Monday, March 31, 2008

Calling Your Shot

Craig over at Royals Authority has posted predictions for the 2008 season, including predictions from many Royals bloggers. Makes for interesting reading. Check it out when you get a chance: Your Shot Has Been Called.

Game 1

Game Date: March 31, 2008
Royals 5, Tigers 4 / Box Score
WP: Nunez (1-0), LP: Bautista (0-1), SV: Soria (1)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (1)
Royals Record: 1-0

It didn't look good early, but the Royals found a way to win, and that's what matters.

First things first, David DeJesus left the game in the third inning with a noticeable limp. Apparently his ankle injury is more severe than anybody thought. Joey Gathright took over for him in the third.

Gil Meche didn't have his best stuff. He struggled with his control, especially in the fourth inning. Brandon Inge fouled off several pitches with two strikes before lining a ball into left center with one out to put runners at second and third. Meche walked Edgar Renteria after that and Meche couldn't throw an inside strike. He got Placido Polonaco to line out for the second out, but he ended up walking Gary Sheffield with the bases loaded to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead and Meche was over 80 pitches after getting out of the inning. The knock against Meche has always been that he throws too many pitches and that held true today (he ended up throwing 99 pitches in six innings), but he did get out of the sixth inning with limited damage and he kept the Royals in the game long enough for them to make a comeback.

In the top half of the sixth, with one out, Mark Grudzielanek worked the count full against Verlander before slapping a base hit between first and second base. Our young guys could learn a lot from Grudzielanek's AB. And maybe Alex Gordon did because he got a 3-1, 90 mph fastball down main street and he crushed it over the right field wall to make the score 3-2 Detroit.

The Royals chased Justin Verlander in the seventh after Mark Teahen drew a walk and took third on a hit-and-run single by Ross Gload. Jason Grilli entered the game for Detroit and John Buck greeted him with a single to tie the game, 3-3. Tony Pena was called upon to drop down a sacrifice bunt and he fouled off his first two attempts. He ended up hitting into a fielder's choice and the Royals had runners at the corners with one out. Unfortunately, Joey Gathright couldn't get the run home (against Bobby Seay), but Grudzielanek lined an 0-1 pitch to right field against Aquilino Lopez to give the Royals a 4-3 lead.

Hillman turned to Brett Tomko for the seventh to face the Tigers 3-4-5 hitters (Sheffield-Ordonez-Cabrera) and he got through the inning without giving up one runs. Of course, Tomko is actually the fifth starter, but with the off days in the schedule in early April, he is available for relief work. Unfortunately, he gave up a home run to Carlos Guillen to start the eighth inning. But he settled down after that, and after a nice play on a ground ball up the middle by Grudzielanek and a nice scoop by Ross Gload, he was able to get a ground out and then a strike out to end the inning.

Leo Nunez pitched two brilliant innings of relief and the game remained tied at four until the eleventh inning. In the Royals' half of the inning, Teahen drew a lead off walk against former Royal Denny Bautista. Gload got a nice sacrifice bunt down and moved Teahen to second base. And the stage appeared to be set for a small-ball victory, Trey Hillman style. Buck singled to center, but Inge was playing shallow. Inge threw out Teahen at home, but it was a good gamble. Inge doesn't normally play out there and Teahen is a great baserunner. Buck ended up taking second on the throw home. So, it was up to Pena. He had a guy at second with two outs and he found a way to dink a ball in front of Inge to drive in Buck.

Joakim Soria came in and gave up a double to Clete Thomas. Inge got him to third on a sacrifice bunt but Soria struck out Renteria on an excellent 2-2 breaking pitch. Then with two outs and a guy at third, Alex Gordon made a great diving play on a ground ball and he made the throw to first for the win.

And just like last year, the Royals start the season 1-0.

Opening Day

Nothing like Opening Day, is there?

This marks the fifth Opening Day for Royal Reflections. You won't find the 2004 season in the archives because I used a different blog host that at the time. I should probably transfer all of those posts into the current archives, but if you remember, 2004 was a brutal season after the high expectations fans had after the 2003 season.

In spite of the difficult opening series against the Tigers and then the third series of the season against the evil Yankees next week, getting off to a solid start is more important for the Royals than for most teams because the Royals have started so many seasons poorly in the past five years and they end up digging themselves into a hole they can never get out of.

Let's hope this April is different.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

ST Game #30

Game Date: March 29, 2008 
Brewers 5, Royals 2 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 16-14

Zack Greinke pitched well yesterday, but it wasn't enough to overcome and Angel Berroa error and the Royals dropped their final game of Spring Training. The Royals finished at 16-14, which nobody is going to be upset with and they've chopped their roster down to 24 to start the season tomorrow.

The following guys were cut and sent to Omaha (with the exception of Luke Hudson): Ryan Shealy, Jason Smith, Angel Berroa, Mitch Maier, Joel Peralta, Neal Musser, Brandon Duckworth, Hideo Nomo, and Luke Hudson.

Matt Tupman remains on the roster as a backup to John Buck while Miguel Olivo serves his four-game suspension. 

So, here's the 24-man roster, as taken from the Royals website:

Pitchers (11) -- John Bale, Brian Bannister, Jimmy Gobble, Zack Greinke, Ron Mahay, Gil Meche, Nunez, Ramon Ramirez, Joakim Soria, Brett Tomko and Yasuhiko Yabuta

Catchers (2) -- Buck and Tupman

Infielders (7) -- Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Esteban German, Gload, Alex Gordon, Mark Grudzielanek and Tony Pena Jr.

Outfielders (4) -- David DeJesus, Joey Gathright, Jose Guillen and Mark Teahen

I make a prediction every season right before the season starts regarding the Royals record and every year I've been too optimistic. So take that into consideration when I say that I think the Royals will finish 77-85, which will be good for fourth place in the AL Central, just a game or two ahead of the Minnesota Twins.

But like you, I'll be hoping for a lot more.

Ready for Opening Day? Here it comes! Tomorrow afternoon, Gil Meche will go up against Justin Verlander.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mike Sweeney Added to A's Roster

A's manager Bob Geren doesn't know yet how Mike Sweeney will fit into his lineup, but it was recently announced that Sweeney will be in the mix after he cleared the first hurdle--making the 40-man roster. Here's a blurb from a recent article in the Alameda Times-Star about Sweeney:

One decision that appeared obvious has been made, as non-roster DH/first baseman Mike Sweeney will be added to the 40-man roster. The A's have yet to announce who they'll pull off the 40-man to make room for him.

Sweeney, who signed with the A's after a five-time All-Star career with the Kansas City Royals, has impressed all spring with his bat.

He's also fit right into the clubhouse with his pleasant and outgoing personality. Sweeney usually has hit between the third and fifth spots in the order during spring training, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him serving as DH in the opener, which would probably put Jack Cust in left field.

And here's a quote from Sweeney from an article in the SF Chronicle:

"It's exciting," he said. "Now I'm part of the team, and it's a matter of helping the team. Bob (Geren, the A's manager) made it clear he doesn't know what kind of playing time I'll get out of the gate, but I told him whatever role I have, I'll be the best teammate I can be."

DeJesus vs. Gathright

So what about the possibility of Joey Gathright becoming the everyday centerfielder for the Royals? Is he a better fit than David DeJesus? As I looked at their numbers, I compared them to other AL centerfielders from 2007 rather than to all AL outfielders for obvious reasons. Nobody expects centerfielders to produce the power numbers at the plate that corner outfielders do. And because the Royals would hit either man lead-off.

Gathright had 228 at bats last season. If he won the starting job in centerfield, he'd be much closer to 600 (DeJesus had 605 last season), so keep that in mind as you look at the numbers with me.


  2007 OBP 2007 AL Rank/CF Comments
DeJesus .351 T-7th Ichiro led all AL centerfielders with a .396 OBP. DeJesus was tied for 7th with Johnny Damon. And he finished ahead of Torii Hunter, Coco Crisp, Melky Cabrera, Gary Matthews Jr., Corey Patterson, and Vernon Wells.
Gathright .371 Didn't qualify Assuming that he could have kept up the pace he was on (which is a stretch since his OBP last season was much higher than it has ever been before), he would have ranked fourth in the AL among CF just below Nick Swisher (.381) and just above Kenny Lofton (.367).


