Saturday, June 28, 2008

Royals Continue to Win

Omaha was hit hard by 90-100 mph winds yesterday afternoon and it knocked out power in more than 120,000 homes. My home is one of them. I'm writing this post from my Blackberry because our power still isn't back on. The power company is saying it'll be several days before everybody has service. I won't be posting until I have power.

But, even from a Blackberry, it's hard not to comment about the way the Royals are playing right now. The beat the Cardinals last night for the fourth time in a row. And they've won 11 of their last 12 games--which pretty much erases the 12-game losing streak from earlier this year. Let's hope they can keep it going.

See ya when my power is back on.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yabuta Sent to Omaha

The Royals finally sent Yasuhiko Yabuta to Omaha. He's had small stretches where's he's been decent this season, but when you look at his 5.46 ERA, it becomes pretty clear that he doesn't belong in the Major Leagues--in spite of the fact that the Royals are paying him $6 million for two years. Let's hope he can get things figured out in Omaha.

Robinson Tejeda will take Yabuta's spot on the roster. So, if you're trying to keep track of who's actually in the bullpen now, here's a list of the seven current relievers:

  • Robinson Tejeda
  • Joel Peralta
  • Horacio Ramirez
  • Ron Mahay
  • Ramon Ramirez
  • Jimmy Gobble
  • Joakim Soria

Game 79: Colorado @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 25, 2008
Royals 4, Rockies 2 / Box Score
WP: Hochevar (5-5), LP: Cook (10-5), SV: Soria (21)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 36-43

The Royals continued their winning ways last night and this time the hero was an unlikely source: Ross Gload. Gload says he found something in the batting cage recently while working with hitting coach Mike Barnett. Whatever it was, it translated into a 3-for-3 performance with 2 RBI last night. With the Royals up 2-1 in the sixth inning, Gload roped a ball down the right field line for a two-run double and the Royals pitching staff took it from there.

Luke Hochevar pitched a career-high eight innings and at times had everything going his way. He struggled early and late, and in the middle innings he retired 10 straight. I was impressed by two things. First, that he was able to wiggle off the hook when he got into trouble. Second, that Trey Hillman left him out there. He only threw 95 pitches, but in years past, Buddy Bell would have went to the bullpen much earlier. I like seeing a starter go deep into a game. When Hillman finally did hand the ball to Joakim Soria for the ninth, nearly everybody knew the game was over. And it was.

With the win, the Royals have their third five-game winning streak of the season. They've won ten of their last eleven games. They've gone 15-9 since the dreaded twelve-game losing streak. And they are even doing a little scoreboard watching. Here's a quote from Mark Grudzielanek, who is still sidelined with a bad back:

"Yeah, I saw Cleveland lost tonight," he said. "It's nice. We're in a very challenging division and it's up in the air right now. If we can get a little more consistent out there, I think we can be within striking distance of the division leaders."

The Royals have moved into fourth place in the AL Central and are seven games behind the White Sox, who are in first place.

The Royals are off today. They'll begin a new series on Friday against the Cardinals. Gil Meche (5-8, 4.91) will go up against Joel Pineiro (2-3, 3.86). Meche is 0-0 in his career against the Cardinals with a 7.71 ERA in 4.2 IP. Pineiro is 4-1 against the Royals with a 3.12 ERA in 43.1 IP.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Game 78: Colorado @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 24, 2008
Royals 7, Rockies 3 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (7-4), LP: De La Rosa (2-4)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (9)
Royals Record: 35-43

Looking at the pitching match up tonight, you had to feel pretty confident if you are a Royals fan. Zack Greinke has established himself as the ace of this staff, while at the same time, Jorge De La Rosa struggled so bad this spring for the Royals that he was designated for assignment and then traded to Colorado. The match up on paper pretty much held true to form. Greinke went six innings, giving up three earned runs, while striking out ten (matching a career high). De La Rosa gave up four runs (two of which were earned) in 4.2 innings. Greinke got the win; De La Rosa got the loss.

The Royals struck first with an RBI single from Miguel Olivo in the fourth inning. The Rockies tied it in the fifth, but the Royals had an answer in the bottom of the same inning. Ross Gload, David DeJesus, and Mike Aviles all singled in runs to make it 4-1 Royals. The Rockies added two runs in the sixth, but a fielder's choice and a two run-home run by Alex Gordon put the game out of reach.

