If you want to follow the Royals this spring, here's a link to their Cactus League page that contains their schedule.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spring Training Notes #4

If you haven't picked up on the fact that 2008 is going to be about fundamentals for the Royals, the latest article by Bob Dutton in the Star ought to convince you. Yesterday Trey Hillman spent more than an hour yelling out situations as a rotation of Royals took the batter's box and the field. At one point, David DeJesus failed to swing at inside pitch on a hit-and-run and Hillman had a little talk with him afterward. Hillman has picked up on what many Royals fans have known for years--this team doesn't have much power and it lacks the fundamentals to play small ball.

Let's look at the numbers from last season. Here's where the Royals ranked in MLB in the following categories:

27th 23rd 30th 22nd 26th 29th 29th

So, we didn't hit for power or average, and we didn't walk much. According to Hillman, this season is all about “OBP,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer. OBP, then drive them in. On-base percentage before average. Take your walks because you are aggressively disciplined in the strike zone. But take your walks." Let's hope this new brand of baseball takes hold with the players. I seem to remember Buddy Bell calling for more walks last spring as well.

Changing directions a bit, Hillman doesn't expect Mark Grudzielanek or Jose Guillen to play in spring games until March 8th or 9th. He says that they are veterans who know their bodies and they know what it takes to get ready. Grud is happy about the news, saying that playing so early last year may have led to his knee problems. And Hillman is complimentary of Guillen saying that he is one of the first players to show up every day--which is nice to hear.

The Royals play their first Cactus League game this afternoon against the Rangers. Here is the projected lineup for the Royals:

CF DeJesus

2B German

LF Teahen

DH Shealy

3B Gordon

1B Butler

RF Costa

C Buck

SS Pena


SP Bale

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spring Training Notes #3

Rusty Kuntz, the Royals new first base coach, likes to quiz players about the fundamentals of the game. You probably aren't going to believe this, but some of the players we currently have in camp did not know how many feet there are between the bases. I'm afraid to hear some of the other questions they got wrong.

If you didn't catch Sam Mellinger's article in the Star about Mike Sweeney in camp with the A's and the Royals search for new leadership, you'll want to read it. And if you haven't heard yet, Sweeney is wearing number five for the A's. Speaking of Mellinger, he has a new Royals blog you might want to check out:

In fact, there are all sorts of new Royals blogs popping up and I think that is so cool. The Royals must be one of the most blogged about teams in the game, which is a pretty good indicator that the fan base hasn't given up on the team, even though it is prone to complain from time to time. I'll be adding links to the new blogs soon.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spring Training Notes #2

Well, it appears that Jose Guillen is going to get what he wanted, or expected, or demanded, after all. Mark Teahen is moving to left field and Guillen is going to play right, even though Trey Hillman has been saying that Guillen was going to be his left fielder this season. Teahen's lack of production at the plate last year probably make him the most logical choice to move, given the amount of money the Royals are paying Guillen to hit home runs this year, but something about the way this whole thing came down bugs the living crap out of me.

Hillman is still stressing the importance of bunting--something the Royals rarely did under Buddy Bell. It's a good thing that small ball didn't fit in with Bell's style because the Royals apparently are below average bunters. "I hope to see better results, but you anticipate that you're going to have just as high a percentage of mess ups because you're putting three more components to it--the hit-and-run, the slash, and the stolen base," Hillman said.

With the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation up for grabs this spring, Luke Hochevar is sure to get a look. Like with other new acquisitions, the Royals have been trying to get Hochevar to stop landing on his heel and land on the ball of his foot instead. He didn't like the change at first, but listen to him now: "My curveball is a ton better, my four-seam [fastball] command is a ton better and it's just going to prolong my career. At the time, it didn't seem so pleasant, but in the long run, it's worth it." Pitching coach Bob McClure made the same suggestion to Mike Maroth and Maroth was impressed with the results as well.

Kyle Davies is another guy who is going to get a look for the rotation this spring. He was awful after being traded to Kansas City last year, going 3-7 with a 6.66 ERA in 11 starts. McClure spotted some problems with his delivery as well and Davies made six starts in the Dominican Winter League hoping to get things ironed out. Here's what he had to say about it: "I went down there with one reason, and that was to get better and work on some of the stuff that Mac had outlined for me to work on. And I felt like in six starts, I accomplished what I went down to do." We'll find out soon enough.