  2007 BB 2007 AL Rank/CF Comments
DeJesus 64 5th He led the team in walks last season. And he finished behind only Grady Sizemore, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon, and B.J. Upton in the AL among centerfielders. He's also drawn 9 walks this spring in just 17 games.
Gathright 20 Didn't qualify If you project his BB total over a full season (600 ABs), he would have had 52 walks last season. This spring he has drawn 4 walks in 24 games.


  2007 Runs 2007 AL Rank/CF Comments
DeJesus 101 4th He led the team in runs last season and he finished just 10 runs behind Ichiro. He scored more runs than Torii Hunter, Johnny Damon, and Kenny Lofton. And he has scored 14 runs this spring, which places him in a tie for second on the team.
Gathright 28 Didn't qualify If you project his run total over a full season (600 ABs), he would have scored 73 runs last season. He leads the team in runs scored this spring with 18.


  2007 SB 2007 AL Rank/CF Comments
DeJesus 10 T-12th His 10 SB last season were a career high, so we can't expect him much more from him.
Gathright 9 Didn't qualify If you project his SB total over a full season (600 ABs), he would have stolen 23 bases last season. With that said, he's stolen 12 bases this spring in just 24 games, and if he won the starting job, he would undoubtedly have a career year swiping bags.

So, what does all this mean?

They both get on base a lot--DeJesus has the edge in career OBP; DeJesus is probably going to walk more often; they both appear to be on similar paths regarding runs scored; and Gathright would steal far more bases than DeJesus.

But what about base running ability, defense, and intangibles such as attitude and hustle?

Some of these things are measurable, some aren't. Certainly Gathright is faster out in centerfield, but they both have similar arms (slightly below average in my opinion) and they both always seem to make the plays that ought to be made. They are even similar in age (DeJesus is a year and a half older).

As similar as they appear to be, I don't think you can discount the fact that DeJesus is going to hit more home runs and drive in more runs that Gathright would--neither stat is vital for a lead-off man, obviously, but those numbers are in DeJesus' favor.

In my opinion, David DeJesus is more valuable to the Royals than most people give him credit for. He's never going to be an All-Star, but he does a lot of things well. He gets on base, he scores runs, and he plays a decent centerfield.

Gathright is certainly a flashier player than DeJesus, but I'm not convinced that he would be produce better numbers or be a better fit for the Royals as the every day centerfielder.

What are your thoughts?

ST Game #29

Game Date: March 28, 2008
Royals 4, Brewers 1 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 16-13

By winning last night, the Royals ensured themselves of having a winning spring. I wish I could say that winning in the spring usually equates to a quick start for the Royals in the regular season, but we all know that's not true. But we can always hope that this year is different.

Brian Bannister had his best start of the spring in this one, giving up just one earned run on six hits and no walks in five innings. He said this after the game:

"The goal was to get better in every single start in spring training. It did work out. I know it doesn't always work like that. But that was the goal. I kept the ball down today. I mixed all of my pitches in. It was really just a good-quality outing.

"That's exactly the kind of momentum I wanted going into the season."

Joey Gathright had something to do with this win too. He led off the game with a bunt single, then stole second base, and later scored on a Jose Guillen single. In the second inning, Gathright had a two-out RBI single to give the Royals a 3-0 lead. Gathright has done everything the club has asked him to do this spring, and maybe more, but that doesn't always lead to a spot on the team. He's certainly making a strong case for doing so though, isn't he?

Mark Teahen stole two bases, his first two of the spring

The bullpen looked solid for the first time in a while. Yabuta, Salmon, Mahay, Soria, and Nunez (who got the save) pitched the final four innings of the game without giving up any runs. In fact they gave up just two hits and no walks, while striking out six.

Zack Greinke gets the start in Milwaukee this afternoon. This is the final Spring Training game for the Royals. They are off tomorrow and open the season in Detroit on Monday.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Guillen's Suspension Stayed

MLB and the players' association put Jose Guillen's suspension on hold while they negotiate changes to their doping policy. And if you read this story, it sounds like the possibility of Guillen's suspension being revoked is a possibility. Probably not the greatest message to send, but such is life when it comes to the negotiation process.

So, Guillen will start the season for the Royals in right field, and Esteban German will resume the utility player role.

ST Game #28

Game Date: March 27, 2008
Rangers 8, Royals 5 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 15-13

Another day, another loss to the Texas Rangers. The Royals lost all five match ups against the Rangers this spring.

Mike Maroth knew that he wasn't going to be in the rotation to start the season, but he got the start yesterday anyway, and he didn't make the best of it. He gave up five runs on six hits in three innings. Maroth was assigned to minor-league camp after the game.

By the way, have you see the projected rotation for Omaha? 

  1. Luke Hochevar
  2. Kyle Davies
  3. Tyler Lumsden
  4. Matt Wright
  5. Mike Maroth

Some years, this would be comparable to the rotations we've had at the major league level.

Newly acquired reliever Ramon Ramirez pitched a scoreless inning yesterday, so it's nice to see him off to a good start.

John Buck hit a home run. Alex Gordon was 2-for-2 with an RBI. And Joey Gathright was 2-for-3.

Damon Hollins was assigned to minor league camp after the game. No surprise there, even after having such a good spring. Barring an injury or two, we don't have a place to play him in the lineup. The Royals are down to 34 players.

Miguel Olivo's suspension was reduced for four games. And the rumor going around about Jose Guillen's suspension is that it may be commuted as MLB union officials work toward an agreement with club owners to toughen baseball's drug policy. Sounds like the union isn't willing to budge unless Selig softens the blow on Guillen and Jay Gibbons.

The Royals will play two games in Milwaukee this weekend and then they are on to Detroit where they will open the season on Monday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

ST Game #27

Game Date: March 26, 2008
Mariners 8, Royals 5 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 15-12

Gil Meche got knocked around in his final start of the spring. He gave up four earned runs in five innings, but even so, his ERA stands at 3.74, which is close to what it was (3.67) during the regular season last year.

At the plate, the day belonged to Jason Smith who hit an inside-the-park home run in the second inning and hit another home run the old fashioned way in the seventh. Smith is hitting an uncharacteristic .349 this spring, but I can't imagine it being enough for him the make the Opening Day roster since we already have two other utility infielders in Esteban German and Alberto Callaspo who will probably make the roster. But German may have to start the year in right field, so who knows?

The Royals ended all speculation about the Opening Day rotation and announced the John Bale and Brett Tomko had officially won the fourth and fifth spots. Here are the five:

  1. Gil Meche
  2. Brian Bannister
  3. Zack Greinke
  4. John Bale
  5. Brett Tomko

Dayton Moore is saying that we'll probably start the season with 11 pitchers, so who will the six relievers be? We already know that Ramon Ramirez is in. Let's also make the assumption that Joakim Soria, Jimmy Gobble, and Yasuhiko Yabuta are also in. I'm not sure how Joel Peralta could be left out given the way he pitched last season. That leaves just one spot open and I think Moore hinted at who it might be when he said that they acquired Ramirez because, "We felt we needed to acquire somebody with some power from the right side to go along with (Leo) Nunez." If all of that plays out, then Ron Mahay and Neal Musser would be the odd men out--at least to start the season.

The Royals play Texas in Surprise this afternoon. Mike Maroth is scheduled to get the start for the Royals.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

De La Rosa Cut; Ramirez Acquired; Huber Traded

Lots of news breaking this afternoon, some of which comes from this AP story and the rest comes from this story in the KC Star. 

First, the Royals made a trade for RHP Ramon Ramirez of the Rockies for a player to be named. Ramirez is 26 years old and had a solid 2006 campaign, going 4-3 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and .230 BAA. But he battled an elbow injury last season, only seeing 17.1 innings worth of work (2-2, 8.31 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, .313 BAA) at the major league level. Presumably he's healthy now. He will be on the Opening Day roster and he'll pitch at the back end of the bullpen.