In the ninth inning, Ramon Ramirez threw two pitches behind Yorvit Torrealba. You have to wonder if there is bad blood between the two former teammates. I can't imagine that both pitches were an accident. Maybe we'll hear more about this in the next day or two. [Update: Sam Mellinger over at Ball Star has more about this. Here's a link.]

A few tidbits to note:

  • The Royals have an 11-3 record in interleague play which is the best in baseball.
  • The Royals have won nine of their last ten games and they have moved to within 7.5 games of first place in the AL Central.
  • Mike Aviles is hitting .352 since coming to KC on May 29, which ironically is one point higher than Billy Butler is hitting in Omaha since being sent down to Triple-A that same day.
  • David DeJesus has a ten game hitting streak.
  • Mark Grudzielanek missed his third straight game with a sore lower back.
  • The Royals claimed Robinson Tejeda off waivers today. He's been pitching with the Rangers. In four appearances, he had a 9.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. But the Royals were probably looking at his numbers in Triple-A Oklahoma this season where he was 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA in ten games. His fastball reaches 95 mph, but he tends to walk a lot of guys. He was placed on the 40-man roster (the Royals moved John Bale to the 60-day DL to make room for Tejada).

The Royals will be looking for the sweep tomorrow night against the Rockies. Luke Hochevar (4-5, 4.86) will go up against Aaron Cook (10-4, 3.57). Neither pitcher has faced the opposing team.

Game 77: Colorado @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 23, 2008 
Royals 8, Rockies 4 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (7-6), LP: Francis (3-7)
Royal Home Runs: Teahen (8), Guillen (13), Gload (1)
Royals Record: 34-43

Brian Bannister struggled with his command yesterday, but he battled through it, even taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning before the Rockies finally broke through against him. Banny walked six guys, but he didn't give up any earned runs (Esteban German dropped a ball in left field--more about him in a minute) in seven innings and you can't ask more from a guy who doesn't have his best stuff.

The Royals struck early. Mike Aviles doubled in David DeJesus in the first inning. The big blow came when Mark Teahen hit another opposite field home run, this time it was a three-run shot. And the Royals were up 4-0 at the end of the first inning. Jose Guillen hit a solo shot in the third. The Rockies finally broke through in the fifth for three runs, but the Royals struck right back for two more in the bottom half of the inning on two RBI doubles; one by Guillen and the other by Miguel Olivo. And you know it is your night when Ross Gload hits a home run--a feat he pulled off in the eighth.

Horacio Ramirez made his debut for the Royals in the eighth and he struggled. He gave up two hits and a run. Ramon Ramirez came in for the ninth and got the Rockies on just 11 pitches.

I really only had one question about this game: What is Esteban German doing play left field? I know that Guillen is hurt and is pretty much our full time DH right now, but come on. Maybe Gathright needed a night off (he replaced German late in the game). But we simply have too many reserve middle infielders on this team to carry an extra legitimate outfielder. We've got Alberto Callaspo, German, and Tony Pena. In my opinion, at least one of these guys needs to be replaced at the big league level. I'm in favor of hanging onto Callaspo if he's going to replace Mark Grudzielanek at second base.

Omaha is full of left handed hitting outfielders (Costa, Lubanski, Maier). So is Kansas City. Maybe that's the dilemma. But two of those guys in Omaha are hitting lefties pretty well right now. Shane Costa is hitting .254 against lefties (and he has 10 home runs--three of which are against lefties); and Mitch Maier is hitting .281 against lefties (with four home runs against lefties and two against righties); Chris Lubanski is hitting just .111 against lefties. Seems to me that either Costa or Maier needs to be in Kansas City right now.