It appears that it's now or never for Justin Huber in a KC uniform. He's out of options, so the Royals have moved him to left field because they feel like he has a better chance of making the club by playing the outfield than he did by staying at first base. “Right now,” Hillman said, "we just want to see the bat and give him one position to worry about." Like many other Royals fans, I'm not convinced that Huber has ever been given a shot to play at the major league level with the Royals. He's only had 98 at bats for KC in three seasons, which isn't much, but by the same token, he's only hit .204 with 0 HR and 7 RBI. I'll be pulling for him this spring.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spring Training Notes #1

The Royals opened camp this past week in Surprise, Arizona and several stories are already taking shape:

Trey Hillman doesn't like what he's seeing in the batting cage during bunting drills. He said that "our technique is not very good." That won't come as a surprise to anybody who has seen the Royals play in the past few years. Hillman said that he told Tony Pena to "keep your hands nice and quiet" and after that Pena improved. Hillman also saw that the Royals' infield needed some work in picking up the direction of bunts. Hopefully the Royals get all of this ironed out now.

Defensively, Hillman is complimentary of Billy Butler's work at first base, saying: "[Butler] got a lot of work and looked very good. It looked like he'd been there for a while. It doesn't look like the game has sped on him a whole lot yet so that's a good thing for him and a good thing for us." If Butler could just be adequate when called upon to play the field, I think Royals fans will be thrilled.

Even though John Buck arguably had his best year at the plate last season, at least from a power numbers perspective, he struggled mightily in the second half and saw Moore go out and pick up another potential starting catcher in Miguel Olivo. Buck should be used to this by now. Moore brought in Jason LaRue last year and Paul Bako was brought in the season before, which has to make Buck realize that he's not necessarily the catcher of the future. He might not even be the catcher of 2008.

Buck seems to be taking it all in stride though, saying: "Whether we had Olivo here or not, it wouldn't matter if [Matt] Tupman was the backup or even another guy. If I didn't perform, they'd go out and get somebody," Buck said. "So I think it's good that we have Miguel because it just flat out makes our team better. He's a good ballplayer, a good hitter, a good catcher, so when I'm not on the field we're not going to miss a beat."

All eyes are on Gil Meche as camp opens. He had the best year of his career last season. He threw a couple of simulated innings one day this past week and he sounds optimistic about the season right now, but who isn't? I'd love to see Meche repeat last years performance, but even if he ends up with an ERA in the mid fours, I wouldn't mind that. I think that's what everybody expected anyway when he signed with the Royals.

Lots more going on...I'll write more later.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Honoring Mike Sweeney

The Royals drafted Michael John Sweeney in the 10th round of the 1991 June Free Agent Draft. By 1994, he was showing signs that he was getting closer to show material. He hit 10 HR and drove in 52 runs with a .301 average in 86 games for Rockford that season. In 1995, he hit .310 in Wilmington with 18 HR and 53 RBI in 99 games and he got his first chance in Kansas City.

If you look at the Opening Day roster for the Royals in 1995, Brent Mayne was the catcher. He caught 103 games that year while Mike MacFarlane was taking a brief break with the Boston Red Sox. But even back then, people were saying that Mike Sweeney was the catcher of the future and he caught four games for the Royals that season. In 1996, Sweeney started the year in Wichita, then progressed to Omaha, and he finished the year in Kansas City, catching 26 games, while also seeing a little time at DH. In 1997, he caught 76 games (splitting time with MacFarlane, who was back with the Royals), while DH'ing just three times. By 1997, he was starting to show a little promise at the plate (7 HR and 31 RBI in 240 at bats), but nothing that would indicate that he would be punishing major league pitching just a couple of years later.