Jorge De La Rosa was designated for assignment (as I hoped would be the case) to make room for Ramirez. De La Rosa has to clear waivers before he can end up on a Royals' minor league team since he is out of options. Hideo Nomo will begin the season on the DL in the minors. He injured his groin on Tuesday night. And Kyle Davies was optioned to Omaha. So, I guess the mystery is over. John Bale and Brett Tomko will be in the rotation to start the season.

Justin Huber was traded to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later, which is sure to upset Royals fans. Huber was never really given a shot to play at the big league level with the Royals--mostly because he has been stuck behind Mike Sweeney, Ross Gload, Billy Butler, Ryan Shealy, and several other first basemen. In fairness to the Royals though, when Huber did get his ABs (which wasn't often), he didn't hit. From 2005-2007 he had 98 ABs at the major league level and he managed just 20 hits, for a .204 average. It would have been nice to see what he could do if he would have been given a shot, but maybe that'll happen for him in San Diego.

The Royals also sent Roman Colon, Chin-hui-Tsao, and Ken Huckaby to minor league camp.

ST Game #26

Game Date: March 25, 2008
Royals 8, Padres 4 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 15-11

I tend to think that the media and fans alike are putting way too much energy into who is going to be in the starting rotation on Opening Day. Anybody remember the rotation last year as the Royals broke camp?

Here it is:

1. Gil Meche
2. Odalis Perez
3. Zack Greinke
4. Jorge De La Rosa
5. Brandon Duckworth

Four of the five didn't even come close to 30 starts. Perez started 26 games, Greinke started 14, De La Rosa started 23, and Duckworth started just three. Now look at the number of starts other guys, who weren't in the Opening Day rotation, got; Brian Bannister started 27 games, Kyle Davies started 11, Scott Elarton started nine, Leo Nunez started six, and Billy Buckner started five.

So the point is, a month or two from now, we'll know who our best five guys are and they'll be in the rotation. Or, as is the case in most seasons, we won't really have a number four or five guy and those spots will be filled with a rotating cast of hopefuls. 

Brett Tomko gave up one earned run yesterday in four innings and given the way De La Rosa threw a couple of nights ago and the way Kyle Davies was pummeled (6 R, 11 H, in 5.0 IP) in a minor league game yesterday, you have to think that Tomko has nailed down the illustrious fifth spot behind John Bale. We'll see.

Alberto Callaspo was 2-for-5 with an RBI. Damon Hollins was 1-for-5 with an RBI. Esteban German was 1-for-4 with 2 RBI and he found out that he'll be the primary right fielder to start the season if Jose Guillen's suspension isn't overturned. Justin Huber was 1-for-1 with 2 RBI.

Joey Gathright stole his 11th base of the spring.

Chin-Hui Tsao picked up the win for the Royals in relief. Hideo Nomo gave up one earned run in an inning. Ron Mahay and Joakim Soria pitching the final two innings without allowing any runs.

Injury Updates: David DeJesus still has a sore ankle, but is expected to be okay in a day or two. Miguel Olivo didn't experience any problems with his strained right groin while catching seven innings in a minor league game.

The Royals still have 42 players in camp, so they have a lot of cuts to make in the next five days.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ST Game #25

Game Date: March 24, 2008
Royals 10, Dodgers 9 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 14-11

The Jorge De La Rosa experiment may be coming to an end. After an awful season least year and after a poor Spring Training, he needed an outstanding performance last night to secure the fifth spot in the rotation. That didn't happen.

He gave up four earned runs (including two home runs) on seven hits and two walks in four innings. When he's on, he's tough, but his command just disappears for long stretches of time during a game, and teams pounce on him. His ERA stands at 8.03 this spring and he's out of options. If I were Dayton Moore, I'd send him to the minor leagues and if another team claims him, then so be it. I don't see enough promise to protect him.

John Bale is believed to have won the fourth spot in the rotation, but he was hit hard yesterday in a minor league game. He gave up five runs on ten hits in 5.2 innings. Still no official word on whether he's in the rotation or not. I'm still scratching my head over the Royals sending Luke Hochevar to Omaha when he was clearly one of best of the rest bunch who is fighting for a spot in the rotation.

Did you see Wayne Gretzky and his family sitting in the stands all decked out in Royals gear? Gretzky and George Brett are friends and Brett invited him to the game. Gretzky's wife and son worked out with the Royals on Sunday. Ryan Lefebvre told a funny story during the broadcast. He said that Mark Teahen signed a bat and gave it to Gretzky, who is a huge baseball fan and even considered trying to play professionally early in his life. After Teahen's signed his name, he wrote "The Average One" which just about sums it up perfectly when you are in the presence of a guy known as "The Great One."

Did you see Joey Gathright hurdle Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kurodi when Kurodi attempted to field a ball in the first base line? If you haven't seen it, the video is up on the Royals website. Gathright ended the night with three hits and another stolen base (his tenth of the Spring). He's hitting .354 right now and definitely making a push to make the final roster. He was in the game because David DeJesus twisted his ankle early on. The injury isn't thought to be serious.

The bottom of the lineup when crazy last night. The combination of Butler, Gload, Buck, and Pena was 10-for-16 with 4 RBI. I'm not really sure what Billy Butler was doing hitting sixth, unless Hillman just wanted to see what Teahen could do if he hit a little higher in the lineup, but Butler is going to hit no matter where you put him.

Mike Aviles was re-assigned to minor league camp yesterday, dropping the roster to 42 players in camp. They still have 17 cuts to make over the next week.

Brett Tomko will get the start for the Royals tonight against the Padres.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Training Notes #5

The Royals have split their last two games and currently find themselves 13-11 in Cactus League play, which ranks them fifth among a dozen teams. Lots of news coming out of camp in the past couple of days:

First, Luke Hochevar has been sent to Omaha. This is disappointing to me. He had a 2.25 ERA in his three appearances and opponents were hitting just .226 against him. What more could he have done to win a spot in the rotation? They Royals didn't consider moving him to the bullpen, which I'm glad to hear, so he'll go into the rotation in Omaha. That leaves Brett Tomko, Jorge De La Rosa, Kyle Davies, and John Bale to fight for the final two spots. Bale seems to have secured one of them, but then again, I thought Hochevar probably had too. De La Rosa and Tomko have been hit hard all spring. Davies has been decent.

The Royals are still waiting to hear from the Commissioner's Office regarding Jose Guillen and Miguel Olivo. Both have appealed their suspensions. No matter which way it's turns out, the Royals need to know as soon as possible so they can figure out what to do with their roster. Losing Olivo for five games would cost the Royals a roster spot and they'd have to open the season with 24 players instead of 25, and you'd have to assume one of those 24 would be a third catcher, so it would really stretch the rest of the roster during the opening week of the season. Guillen would miss the first 15 days of the season (12 games), but it wouldn't cost the Royals a roster spot.

Trey Hillman has announced that Billy Butler will mostly be a DH this season. That's hardly breaking news if you've ever seen Butler move in the field. Unfortunately that means the Royals may end up with an extra first baseman on the roster. I got the feeling a week or so ago that Ryan Shealy might not make the Opening Day roster, but here's what Hillman said about when discussing Billy Butler and the situation at first base recently: "I like the lateral range of (Ryan) Shealy and (Ross) Gload a little better than I like the lateral range of Billy Butler. But I've been very impressed with Billy’s footwork around the bag and his hands defensively overall."

Mark Grudzielanek is back in action. He hit a home run over the weekend, but he admitted that he felt like he "had 250 pounds of cement" in his legs." Grud is a great guy to have in the clubhouse right now and I'm sure he'll be able to help some of our younger guys like Alberto Callaspo, but you get the feeling that Grud's productive days are behind him. He's 37, he's battling injuries on a regular basis now, and his legs are heavy. I'm still rooting for him, but I'm not optimistic. Before the season is over, I wouldn't be surprised to see Callaspo as the regular second baseman.

Jorge De La Rosa will start for the Royals tonight against the Dodgers at 7:05 PM on FSN.