The Royals have won eight of their last nine games and are getting close to making their record look respectable, in spite of their 12-game losing streak earlier this season. They look to extend their winning ways tonight when Zack Greinke (6-4, 3.33) goes up against former Royal, Jorge De La Rosa (2-3, 6.52). Greinke is 0-0 against the Rockies in his career with a 0.00 ERA in 1.1 IP. De La Rosa has never faced the Royals.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Game 76: San Francisco @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 22, 2008 
Royals 11, Giants 10 / Box Score
WP: Mahay (3-0), LP: Hinshaw (1-1), SV: Soria (20)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 33-43

It's hard to believe, given the fact that the Royals are ten games under .500, but I'm starting to notice something among Royals fans that I have seen in a long time: pride. I attended both games this weekend (as a fan) and on the way out of the game on Saturday (a 5-3 win), fans were chanting "Let's Go Royals!" all the way around the winding walkways that lead to the parking lot. I heard it again after the 11-10 win yesterday.

Even after the Royals fell behind 10-4 in the fifth inning, people weren't getting up to leave. And it's a good thing they didn't because the Royals scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning and another six in the sixth inning to tie the game. It was one of the craziest games I've ever seen.

The Giants had phenom, Tim Lincecum, on the mound and he was overpowering guys early. Kyle Davies on the other hand struggled big time. He couldn't even get out of the second inning (he gave up five earned runs in 1.1 IP). But Lincecum couldn't throw anything for a strike except his fastball. He got several guys to chase breaking balls down, but as the pitches mounted, his chances of sticking around long enough to go deep into the game diminished. The Royals ended up scoring five runs against him and once they got into the Giants bullpen, they had little trouble getting on base or scoring.

Every Royal in the lineup had at least one hit. David DeJesus was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI. Jose Guillen was 2-for-5 with 1 RBI. Mike Aviles was 1-for-5 (including a two-run double in the sixth that tied the game) with 3 RBI. Mark Teahen was 2-for-4. So was Ross Gload. Tony Pena even had a hit. The Royals are still near the bottom of the AL in most offensive categories, but Mike Aviles has added a spark to the offense that we haven't had all year. With Guillen, DeJesus, and Aviles hitting well, it seems to be taking the pressure off other guys.

In such a high scoring game it might be easy to overlook the bullpen, but we shouldn't let that happen in this case. Ron Mahay was brilliant in the seventh and eighth inning, giving up no hits and one walk. He was the first guy from either pen who was able to get guys out, and he picked up the win for his effort. Joakim Soria entered the game with the stadium rocking to Welcome to the Jungle and he finished the Giants off for his twentieth save of the season.

Tonight, the Royals will begin a new series at home against Colorado. Brian Bannister (6-6, 4.81) will go up against Jeff Francis (3-6, 5.22). Bannister is 0-0 in his career against the Rockies with a 5.40 ERA in 5.0 IP. Francis is 1-0 against the Royals with a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 IP.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Game 75: San Francisco @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 21, 2008 
Royals 5, Giants 3 / Box Score
WP: Meche (5-8), LP: Correia (1-5), SV: Soria (19)
Royal Home Runs: Guillen (12)
Royals Record: 32-43

Gil Meche set the tone early. He went right after guys and struck out the first five batters he faced. Then he settled into a nice rhythm that carried him into the sixth inning.

Meanwhile the Royals found a way to put three runs on the board. One came in the first inning on a fielder's choice from Mark Grudzielanek with bases loaded and one out. Jose Guillen had a chance to do some real damage when he came up before Grud with the bases loaded but he fouled out. He redeemed himself later. Mike Aviles singled in two runs in the fourth inning.

Meche gave up two singles in the sixth inning, but had a chance to help himself when he got a comebacker off the bat of Randy Winn. Unfortunately, Meche air-mailed the ball over second base and the Giants scored a run on the play to make it 3-1, Royals. The Giants scored another run during the sixth on a sacrifice fly. But Ron Mahay came in and got the final out to keep the Royals lead intact.

With a one-run lead in the seventh, Alex Gordon walked and Jose Guillen hit a line drive home run over the wall in left center to put the Royals back in front by three runs. Mahay did a good job to keep the Giants from scoring again in the seventh. Ramon Ramirez gave up a run in the eighth, but it wasn't enough for the Giants. And Joakim Soria shut the door on them in the ninth, sitting the Giants down in order.