Sweeney settled into the catcher's role in 1998, catching 91 games for the Royals (Sal Fasano was the other catcher on the roster). That was the year MacFarlane was dealt to the Oakland A's. MacFarlane was aging (he was 34 at the time), and Sweeney was just 24 and showing spurts of power in addition to seeing his OBP starting to rise. But during the offseason, the Royals made a move for Chad Kreuter, who became the opening day starting catcher in 1999. Sweeney moved to first base, where he played 74 games. He was the DH in 75 games. And he caught four games. Oh yeah, and he went nuts at the plate, hitting 22 HR, driving in 102 runs, and hitting .322 with a .387 OBP. Presumably, getting away from playing catcher allowed him more time to concentrate on his offensive development.

Here's a quote from him from a 1999 article from the Topeka Capital-Journal in which he talks about his transition to first base: "It's a lot easier than catching," Sweeney said. "It's a lot shorter throw from first to second base than it is catcher to second base." This was during the Tony Muser era. Muser and Sweeney had a player/manager relationship that was probably best described by the USA Today in a May 29, 2001 article this way:
...earlier this month, when frustrated manager Tony Muser said he wished his struggling team would set aside their milk and cookies and occasionally take a shot of tequila, many thought he was directing his tirade at Sweeney. Muser later denied that, saying if he could choose any man in the world to marry his daughter, it would be Sweeney.
Sweeney was open about his Christian faith and sometimes it may have led people to believe that he might be a bit soft. I don't think any evidence could ever be found for such a claim. Instead, his faith seemed to help him keep things in perspective. I'll talk more about that later.

Sweeney continued to massacre American League pitching in 2000. In fact, he had the best year of his career, hitting 29 HR, driving in a club record 144 runs. He hit .333 at the plate, had a .407 OBP, and for the first time, he became an All-Star--something he became accustomed to over the next several seasons. He went on to become a five-time All-Star while wearing Royal blue.

The Royals began to build a strong nucleolus of good young talent. Johnny Damon was already established with the Royals by this point. Jermaine Dye blasted 33 HR and drove in 118 runs that season. Carlos Beltran was suffering through a difficult sophomore year, but nobody seemed to doubt that he had a tremendous amount of raw talent. The Royals finished 77-85 that season and while that is hardly anything to cheer about, it was more wins than they'd had since 1993--the last time they'd finished over .500.

Small market realities started to set in though and the writing seemed to be on the wall regarding the Royals ability to keep their young talent. In January of 2001, Damon was dealt with Mark Ellis to the A's. The A's sent Ben Grieve to the Devil Rays and Angel Berroa and A.J. Hinch to the Royals. The Devil Rays sent Cory Lidle to the A's and Roberto Hernandez to the Royals. We won't get into the disaster that this trade turned out to be for the Royals. Later that year, Jermaine Dye was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Neifi Perez--another complete disaster for the Royals. And a few years later, after the Royals realized they couldn't sign Beltran, they traded him to the Astros in a another complicated three team deal that brought Mark Teahen, Mike Wood, and John Buck to the Royals.

As the Royals went through one phase after another of rebuilding for the future followed quickly by the signing of and trading for aging veterans with the believe that they could "win now," very little remained a constant--with two exceptions; number one, the Royals lost a lot of games, and number two, Mike Sweeney became the face of the franchise. And rightly so. He wanted desperately to bring a winner to Kansas City and he wanted to play his entire career there too. He also became active in the community.

He paid $100,000 for a dirt field that was formerly used to buy and sell drugs in downtown Kansas City and transformed it into a baseball field. He did work in support of Children's Mercy Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club of Kansas City, and the Kansas City FCA. He teamed up with Garth Brooks in the Teammates for Kids Foundation. He co-hosts an annual charity golf tournament in Kansas City each year with Tony Richardson. On and on it went.

He became known as one of the nicest guys in baseball. Then, in 2001, he was involved in a brawl with former Tiger pitcher Jeff Weaver. Weaver said something that Sweeney didn't like and Sweeney charged the mound and pummeled him. A couple of seasons ago, while working on assignment for a newspaper, I asked Sweeney about that incident and here's what he told me:
It's not something I'm real proud of being a part of, but it's something that happened. For years I've tried to rationalize it and justify it and now my desire is that soon, some day, I would be able to reconcile with Jeff. We wouldn't have to go out to dinner together, but just reconcile things. Not that we'd be best friends, but just to be able to put it behind us. Forgiveness is a good thing and admitting when you’ve messed up is too.
Here's a link to the article I wrote about Sweeney and his Christian faith if you'd like to read it.