We're just one week from Opening Day for the Royals.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

ST Game #22

Game Date: March 21, 2008
Royals 8, Mariners 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 12-10

The Royals played a little long ball yesterday against Erik Bedard and the Mariners. Alex Gordon went deep in the first inning and Jose Guillen hit a two-run home rune in the third.

Gil Meche did everything we've come to expect from him: ''Gil did a good job,'' Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. ''He controlled the ball, threw all his pitches for strikes, worked ahead in the count. Pretty much everything you want to see." Meche pitched into the seventh inning (89 pitches total) and gave up just two runs. I see now that they plan to start him one more time before Opening Day. He'll go into that start with a 3-1 record and a 2.70 ERA.

How can you not be impressed with the play of Alberto Callaspo since Grudzielanek went down? Callaspo was 2-for-5 yesterday with an RBI and he raised his average to .360. Mark Teahen is in the groove, he was 2-for-3 with an RBI to bring his average to .327. And Matt Tupman continues to have an outstanding spring (he was 2-for-3 and currently has a .353 average) but he has no shot at making the roster unless John Buck or Miguel Olivo goes does before Opening Day.

Our bullpen has struggled this spring, but they were adequate yesterday. Ron Mahay pitched two thirds of scoreless ball. So did Yasuhiko Yabuta. Unfortunately they both still have an ERA over 7.00. Let's hope they got the kinks worked out. Joakim Soria gave up another run yesterday and his ERA is a rather unimpressive 5.79.

Brian Bannister will go against the Padres this afternoon in Surprise.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Royals Roundtable

Sam Mellinger with the Kansas City Star has been facilitating a Royals Roundtable discussion on his Ball Star blog for the past several days. Several Royals bloggers, myself included, and a couple of other baseball writers have been participating in the discussions and it's been a blast. If you haven't had a chance to read the roundtable posts yet, here are links to all three discussions we've had:

The panel consists of:

ST Game #21

Game Date: March 20, 2008
Royals 11, Brewers 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 11-10

Wasn't it nice to be able to watch a Royals game on FSN for the first time this spring?

We heard quite a bit during the broadcast about Brett Tomko and his new spike curveball, which in my day was called a knuckle curve. And we heard that the major problem with Tomko this spring has been the similar speed of all his pitches. Pitching coach Bob McClure and manager Trey Hillman have been trying to get Tomko to throw his breaking pitches, primarily his change up, much slower. At the beginning of spring, he was throwing it 87 mph and his fastball was around 93 mph--not much of a difference, making it easy for hitters to tee-off on him. Last night, Tomko had has change up in the low 70s, so now he has about a 20 mph variance, which should help. Of course, he still has an ERA of 8.59, but that doesn't seem to be bothering McClure or Hillman.

I like what I saw from David DeJesus in the first inning. He looks confident at the plate and he's reportedly been working on taking more pitches. [It appears like many others are embracing this philosophy as well...we drew six more walks last night.] He worked the count to 3-1 before he singled the opposite way. He stole second base and scored on a single by Jose Guillen. All of that set the stage for a two-run bloop-single into right field off the bat of Ryan Shealy, which brought in two more runs. Before the inning was over, the Royals had a 4-0 lead.

Seeing Mark Teahen hitting in the seven-hole looks funny, but it sounds like he might be there quite a bit this season, which would certainly take the pressure off him, but it would put it squarely on the shoulders of Alex Gordon, who hit number three last night and he looked pretty good doing so. He was 2-for-3. Teahen was 1-for-2 with a walk.

If you listened to what Hillman said between innings, you get the feeling that Ryan Shealy might not making the Opening Day roster. He isn't crazy about carrying a lot of first basemen and Ross Gload can play multiple positions, so he seems secure. Hillman also said that he plans to play Teahen at first base during the final week of Spring Training and if he can be adequate over there, coupled with the play of Gload and occasionally Billy Butler, then it might end up taking an injury to one of those guys for Shealy to get another chance any time soon.

Speaking of Teahen--he looks uncomfortable in left field to me. He had a ball hit at him last night and he misplayed it, allowing it to get over his head and it rolled all the way to the fence. I love his willingness to play wherever the teams needs him, but I don't like the fact that he's on another new learning curve defensively while at the same time trying to find his old stroke at the plate.

Hideo Nomo was impressive in relief last night. He struck out three and didn't issue any hits, walks, or runs in two innings of work. His ERA is down to 4.85 and I'm sure he's still in the running to win a spot in the bullpen.

This afternoon, Gil Meche will make his final start of the spring. He'll go against Erik Bedard of the Mariners.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ST Game #20

Game Date: March 18, 2008
Cubs 6, Royals 5 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 10-10

I understand wanting to send a starter back out for the sixth inning during Spring Training--especially this late because you want to build up a guy's arm and prepare him for what he's about to face, but this time it backfired.

John Bale was locked in a 1-1 tie after five innings and he still probably should have gotten out of the sixth, but a failure to turn a double play set the stage for an Aramis Ramirez three-run home run. With a 4.91 ERA, I don't know if Bale will get into the rotation or not, but he's been solid. If I had to guess, I'd say he's battling Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies for one of the final two spots, but I guess we shouldn't count out Brett Tomko either. We'll see what happens.

Yasuhiko Yabuta pitched 1.2 innings scoreless relief. Jimmy Gobble pitched a third of an inning without surrendering a run. But Joakim Soria ended up blowing the save and with an ERA in the mid-5.00s you have to at least be a little concerned about him.

David DeJesus was 2-for-4. Alberto Callaspo was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI. And Mark Teahen was 3-for-4 with an RBI.

The Royals are off today. They play the Brewers tomorrow. Brett Tomko will get the start.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ST Game #19

Game Date: March 17, 2008
A's 6, Royals 2 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 10-9

Mike Sweeney took his first at bats against his former team yesterday, but before all that he hugged a lot of former teammates--something you'd expect if you've followed Sweeney for any length of time. The first guy he hugged? Billy Butler. The guy who took his spot on the roster. Says a lot about who Sweeney is.

Here's something else that says a lot about who he is:

"I really miss the guys," Sweeney said. "I was talking to [Mark] Teahen today, and I said, 'How's it going over there?' He said, 'Oh, it's going great, but sometimes I'll look around and want to get some advice from you, and you're not around.'

"I looked him in the eye and I said, 'Well, you know what that means -- it's your time to lead.'"

One can only hope that Teahen does indeed become the type of leader that Mike Sweeney was in the clubhouse.

On to the game...

If Brian Bannister is nothing else, he's confident. He gave up three earned runs yesterday on six hits (four of which were doubles) in five innings, which actually dropped his ERA this spring to 8.49. He's not concerned in the least: "My arm strength continues to get better every outing. My fastball had much more life on it today. I was able to get it down better. That's going to continue to increase over the next two weeks."

In a minor league game, Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar each pitched four scoreless innings. If I had to guess, they will be the number four and five guys in the rotation to start the season. Mike Maroth has been eliminated from consideration for the rotation--at least for now. So this list continues to dwindle.

Ron Mahay got knocked around again yesterday against the A's. He gave up two more earned runs on one hit and three walks in just a third of an inning. His ERA is 8.44. He'll probably still make the roster, but I'm guessing he'll be on a short leash.

The Royals didn't do much at the plate. Joey Gathright and Tony Pena had two hits apiece. Mike Aviles and Alex Gordon drove in one run apiece. And the Royals managed just six hits and two walks for the day.

John Bale gets the start for the Royals today, hoping to keep his shot at the rotation alive. He'll go against Jason Marquis of the Cubs in Mesa.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ST Game #18

Game Date: March 16, 2008
Royals 13, Giants 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 10-8

Zack Greinke pitched five strong innings in this one, giving up just one earned run on three hits and a walk. Although, in reality, he faced mostly backups in the Giants' lineup because most of their regulars played in an A-game against the Angels. Even so, Hillman noted that Greinke "changed speeds so well. Watching the gun, 92-93 (mph) to sometimes 78-80. That's a good variance there as far as getting hitters off their back foot."