This afternoon, Kyle Davies (3-0, 1.46) will go up against Tim Lincecum (8-1, 2.21). Davies is 0-0 in his career against the Giants with a 5.40 ERA in 5.0 IP. Lincecum has never faced the Royals. To add to the drama, the Royals passed over Lincecum in the 2006 draft when they chose Luke Hochevar, mostly because they didn't like Lincecum's delivery (thinking he'd eventually have arm problems). He's off to a great start this year, so it'll be interesting to see him pitch today.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Game 74: San Francisco @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 20, 2008 
Giants 9, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Cain (4-5), LP: Yabuta (1-3)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 31-43

We haven't seen a six-game winning streak in a long time. In fact, you have to go back to the beginning of the 2003 season when the Royals won nine straight to open the season. It looked like we might finally push a winning streak past five last night, but then the wheels fell off.

Luke Hochevar started to leave pitches up in the middle innings and the Giants took advantage. With the Royals up 4-1 in the fifth, Hochevar gave up a walk to the lead off guy, two singles to the next two hitters, a sacrifice fly that brought a run home, and another single that tied the game. Trey Hillman removed him with two outs in the inning and Yasuhiko Yabuta got the final out.

With two outs in the sixth, Yabuta walked two guys and Carlos Rosa got the call and he was hit hard. A two-run double by Ray Durham, and another run scoring double by Randy Winn gave the Giants an 8-4 lead. I wish we would have left Rosa in Omaha and brought up Brandon Duckworth. I can't see the sense in rushing Rosa.

And I'm still having a hard time getting used to the lineup that Hillman instituted a few games ago. He's moved Mark Grudzielanek down to the fifth spot (Mike Aviles has taken over the two hole). And Ross Gload is hitting eighth. I like Grud in the second spot. I'd like to see Hillman move him back there...or maybe even hit him leadoff. I'd like to see what David DeJesus could do in the fifth spot. As for Gload, you can't have a first baseman hitting that low in the order. His .234 average, coupled with his lack of power, should have him sitting on the bench. He's at first for defensive reasons, but Alex Gordon is a good first baseman. Let's move him over there and put Mark Teahen back at third, where he's comfortable.

Tonight, Gil Meche (4-8, 5.12) will go up against Kevin Correia (1-4, 5.17). Meche is 1-0 in his career against the Giants with a 1.00 ERA in 9.0 IP. Correia has never faced the Royals.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Game 73: Kansas City @ St. Louis

Game Date: June 19, 2008 
Royals 4, Cardinals 1 / Box Score
WP: Greinke (6-4), LP: Thompson (1-2), SV: Soria (18)
Royal Home Runs: Teahen (7)
Royals Record: 31-42

The formula seems to be working. You take one starting pitcher, have him pitch seven effective innings, add a long ball or two, and throw in a dash of good bullpen work, and you have a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

How sweet is that?

Zack Greinke had pinpoint control today and he went after guys. He ended up with seven strikeouts and he gave up just two hits--one of them was a big fly to Rick Ankiel in the fourth inning. But it didn't seem to bother him in the least. He threw 112 pitches in seven innings, but I was hoping Hillman would send him back out for the eighth. I knew he wouldn't since Greinke's spot was due up first, but I still wanted to see it.

Mark Teahen was the star of the show on offense. He went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI. He missed the cycle by a double. He gave the Royals some insurance with a two run home run to right field in the eighth inning. Ironically, Dick Kaegel sort of called Teahen's big game. He wrote an article for the Royals website recently called "Teahen may be on the verge of a surge." Teahen is finally driving the ball, so that's a good indication that better things may be in store for him after getting off to a slow start.

The Royals initially took the lead in the fourth inning on a Mark Grudzielanek double that drove in Jose Guillen. And, during the same inning, Mark Teahen singled in Grudzielanek.

So, the Royals pushed their winning streak to five games and now they head home to begin a new three-game series against the San Francisco Giants over the weekend. Tomorrow night, Luke Hochevar (4-5, 4.66) will go up against Matt Cain (3-5, 4.39). Neither pitcher has ever faced the opposing team before.