Sweeney continued to put up big numbers for the Royals. In 2001, he hit .304 with 29 HR and 99 RBI. In 2002, he hit .340 with 24 HR and 86 RBI, but two other things happened that year that were career-changing for Sweeney. He was placed on the DL for the first time in his career with a lower back and hip strain. And he signed a five-year, $55 million contract extension with the Royals through 2007. In 2003, he was injured again, playing in just 108 games. In 2004, he played in just 106 games. In 2005, he played in just 122 games. And by 2006, Royals fans began to boo Sweeney. Some believed that he ought to be producing at a higher level since he made so much money. Some seemed to question his level of commitment. And on some Internet bulletin boards, people began to whisper about the possibility of Sweeney doing steroids.

In spite of it all, when he realized that he probably would not be returning to the Royals in 2008, he took out a full page ad in the Kansas City Star thanking fans for "for all the love you've shown me through the years." Then, after signing with the Oakland A's last week, he made these comments, "I became a Royal at age 17 and at age 34, I'm turning the reins over to the next crop of young players. I had the best years of my life in Kansas City...It'll seem strange seeing the guys with me wearing a different uniform. But it's John Buck, David DeJesus, Mark Teahen, Gil Meche and Alex Gordon now--it's their team now. And I'll be rooting for them to win a championship."

That tells you a lot about who Mike Sweeney is. I interviewed him several times over the past couple of years for various different publications that I write for and I can tell you that he acts the same way in the clubhouse that he does when he's out in public. He makes time for people. He remembers events in people's lives. He speaks about making a difference in the lives of people (and then he actually does it). And other players, even on opposing teams, talk about him favorably. When I interviewed Chad Durbin last season, he went on and on about how much he thinks of Sweeney.

In my opinion, Sweeney was everything you could ask for in a baseball player. Unfortunately, his body broke down on him, and it soured his final couple of years in Kansas City. But I suspect that when people think about him, they won't remember his injuries, or his contract, or the rumors, as much as they will remember the good times. The game-winning hits. The joyous interviews afterward. The time he gave to fans. The contributions he made to the Kansas City area. And the desperate, almost ridiculously optimistic outlook regarding the Royals future.

Mike Sweeney is wearing an Oakland A's uniform now, but he'll forever be a Kansas City Royal.

Here's where Sweeney ranks in the all-time Royals record book:



Royals Ranking

Games Played 1,282 7
At Bats 4,669 6
Runs Scored 700 6
Hits 1,398 6
Doubles 297 5
HR 197 2
RBI 837 5
AVG .299 3
Walks 484 5
HBP 66 3
Total Bases 2,296 6
Extra Base Hits 499 5
SLG .492 2
OBP .369 T7
OPS .861 2
Intentional Walks 59 4

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sweeney Signs with the A's

I knew this day was coming soon, but I kept holding out hope that maybe it wouldn't happen. Well, it did. Mike Sweeney just signed a minor league contract with the Oakland A's and his 17-year career with the Royals is over. He'll play first base and DH for Oakland.

Sweeney handled the fact that the Royals didn't want him back with incredible grace, saying things like, "I became a Royal at age 17 and at age 34, I'm turning the reins over to the next crop of young players. I had the best years of my life in Kansas City." And this, "It'll seem strange seeing the guys with me wearing a different uniform. But it's John Buck, David DeJesus, Mark Teahen, Gil Meche and Alex Gordon now--it's their team now. And I'll be rooting for them to win a championship."

I'll be doing a comprehensive tribute post to Sweeney in the coming week. Stay tuned.

Royals Sign Teahen, Greinke

The Royals don't have to worry about playing the bad guy regarding arbitration this year. They signed Mark Teahen to a $2.3375 million one-year contract and Zack Greinke to a $1.4 million one-year contract. They were the final two players left who were arbitration eligible.