Mike Maroth struggled again, giving up two earned runs in two innings. He walked four guys and saw his ERA climb to 9.00. I can't see him making the rotation to start the season. Going down to Omaha for a month or two might be a good thing for him. It would get him out of the spotlight and give him a chance to figure some things out. Brandon Duckworth and Jimmy Gobble both pitched scoreless innings.

As you can tell from the score, the Royals had a field day at the plate. Joey Gathright, David DeJesus, Ross Gload, and Esteban German had two hits apiece. German drove in four runs. Ryan Shealy and DeJesus drove in two. And the Royals walked eight times. I love to see that.

Brian Bannister will get the start for the Royals tomorrow afternoon against Oakland in Phoenix. He'll go up against Dana Eveland.

Nomo Eliminated from Rotation Bid

The Royals informed Hideo Nomo this morning that he is no longer a candidate for the starting rotation. He says that he's open to pitching in relief and the Royals will give him a chance now to win a spot in the bullpen. I can't see it happening though.

Bob Dutton is reporting that John Bale and Brett Tomko are the favorites right now for the remaining two open spots in the rotation. He also is saying that some club officials believe that Bale and Tomko are more valuable in the pen. I'd like to see Luke Hochevar win one of the rotations spots. And Kyle Davies certainly still has a shot as well. Dutton points out that De La Rosa is out of options and he probably wouldn't clear waivers, which sort of puts him in contention for the rotation by default.

Should be interesting to see how things shake out.

ST Game #17

Game Date: March 15, 2008
Brewers 8, Royals 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 9-8

Gil Meche's performance yesterday must have convinced Trey Hillman that Meche is indeed the Royals ace and Hillman named Meche the Opening Day starter. Was there ever really a doubt? The idea that the Royals were going to pay a guy $55 million to be the number two guy seems a bit absurd. But that's over now.

Hideo Nomo, on the other hand, didn't help his cause when he gave up five earned runs in three innings. His ERA is 5.73 and he better pick it up if he hopes to make it past the next round of cuts. 

The Royals didn't do much at the plate, managing to get just six hits. Mike Aviles had two of them and so did Ryan Shealy.

Zack Greinke will go against the Victor Santos of the Giants this afternoon in Surprise.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mike Sweeney Update

If you'd like to read a Mike Sweeney update, here's a link to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. But be warned, the writer takes multiple shots at the Royals, including these gems:

"At the very least, Sweeney, who knows nothing about playing for a winner, wants to believe the A's can do damage."

"Early in camp, he was taking batting practice when Beane walked by. On one swing, his bat slipped from his hands and hit the back of the cage, and he quipped, 'The Royals are small-market, but at least we had rosin.' Not much else, however."

"He's hitting .455 in seven exhibition games and seems a nice fit. If nothing else, it's not Kansas City."

Roster Cuts

The Royals trimmed their roster from 50 to 44 yesterday. Here are the guys who were cut:

  • Carlos Rosa was optioned to Double-A
  • Tyler Lumsden was optioned to Triple-A
  • Brian Lawrence was reassigned to minor-league camp
  • Shane Costa was optioned to Triple-A
  • Angel Sanchez was optioned to Double-A
  • Mario Lisson was optioned to Double-A

ST Game #16

Game Date: March 14, 2008
Rangers 10, Royals 8 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 9-7

The Rangers own the Royals this spring. Yesterday, the Royals lost to them for the fourth straight time. If you look at Brett Tomko's line, you might be inclined to hang the loss on him, and I can understand that. His line wasn't pretty: 6 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 8 H, 4 K, in 4.1 IP. But according to an AP story: "Two hits were lost in the sun, some were wind-aided and others were not well struck." And Hillman said he liked Tomko's performance.

Yasuhiko Yabuta's line wasn't much to look at either. In fact it was much worse than Tomko's: 4 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 K, in 1.0 IP. Hillman had this to say about Yabuta afterward: "He wasn't too sharp. The biggest problem was behind in the count. He's got to pitch ahead. He didn't locate his fastball very well. It was really totally opposite of his last outing when he located the ball as well as he has all spring.'' Yabuta's ERA is now 10.29, and yeah, it's just Spring Training, but it'd be nice to him string together several good outings in a row before the season starts.

Joakim Soria and Ron Mahay worked the final three innings without giving up any runs.

At the plate, the Royals had fourteen hits on the day. Billy Butler was 1-for-2 with a solo home run. Alberto Callaspo had another good game, going 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, and he raised his average to .342. Matt Tupman was 2-for-2 to raise his average to .375 and with Miguel Olivo possibly straining his groin during the game, Tupman may end up being the backup catcher to start the season, but it's too soon to tell. Mitch Maier finally had a decent day at the plate, going 2-for-4 to raise his average to .179. And Joey Gathright was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Gil Meche is scheduled to start this afternoon against the Brewers and Hideo Nomo is scheduled to work four innings in relief.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Grudzielanek Ailing

Mark Grudzielanek is heading back to Kansas City as "a precautionary examination to determine the cause of tightness in his lower back." I don't like the way that sounds. The Royals allowed him to avoid game-action until last week hoping that it would allow him time to ease his way back into playing condition, but you have to wonder how much the hard-working 37-year old has left. Let's hope that his tightness turns out to be nothing serious and that he's able to return to action soon.

The Royals signed Alberto Callaspo during the offseason thinking that he could be the second baseman of the future. It's way too early to know if he'll get a shot to prove himself this season, but you never know. He's hitting .314 right now and he's certainly showing some versatility. He started at shortstop yesterday.

ST Game #15

Game Date: March 13, 2008
Royals 6, Angels 5 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 9-6

The Royals won their fourth straight game yesterday and some of their wins are happening for reasons most people probably wouldn't have suspected going in to Spring Training. Yesterday, Damon Hollins continued his hot stretch, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI. If I were a fourth or fifth outfielder for the Royals, I'd be looking over my shoulder right now. Hollins' age (33) is working against him, but if he can still produce, then who knows what might happen.

The Royals took the lead yesterday when Matt Tupman successfully put down a squeeze bunt to get Ross Gload home. The team's number three catcher laying down a squeeze bunt? That's apparently going to be the Hillman way. Here's what he said after the game: "We're just going to work on some things we might have to do during the season and do whatever we need to do. Coming in I wanted to diversify and be a little unpredictable and that was pretty unpredictable. Hopefully, we can make people a little bit nervous at unpredictability before the season. When we have opportunities to do something, we'll try to do something."

Jorge De La Rosa was adequate yesterday, giving up two earned runs on four hits and three walks runs in four innings. He reportedly had better command of his fastball and he threw more cutters than he has in his previous outings this spring. Hillman said it was the best that De La Rosa has thrown to this point. Mike Maroth ended up getting the win, even though he gave up one run (a home run) in an inning of relief work. Joel Peralta pitched a scoreless inning.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

ST Game #14

Game Date: March 12, 2008
Royals 6, Angels 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 8-6

Miguel Olivo hit his first home run of the spring in this game--a two-run shot and Ross Gload hit his second home run of the spring, which I'm sure caught the attention of Trey Hillman who is already toying with the idea of making Gload the starting first baseman in place of Ryan Shealy. The USA Today is saying that at the very least, Gload "figures to play against most or all right-handers initially."

The story of this game though, at least in my mind, was the way Luke Hochevar responded after giving up two runs in the first inning. But he was able to pitch out of trouble after that and he didn't give up any more runs. Here's what he said after the game: "You don't want to give up two runs and three hits in the first inning, but I'm pleased that I made that adjustment and got through it and I competed. One thing I hang my hat on is that I'm never going to be out-competed or outfought."

Kyle Davies continues to pitch well. He gave up one earned run on two hits and one walk in three innings. Yasuhiko Yabuta finally settled down and tossed a scoreless inning, striking out two. And Ryan Braun threw a scoreless inning.