Game 72: Kansas City @ St. Louis

Game Date: June 18, 2008 
Royals 3, Cardinals 2 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (6-6), LP: McClellan (0-2), SV: Soria (17) 
Royal Home Runs: DeJesus (8), Gordon (8)
Royals Record: 30-42

Another solid pitching performance, this time from Brian Bannister, two more home runs from the Royals offense, and two great defensive plays by Jose Guillen led to another Royals victory--their fifth in the last six games and their fourth in a row.

Nice to see Banny even his record at 6-6 and get his ERA under 5.00. And oddly, this was the first time he won a night game this season. And, with the exception of Ramon Ramirez, the bullpen pitched well, not allowing any runs.

Jose Guillen made a nice throw in the sixth inning to get Ryan Ludwick at third base and he made a nice catch in the seventh. Afterward he said he felt like he went 4-for-4 (even though he went 0-for-4) because of the importance of his defensive plays.

No doubt, he's been a huge factor on these team this year, even if his attitude isn't the greatest.

Did you see what Seattle's recently fired GM, Bill Bavasi, said about the Mariners' decision to not exercise their $9 million option on him for this season? Here's the quote from the Star:

"It's really ironic that the person we're missing the most is José Guillen. That is the piece that was here last year is not here this year.

“He could do some strange things, and he did, but at the top of his agenda was to win, and if anybody got in the way of playing the game right, he had no patience with that. That was his boiling point."

He does seem to care about winning, but the contradiction lies in his lack of hustle in a game or two earlier this season. Is that part of playing the game right?

This afternoon, the Royals will go for the sweep in St. Louis. Zack Greinke (5-4, 3.48) will go up against Brad Thompson (1-1, 4.58). Greinke is 1-2 against the Cardinals with a 7.04 ERA in 15.1 IP. Thompson is 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA against the Royals in 17.1 IP.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Royals Sign Mike Montgomery

The Royals signed left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery yesterday. Montgomery was a sandwich pick for the Royals in the draft this year. His signing bonus was $988,000 and he's on his way to the Arizona Rookie League, where he'll play for the Surprise Royals. Their season begins this coming weekend.

Montgomery had a scholarship offer from California State-Fullerton, but chose to sign with the Royals instead.

Bob Dutton is reporting that the Royals have signed "eight of 11 picks from the first 10 rounds and 28 of its 51 total picks."

The Royals also signed second round pick, 2B-Johnny Giovatella (he got a $787,000 signing bonus); third round pick, RHP-Tyler Sample ($500,000 signing bonus); fifth round pick, LHP-John Lamb (165,000 signing bonus); and sixth round pick, SS-Alex Llanos ($125,000 signing bonus).

The Star has made a .PDF available if you'd like to see the rest of the list. Here's a link to it.

Game 71: Kansas City @ St. Louis

Game Date: June 17, 2008 
Royals 2, Cardinals 1 / Box Score
WP: Davies (3-0), LP: Villone (1-2), SV: Soria (16) 
Royal Home Runs: Aviles (3)
Royals Record: 29-42

We'll get to Mike Aviles in a minute. But first I want to talk about Kyle Davies. He did not have a good season last year in Kansas City. After he was obtained for Octavio Dotel, the Royals gave him eleven starts and he went 3-7 with a 6.66 ERA. In fact, if you look at his career numbers, they aren't good. Here's what I said last July 31 about the trade: is reporting that the Royals have traded Octavio Dotel for Kyle Davies. Dayton Moore knows the Atlanta Braves well. Let's just hope he sees something that we don't regarding Davies.

It looks like Moore did know something we didn't. Of course, he should since Davies came from the Braves organization. But I like the way that the Royals handled Davies. He wasn't successful at the Major League level and he opened the season in Omaha. In years past, we would have kept running him out there and he might have never gotten over the hump.

It's still too early to say he's established himself, but in four starts this season, including last night, he's allowed just four earned runs in 24.2 innings. His ERA is 1.46 and he's been involved in stopping a couple of losing streaks already. And then last night, he goes into St. Louis and goes seven innings, allowing just one earned run, and he picked up his third win of the season already. That's more wins than Brett Tomko had in ten starts. And it's just one win behind Gil Meche, who is having a disappointing season.

Impressive stuff.