Neither amount is too much, but I'm certainly expecting more out of Teahen this season. At times, he's shown flashes of brilliance (see the final six weeks of the 2006 season), but 2007 was a highly disappointing season for him. He transitioned to the outfield better than anybody probably could have imagined, but his performance at the plate looked more like his 2005 numbers than 2006. Seven home runs from a corner outfielder who plays 144 games just isn't acceptable. He does have a high OBP (.353 last season, which was 18th in the AL for outfielders, and he was ahead of Johnny Damon). He has a great attitude, and that's a good thing too. But he struck out way too often(127 times, fifth highest in the AL for outfielders last season), and he simply did not drive in enough runs. He tied for 30th in the AL among outfielders with just 60 RBI. Guess who he tied with? Coco Crisp.

In 2006, pitchers figured out that they could bust Teahen inside and they did so with regularity. He went to Omaha, learned how to hit the inside fastball, and he came back up to KC and tore the league up over the final six weeks. Last season, pitchers began to throw him breaking stuff away and Teahen struggled. He never looked comfortable. I have a feeling he'll turn things around in 2008, but that might be the Royals fan in me talking.

Royals Sign Maroth

You've seen by now that the Royals signed left-handed starter Mike Maroth to a one-year minor league contract and invited him to spring training as a non-roster player. The Royals didn't take much of a risk in signing him to a minor league deal and I like the fact that they didn't give him a roster spot.

So, now we'll see how he performs. The rotation could certainly use a lefty. And his 50-67 career record with a 5.05 ERA seems tailor-made for the number five spot, but he's up against a lot of competition. He was awful last year with the Cardinals. He had a 10.66 ERA in 14 games. If he doesn't make the major league roster with the Royals, Dayton Moore says he'll go to Omaha.

I had a chance to interview Maroth last April in Kansas City for a news service I write for sometimes. Maroth was still with the Tigers then and it was the first week of the season. He had an intensity to him that I liked. I'll be rooting for him as camp opens, but I won't be overly optimistic that he'll make the roster.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sweeney Interested in Padres

Mike Sweeney is said to be interested in signing with the San Diego Padres and is going to work out for the team next week at Petco Park according to this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday. [Hat tip to MLB Fleece Factor.]

The thought is that Sweeney might spell relief for Padre first baseman Adrian Gonzalez against lefties since Gonzalez hits left-handed. Gonzalez hit .263 against lefties last year vs. .290 against righties, but he did hit nine of his 30 home runs against lefties in less than half the number of at bats, so I can see Sweeney playing more of a pinch-hitting role than anything else if he signs with San Diego. And of course, he’d probably DH when the Padres play interleague games.

Royals Update

Brandon Duckworth accepted an assignment to Omaha. He'll receive a Spring Training invite and presumably battle for one of spots at the back end of the rotation or as a long term reliever. The Royals moved Duckworth off the 40-man roster so they could place Brett Tomko on it. For now, Hillman is calling Tomko his number four starter. Sounds like Moore and Hillman discussed this with Tomko before they signed him. But it sounds like they said it would happen in "a perfect scenario." Of course, that leaves a lot of wiggle room.

Esteban German signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Royals recently, avoiding arbitration. The funny thing about German is, when we signed him, he was viewed as the successor to Mark Grudzielanek at second base. While he has played 82 games at second since coming to Kansas City before the 2006 season, he has also played every other infield position (except catcher) and every outfield position except for right field. Part of the reason is because he's proven that he can be a valuable utility man while being adequate with the glove when out of position. Part of the reason is because Grudzielanek is still with the Royals. But with the trade for Alberto Callaspo, you have to wonder if Moore hasn't already decided that German isn't the second baseman of the future.

The Royals are saying that Ryan Shealy is healthy. And Moore isn't ready to write Shealy off after a horrible 2007 season. Here's what Moore is quoted as saying Jeffrey Flanagan's column: "We still believe that Ryan can be a valuable part of this team. Last year you can just throw out. He had the hamstring problems, the broken bone in his foot. He was never himself. You can't make any judgments off that season." I hope he's right. If Shealy can come back strong, then presumably Billy Butler wouldn't see nearly as much time at first base, but it would mean that Butler would be the DH most nights--something Hillman says he's isn't fond of. He'd rather share the love at DH.

With Shealy, Billy Butler, and Ross Gload already on the roster, the writing seems to be on the wall for Mike Sweeney. We have no room at the inn.

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