This afternoon, Jorge De La Rosa will go against Joe Saunders of the Angels in Surprise. The Royals also plan to use Brian Lawrence, Mike Maroth, and Joel Peralta in the game.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ST Game #13

Game Date: March 11, 2008
Royals 8, Diamondbacks 7 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 7-6

On the offensive side of things, we had much to cheer about in this one--like the way this recap starts out on the Royals website: "Billy Butler's day got off to a good start against Dan Haren. With one out in the first, Mike Aviles singled, Mark Teahen moved him to third with a double and Butler brought them both home with a single to center." Singles, moving runners, and setting the stage for the clean up hitter to drive in runs. That's how it is supposed to be done.

We've got some guys in camp who probably aren't going to make the Opening Day roster, but at the same time, they continue to put up impressive numbers. Mike Aviles was 2-for-5 yesterday. His average is currently .412. Damon Hollins was 1-for-3 and he's hitting .308. And Justin Huber was 1-for-1 with an RBI. He's hitting .500. All three of them probably deserve a spot based on the way they've performed this spring. But if the Royals carry 12 pitchers, 2 catchers, 6 infielders, and 5 outfielders, you have to wonder where these guys would fit.

Let's assume that the following guys are already on the roster, and I know that a couple of these guys are a stretch, but work with me:

  • SP-Gil Meche
  • SP-Brian Bannister
  • SP-Zack Greinke
  • SP-Kyle Davies/John Bale/Brett Tomko
  • SP-Luke Hochevar/Hideo Nomo/Luke Hudson
  • RP-Ryan Braun
  • RP-Jorge De La Rosa
  • RP-Jimmy Gobble
  • RP-Ron Mahay
  • RP-Joel Peralta
  • RP-Yasuhiko Yabuta
  • RP-Joakim Soria
  • C-John Buck
  • C-Miguel Olivo
  • DH-Billy Butler
  • 1B-Ryan Shealy
  • 2B-Mark Grudzielanek
  • SS-Tony Pena
  • 3B-Alex Gordon
  • LF-Mark Teahen
  • CF-David DeJesus
  • RF-Jose Guillen
  • UTIL-Ross Gload
  • UTIL-Alberto Callaspo
  • UTIL-Esteban German

If the Hillman decides to go with 11 pitchers instead of 12, which I can see happening, that would open up one spot, maybe for a reserve outfielder, but not necessarily. With the flexibility of both Gload and German to play the infield or outfield, our 25th guy could be nearly anybody. Would it be Justin Huber? Shane Costa? Mitch Maier? Damon Hollins? Mike Aviles? Joey Gathright? Would the Royals pick Gathright because they like his speed on the bases and because they need someone to backup DeJesus? Or will the give the roster spot to someone else, thinking that Teahen could backup DeJesus if necessary and finally give someone like Justin Huber a shot? We'll soon find out.

On the mound yesterday, Zack Greinke gave up three bombs--all solo shots. Oddly, if you took those home runs away, which of course you can't, Greinke pitched well. He struck out five in four innings. The only hits he gave up were the long balls. Brandon Duckworth was hit hard, giving up four earned runs in two innings. Neal Musser picked up with save with a scoreless inning of work.

Luke Hochevar is scheduled to start this afternoon in Tempe against Jon Garland of the Angels. Brian Bannister, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Mike Maroth are scheduled to work against minor leaguers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

2008 Royals Preview

A few websites and blogs are releasing team previews for 2008. I've collected bits and pieces of several of them regarding the Royals, as well as providing links so you can go read the previews in their entirety for yourself. I'll post more previews later when they become available.

NBC Sports: "Couple an improving young core of players helped by a couple of free-agent signings with a new manager who many expect to succeed in his first big-league shot, and you have the makings of an improved team. That should be your 2008 Trey Hillman-led Royals, who won't be threatening the division's top two contenders, but could very well approach the .500 mark if enough things break their way..."

Prediction: 76-86, 4th place in the AL Central

Sporting News: "...the Royals' 69-93 record [in 2007] actually ended a string of three consecutive 100-loss seasons. Now, it's up to Hillman to keep the momentum going. That seems like quite a challenge, seeing as how he never played major league baseball. And, until the Royals hired him Oct. 19, Hillman never had even coached in the majors. Instead, Hillman, 44, served his time in the minor leagues, managing in the New York Yankees' system for 13 years before heading to Japan."

Prediction: None

Editorial Note: This really isn't much of a preview and the writer actually referred to Dayton Moore as "Drayton" in the article.

Fox Sports: "The climb from cellar to summit has never looked steeper in the AL Central. The division's other four teams each have one postseason berth since 2005, while Kansas City has not made the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series. Still, Moore is building the foundation of a winner and the arrival of Hillman—Moore's first managerial hire—allows for greater continuity."

Prediction: None

At Home Plate: "The Royals will once again end up in the cellar of the Central and might well contend to be the worst team in the AL. They will however see some of their players step up and strut their stuff. The pitching staff however will be the key to this team's future and will be worth watching not just to see if the Royals have hope for the future--but so we can speculate on what teams their best young pitchers will be traded to when the Royals decide they won't pay more than league minimum in a couple of years."

Prediction: 5th place in the AL Central

Editorial Note: Is Gil Meche making the league minimum? And given the way the Royals chased after guys like Torii Hunter during the offseason, why would they not continue to spend money, within reason, to keep their starters?

ST Game #12

Game Date: March 10, 2008
Royals 15, Giants 6 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 6-6

What a difference a day makes, huh?

The Royals pummeled Barry Zito yesterday and had an 8-2 lead after the fourth inning. When you score 15 runs, nearly everybody is in on the act, but I want to talk about two aspects of the offense yesterday.

First, Mark Teahen his his second home run of the spring and Ryan Shealy hit his third home run. Nobody seems to know what to expect from either player this season, although certainly, expectations run higher for Teahen, but if these two guys can re-discover their power stroke, this team is going to be fun to watch because I'm confident that Billy Butler is going to get his hits and Jose Guillen is expected to do what he's been doing for the past several years. And one can hope that Alex Gordon will be a factor as well.

The other thing to note is the number of walks (8) the Royals drew yesterday. David DeJesus had two. Alex Gordon had two. So did Joey Gathright. And the Royals only struck out twice. Let's hope that the trend continues.

Damon Hollins continues to make noise. he was 3-for-3 with 5 RBI yesterday. He'll be 34 in April, so I'm guessing that he won't be fond of playing in Omaha if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, but the way he's swinging the bat right now, he might want to consider it because he could be just one injury away from getting another big league shot.

Hideo Nomo gave up two runs in the first inning and came back nicely after that. He ended up giving up two earned runs on four hits in three innings of work. He's finally starting to find a little velocity. According to the Star, he hit 88 mph once on the radar gun. Joakim Soria pitched two scoreless innings. Gobble tossed one scoreless inning. And both Joel Peralta and Carlos Rosa surrendered two earned runs apiece.

Zack Greinke will go against Dan Haren in Tucson this afternoon.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

ST Game #11

Game Date: March 9, 2008
Cubs 13, Royals 1 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 5-6

The Royals were on WGN today and it would have been nice if they weren't. I can't imagine a much uglier game for the Royals. They were out-hit 21-2. They made two errors and the scorekeeper must have fallen asleep on several other plays. Mark Teahen and Tony Pena struggled with balls hit into the sun and when they weren't letting balls drop in, Mark Grudzielanek was either making a poor throw or not coming up with a ball.

Brett Tomko was hit hard, giving up five earned runs on nine hits and one walk in 2.1 innings. Leo Nunez gave up three earned runs in three innings. And every reliever who came in after him (Mahay, Yabuta, and Pimentel) gave up at least one earned run.

Jose Guillen saw his first at bats of the spring. He was 0-for-3. Of course, when you get just two hits as a team, nearly everybody is hitless. But it's still spring, thankfully.

In B-game action, Mike Maroth pitched a scoreless inning and a third, giving up a hit and two walks. He still has a stiff left shoulder, but he's working through it.