Equally impressive, Mike Aviles hit a solo home run in the eighth inning last night and it turned out to be the game winning run. He's driving the ball all over the ballpark and given the Royals a desperately needed offensive spark that Tony Pena just isn't capable of giving. Pena certainly has a better glove, and that's why we continue to see him come in for the ninth inning in close games (although that wasn't the case last night), but Aviles seems to have cemented his hold on the starting shortstop job.

When is the last time you can remember one of our position players working his way through our Minor League system and then getting a call to the big leagues with the opportunity to take away a starting job from another player and he actually succeeded? You could point to Billy Butler taking away the DH role from Mike Sweeney, but Butler is playing in Omaha right now, and the DH isn't a position player anyway. Alex Gordon took over third base from Mark Teahen, but not because he was a better third baseman. Teahen was said to be a better athlete and therefore could make the transition to the outfield easier. I'm having a hard time remembering the last time it happened. Refresh my memory if you can remember.

Well, the Royals have won four out of their last five and they look to continue their winning ways against the Cardinals tonight. Brian Bannister (5-6, 5.00) will go up against Braden Looper (8-5, 4.34). Banny is 1-0 in his career against the Cardinals with a 0.00 ERA in 7.00 IP. Looper is 0-1 against the Royals with an 8.44 ERA in 5.1 IP.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Arizona Series

I had a crazy weekend. My laptop crashed and since it's my primary computer, and I had a writing project due early this morning, those two things consumed my entire weekend. I finished my writing assignment on a seven year-old desktop that has 256K of RAM and a Pentium IV chip. Can you say slower than molasses in the middle if January? But enough about me.

How about them Royals? They ended up taking the series in Arizona, thanks largely to a suddenly resurgent offense. Jose Guillen continues to hit and last I looked, he was third in the AL in RBI. And what in the world has gotten into David DeJesus? The guy is on fire. I remember all they hype the surrounded him when it became clear that the Royals were going to have to trade Carlos Beltran. DeJesus was thought to be a type of Beltran. That never really panned out, and it was probably an unfair label to hang on him, but he sure is fun to watch right now. He's working counts (finally) and when he gets a pitch to hit, he hits it hard. Yesterday he even knocked his first grand slam of his career to give the Royals a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning.

That was all Gil Meche needed. He was tough on the D-backs. I don't remember seeing him throw so many fastballs in a game before but that's probably just the element of surprise at work since he normally throws so many curves.

Mike Aviles has certainly made the best out his opportunity to play shortstop. He's hitting .341 right now and is showing extra base power that we haven't had at that position in a long time--maybe ever, although Jay Bell had a great season in 1997 (21 HR, 92 RBI).

The Royals move on to St. Louis where they'll begin a new series tomorrow night. Kyle Davies (2-0, 1.53) is scheduled to go up against Braden Looper (8-5, 4.34)--at least that is what the Royals website says. A couple of other websites say that Joel Pineiro will start for the Cardinals.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Game 68: Kansas City @ Arizona

Game Date: June 12, 2008 
D-backs 1, Royals 0 / Box Score
WP: Buckner (1-0), LP: Yabuta (1-2) 
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 26-42

When Chad Tracy came up to face Yasuhiko Yabuta in the bottom of the tenth inning with no score, I turned to a friend and said, "I don't have a good feeling about this." A pitch or two later, Tracy sent the ball over the right field wall for a walk-off win for the D-backs and I was left scratching me head.

Why not use Jimmy Gobble, the only lefty we had left in the pen, against Tracy? I know his ERA is 8.10, but against lefties he has a 3.86 ERA (against righties he has a 13.50 ERA). Yabuta has been pitching well, but the match up just didn't make sense.

Of course, we didn't score a single run ourselves, and you can't win if you don't score. I can't help but think back to the first inning when the Royals had guys on first and third with one out, but Jose Guillen struck out. Guillen has been on fire lately, but he still has to get the run home from third in that situation.

Zack Greinke struggled with his command (he walked seven guys), but he still found a way to keep the D-backs off the board for the seven innings he was on the mound. Ramon Ramirez and Ron Mahay also kept the D-backs from scoring.

In the top half of the tenth inning, former Royal Billy Buckner took the mound and ironically, he ended up with the win after Tracy hit the home run.

