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.

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