The Royals lowered the number of guys in camp to 50 by cutting ten players and re-assigning them. Here's the list:

  • Mike Stodolka
  • Chris Lubanski
  • Adam Donachie
  • Damaso Espino
  • Julio Pimentel
  • Roberto Giron
  • Matt Peterson
  • Matt Wright
  • Ben Hendrickson
  • John Foster

Hideo Nomo will go for the Royals tomorrow afternoon in Surprise against Barry Zito of the Giants.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

ST Game #10

Game Date: March 8, 2008
Brewers 8, Royals 2 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 5-5

For the second straight day, Royals' pitchers were roughed up by the opposition. John Bale, who has been good up until this point, didn't look quite so good this afternoon. He gave up three earned runs on six hits and a walk in four innings of work. Bale is still in the running for the number five spot in the rotation. He lost twenty pounds during the offseason hoping to come into camp and win a spot in the rotation. Even after his outing today, his ERA is just 4.00, so I'm sure he's still in the running. 

The AP reported a funny incident from the game in which Billy Butler "ran over Royals starter John Bale while trying to cover second base." I need to see the video of this play. I'm having a hard time imagining Butler covering second. The guy continues to hit like a madman though. He was 2-for-2 with a walk today and raised his average this spring to .435. Alberto Callaspo was 2-for-2 with a walk and looks to be the real deal, but this is still spring. Let's see if he can do it during the regular season.

I was interested to see who the backups were today. Mitch Maier took over for Joey Gathright in center and went 0-for-1. He's hitting just .118. Angel Berroa took over for Callaspo at second base (why?) and he too went 0-for-1. He's hitting a Berroa-like .200. Mike Stodolka, the former first round pick of the Royals in the 2000 draft who started his career as a pitcher and after having little success (and Tommy John surgery) there he became a first baseman (a position he also played in high school), came in for Billy Butler and went 1-for-1. Just Huber came in for Mark Teahen in left field and was 0-for-1. And Mike Aviles came in and played third late in the game and went 1-for-1. Lots of interesting names in that group of players.

Tomorrow in Surprise, Brett Tomko will go up against Ryan Dempster for the Cubs.

A New Look

You may have noticed a slightly different look here at Royal Reflections. It was time for me to clean up the template a little. I stayed with the same basic look, but I switched to the new Blogger format, which makes it easier to add widgets and to tweak the template in the future. I checked the new look on several different browsers and I don't see any problems, but if you experience any, please leave a comment and let me know what you are seeing.

ST Game #9

Game Date: March 7, 2008
Rockies 10, Royals 7 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 5-4

This was an ugly one. Two errors by the Royals. Seven walks by the pitching staff. Brian Bannister was hit hard again (5 ER, 1 BB, 6 H, 2 K, in 3.2 IP). But at least Mark Teahen was back in the line up where he hit his first home run of the spring. And the Royals stole two more bases to make them 15 out of 18 for the spring. Not much more to add about this one. We were out-pitched.

John Bale, Jorge De La Rosa, Ryan Braun, and Chi-hui Tsao will pitch for the Royals this afternoon against the Brewers. Two of the guys they'll go up against are familiar names: Jeff Suppan and David Riske.

Friday, March 07, 2008

ST Game #8

Game Date: March 6, 2008
Royals 4, Diamondbacks 3 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 5-3

It's only March, but I'm beginning to become a Trey Hillman fan already. You've probably heard about the meeting he held at home plate yesterday with the players right after Ryan Shealy hit a walk-off home run to win the game. According to Shealy, here's what the meeting was about: "He [Hillman] said he didn't think, as a team, we were running the bases as hard as he'd like so he just wanted to address it before it became an issue, I guess. I think it was more [about] an effort thing than stupid base-running."

As a Royals fan I've seen a lot of bad baseball over the last ten years, some of it I've accepted, some of it I have not, but the one thing that bugs me more than anything else is to see guys trotting around the bases--especially up the first base line. So many good things can happen when a player hustles down the first base line. He can beat out a poor throw. He can force a bad throw. He can beat out a bobble. He can force a bobble. He can also set an example for the rest of the team and maybe even ignite a spark among some of his teammates.

I love the fact that Hillman was willing to risk embarrassing the team yesterday, even though they won, because he saw a lack of hustle. I just hope he backs it up in the regular season by removing guys who don't play hard.

And now, onto the game itself...

Zack Greinke got hit around pretty good. He gave up three earned runs on five hits in just three innings. He doesn't sound concerned about, and at this point in Spring Training, I don't blame him: "This time it wasn't me pitching real badly. They hit some pretty good pitches. I broke two bats, and there was a good piece of hitting by (Orlando) Hudson." Hudson had a two-run single in the second inning.

Joakim Soria pitched two scoreless innings and had three strikeouts. Leo Nunez also pitched two scoreless innings. Yasuhiko Yabuta settled down and threw a scoreless inning. So did Carlos Rosa.

At the plate, Billy Butler already appears to be ready to go. He was 3-for-3 with 2 RBI and a home run. Ross Gload was 2-for-3. And I've already mentioned that Ryan Shealy hit the big home run in the ninth inning to win the game. Nice to see him being a factor again.

In the field, I'm a little concerned about Tony Pena. He made this third error of the spring already when he booted a routine grounder by Eric Byrnes. He's got a lot of time to work out the kinks though.

We have a couple of guys who are ailing. Mark Teahen missed batting practice again with a sore forearm. He's not expected to play today. Mike Maroth has yet to make his spring debut due to tightness in his shoulder, but he did throw live batting practice.

Mark Grudzielanek will see his first action of the spring this afternoon. Brian Bannister goes up against Aaron Cook of the Rockies. Kyle Davies is expected to follow Bannister on the mound.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

ST Game #7

Game Date: March 5, 2008
Royals 3, Giants 1 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 4-3

I doubt if anybody was expecting a pitchers duel today in Scottsdale, but that's what we got. Gil Meche was so effective (0 ER, 0 BB, 2 H in 3.0 IP) that he went to the bullpen after his three innings were done and he threw 15 more pitches. Hideo Nomo nearly matched him (0 ER, 1 BB, 3 H in 3.0 IP). That had to raise a few eyebrows. Barry Zito started for the Giants and only gave up one earned run in three innings. So, we were finally involved in a low scoring game.

Justin Huber had a nice day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. He actually saw his average drop to .714. Ryan Shealy hit his first home run of the spring. The Royals scattered a few more hits.

Tomorrow, Zack Greinke goes against Dan Haren in Surprise.

Alex Gordon

If you haven't had a chance to check out the article written by Jerry Crasnick running over at ESPN about Alex Gordon, it's worth the time. Here's a link: Positive Thinking

I especially liked hearing about the way veteran guys like Mike Sweeney, Reggie Sanders, and Mark Grudzielanek rallied around Gordon last season when he was down in the dumps after staring the season so poorly at the plate:

And the Royals' veterans were wonderfully supportive. Reggie Sanders took Gordon to dinner, and Mike Sweeney and Mark Grudzielanek provided guidance from nearby lockers. Sweeney advised Gordon to quit overthinking and embrace the former Golden Spikes Award winner within.

"When you were in college, did you ever have a fear of failing?" Sweeney asked Gordon. "When you took the field at Nebraska, did you ever think you weren't going to dominate? You have to take that same feeling onto the major league diamond."

Slowly but surely, things began to click. Gordon rapped out four hits against Fausto Carmona and Tom Mastny in Cleveland, and went on to hit .285 after June 7. He led the Royals with 36 doubles and had ample reason to feel upbeat until that ground-ball facial in Game 162.

I hope that we haven't focused so much on the youth movement that we've forgotten what veteran guys bring to the clubhouse. I don't think Moore has forgotten, but I do think he's expecting guys like David DeJesus, Mark Teahen, and of course Grud, to pick up the slack. Let's hope that happens.

ST Game #6

Game Date: March 4, 2008
Royals 11, Rockies 5 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 3-3

How about Joey Gathright? I don't know what we're going to do with him if he makes the club, but he's having quite a spring. Yesterday he was 1-for-3 with an RBI, a BB, and 2 SB. He's already stolen six bases in just six games. I love the fact that he's learning the art of drawing walks and just getting on base because it sets the table for him to score. David DeJesus, the Royals' other centerfielder, was 1-for-2 and saw his average drop to .714.

It's nice to see some of the young guys having good games at the plate as well. Matt Tupman was 1-for-1 with a walk and two runs scored. Mitch Maier was 1-for-3. Alberto Callaspo was 1-for-3 with 2 RBI, including a two-run home run. And Mike Aviles was 2-for-2 with 2 RBI.

On the hill, Brett Tomko was hit pretty hard, giving up three earned runs (on two home runs) in four innings of work. Carlos Rosa pitched a scoreless inning, but he walked two guys in the process. As many good things as I've heard about him, I'd like to see him settle down and turn in some solid performances. Ryan Braun gave up an earned run in one inning in his spring debut.

Gil Meche will go up against Barry Zito this afternoon in Scottsdale. Hideo Nomo is scheduled to pitch three innings during this game as well.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ST Game #5

Game Date: March 3, 2008
Royals 7, White Sox 6 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 2-3

This was baseball played the Hillman way--for the most part. Tony Pena bunted for a base hit. Joey Gathright, drove in a run with an infield single, and stole three bases. Jason Smith drew a one-out walk in the ninth inning with the Royals down 6-5 and that help to set the stage for a Royal comeback. Throw in a Damon Hollins' two-run home run in the sixth and you have the makings of a good offensive showing. For the record, Mark Teahen drove in the winning run with a two-out single in the ninth.

So far, John Bale has been one of the big surprises in camp. He threw three scoreless innings without giving up any hits or bases on balls (he hit one guy). He also struck out four. The Star said that he "overmatched the White Sox" and it's hard to argue with that. Jorge De La Rosa didn't fair quite so well. He gave up four earned runs on five hits in 1.1 innings in his first action of the spring. Leo Nunez, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Joakim Soria pitched one scoreless inning each. And Ron Mahay gave up one earned run in an inning of work.

The thing that stood out for me in this game is that players like Gathright and Smith aren't necessarily guaranteed of making the club, and with Alberto Callaspo and Angel Berroa (why?) in camp, I'm not even sure that Tony Pena is 100% secure in his role, but yet Gathright, Smith, and Pena played the game yesterday the way Hillman wants them to. The team as a whole only drew one walk and they struck out eight times. That's not good. But I wonder if some of the players who are on the bubble aren't realizing that they have a much better shot at making the club if they small ball.

The Royals play the Rockies this afternoon. Brett Tomko will go up against Ubaldo Jimenez.

Monday, March 03, 2008

ST Game #4

Game Date: March 2, 2008
Rangers 8, Royals 7 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 1-3

I like Brian Bannister's thought process regarding the three runs he gave up yesterday in three innings of work. He went in with a goal of pitching to contact, and he did that, without walking anybody. Then he said: "I'm not sharp yet. My pitch that should be on the corner was a couple of inches over the plate today. That's why we’re here for a month before we go play for real." This is just one of the many reasons I've been saying that wins and losses in Spring Training don't mean anything. Everybody is working on something to prepare for the regular season. They aren't thinking about winning and losing. They are thinking about execution and what they need to do to be ready for Opening Day.

It was nice to see Kyle Davies give up just one earned run in three innings of work. And Luke Hochevar pitched two more scoreless innings. In the end though, Joel Peralta gave up three runs and coughed up the lead. I like the fact that our four pitchers didn't walk anybody. We also didn't strike out many (3), which could mean that most of our staff has the same mentality that Bannister does right now--just pitch to contact and refine pitches as camp progresses.

David DeJesus is having quite a spring at the plate. He was 2-for-2 with 2 RBI and a walk. He's hitting .800 through the first four games. Ross Gload was 2-for-3 with an RBI. And the Royals ended up with 10 hits and five walks, striking out just four times.

On the defensive side, Mark Teahen lost a fly ball in the sun in left field which led to a leadoff double in the second inning. That could happen to anybody, and Mark has plenty of time to get used to his new position, but I've been thinking about our defensive alignment and it seems to me that we too many guys playing out of position, or at least, not in their best position. What if we moved Mark Teahen back to third on a permanent basis, while moving Alex Gordon across the diamond to first, making Billy Butler the full-time DH, and making Ross Gload the full-time left fielder? In my opinion, Teahen is a better fielding third baseman than Gordon, Gordon is far better defensively than anybody else we have at first, Butler would be free to concentrate on what he does best--hit, and Gload would be adequate in left field. This would make us stronger defensively since nobody would be playing out of position (with the possible exception of Gload), and we’d have solid backups in Ryan Shealy, Esteban German, and Shane Costa. What do you think?

This afternoon, the Royals play the White Sox. John Bale goes against John Danks. We'll want to be watching Jorge De La Rosa, who is scheduled to come in after Bale since this will be his first appearance of the spring. And the Royals are hoping to get Yasuhiko Yabuta into the game as well.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

ST Game #3

Game Date: March 1, 2008
Rangers 15, Royals 7 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 1-2

Is three games a trend?

Probably not, but opponents are knocking our pitching staff all over the place. If you look at the lineup that the Rangers played yesterday, you'll be saying "who?" a lot. A lineup of mostly reserves managed to pound out 15 runs on 17 hits. The three errors that the Royals committed probably didn't help matters, and neither did Billy Butler's drop of a ball from Mark Grudzielanek that would have completed a double play and ended the third inning (the Rangers scored four runs after the drop).

Pitching wasn't much better. Zack Greinke struggled, giving up three earned runs in two innings. Carlos Rosa gave up three earned runs on six hits in two innings. And a whole host of other guys gave up one run or more. The only guy who didn't was Ron Mahay, who pitching one scoreless inning.

Things went a little better at the plate. Alex Gordon was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI. Mark Teahen was 2-for-3 with an RBI. And the Royals ended up with 13 hits. Miguel Olivo got a taste of DH, and he worked out with the outfielders for the first time before the game. I can't see that situation working out well.

Kyle Davies and Brian Bannister will see action today. So will Jimmy Gobble, Leo Nunez, Joel Peralta, and Ryan Braun.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Say It Isn't So-Sa

Here we go with the Sammy Sosa rumors again. This time they are coming from an report. Thankfully, Dayton Moore is denying them. Sosa is 38, has limited range in the outfield, would end up playing DH, and would cut into the playing time of guys like Billy Butler and/or Ross Gload. I don't want to see that happen, and if I had to guess, many Royals fans don't either.

ST Game #2

Game Date: February 29, 2008
Royals 13, Padres 9 / Box Score
Royals Spring Training Record: 1-1

Six runs in the first inning? What a difference a game makes huh? Obviously, several guys had a big day at the plate. David DeJesus was 2-for-2 with an RBI, Alberto Callaspo was 2-for-3, Justin Huber was 2-for-2 with 2 RBI, and Ross Gload was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a home run. But what I was most impressed by was the number of walks the Royals were able to draw: 8. We still had a number of non-regulars playing today, so I don't put a lot of weight into these Spring Training games, but I do like to see guys working the count. That's encouraging.

Gil Meche pitched two scoreless innings. Hideo Nomo didn't give up any earned runs, but he did give up three hits and a walk. After the game Trey Hillman singled out Nomo's lack of velocity as a possible problem: "If he doesn't get any more velocity, he's going to have to command the ball at least as well as he did today and maybe even better." Jimmy Gobble was hit hard, giving up one earned, three unearned, in just two-thirds of an inning while walking two. And Joakim Soria gave up three earned runs on three hits in an inning of work. Not a lot to be concerned about regarding Gobble and Soria right now, but we'll have to watch them as camp progresses.

The Royals stole four bases in the game (Joey Gathright, Justin Huber, and Damon Hollins 2) and had a guy (Mark Teahen) picked off second (how does that happen?)

Ryan Shealy is still down with the flu. And Ryan Braun is back after missing some action with a cold.

Zack Greinke and Mike Maroth will make their debuts today against Texas. We should also see Julio Pimentel, Ron Mahay, Carlos Rosa, and Yasuhiko Yabuta.

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