Tonight, Luke Hochevar (3-5, 4.91) will go up against Randy Johnson (4-3, 4.10). Hochevar has never faced the D-backs. The Big Unit is 15-7 in his career against the Royals with a 2.92 ERA. 

Friday, June 13, 2008

How I Became a Royals Fan: Jack Dempsey

Name: Jack Dempsey
Location: Kansas City
Age: 21
Website: Royals Nation

You run the Royals Nation website, correct? Why did you start the website?

Yes, sir. I created Royals Nation as a supplement to what I feel was an exemplary blogosphere dedicated to the best and most pure franchise in the world—the Kansas City Royals. I began the site by linking articles to virtually everything Royals-related I could find on the web, and I still do. However, such events as “Survivor” contests, pick-to-click contests, and game threads surfaced due to the popularity of the forum. The real reason I created the site? I crave baseball and, perhaps more importantly to some, crave the Royals. Since I have too much free time on my hands, why not exercise the demons in the form of written word?

For Royals fans who haven’t visited your website yet (and I highly encourage them to do so), what do you have over there that will be of interest to Royals fans?

In my opinion, one of the attractions of a message board like Royals Nation its interactive nature. I create forums for different types of Royals fans. Obviously, not many casual fans are even going to feel motivated enough to search for blogs surrounding their local baseball team. However, Royals Nation caters to many different types of fans—Minor League fans, recent or converted fans, and baseball fans in general. Each information belongs in its own forum—Major League Baseball, Minor League Report, Indy/College/H.S. Baseball, and of course, General Discussion (surrounding the Royals). In addition to the features mentioned above, there is an entire trivia forum, created and now handled almost entirely by RN member RoR1fan. I feel like I’ve dedicated quite a bit of my past 18 months to Royals Nation, so check it out sometime! If you’re a Royals fan, I guarantee you’ll find something that captures your interest and keeps you coming back for more.

What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?

Besides writing or watching the Royals? How about coaching baseball or thinking about baseball? Baseball encompasses so much of my life....many friends think I’m possessed. Ironically, a few of my good friends are actually dedicated fans of the sport. Beyond baseball, I would like to think I have a wide range of interests. For one, I love music, and have taken several theory courses and diligently try to remain hip to the latest in alternative/indie/emo/post-grunge/ new-wave/and whatever is hitting big on the alterna-music scene these days. Also, I have exercised my love of music in the form of a love for radio. I interned for three local rock FM stations most of last year, and one of my career goals is to become engrossed into the life of radio. Another hobby of mine is writing. I love to write—or ramble incessantly—on any given topic without rhyme or reason. In fact, I am probably doing that right now!

How old were you when you first started following the Royals?

I was approximately seven years old. I remember developing a profound curiosity for the whereabouts of this beloved franchise around 1992 or 1993, as my father began taking me to many Royals games during this time period. I remember craving going to a Royals game after summer school in 1993, and being completely crushed when I discovered that my dad did not have tickets or couldn’t attend that night’s game. I have fond memories of those early 1990s squads, which ironically I didn’t feel were necessarily playoff-caliber at the time, but in retrospect, were pretty good squads, at least in comparison to.....well, the miserable road that lie ahead. (Usually, isn’t that the other way around?) That 1994 squad likely would have made the playoffs, in my opinion.

How did you initially become interested in the Royals?

As I mentioned above, I had a profound curiosity for baseball in general, and growing up in the center of Kansas City, I became engrossed in all things Royals baseball. I memorized everything—statistics, lineups, the bare bones of the front office. I credit my uncle, my grandfather, but most of all, my father, for making me become interested in the franchise I know and love today. (Side note: During the Royals’ recent slide, my father repeatedly apologizes for making me a Royals fan. I keep reassuring him that he should not apologize, nor should he ever apologize....come on, Dad!)

Who was your first favorite Royals’ player and why?

This day in age, I try to refrain from choosing one favorite player, for several reasons. A) I love all Royals players equally, and want each of them to succeed. B) I try not to hold personal biases or grudges against particular players. However, that wasn’t the question, was it? I would say my first favorite Royal was George Brett, and I’ll explain that reason below.

Can you remember the first time you saw a game at Royals / Kauffman Stadium?

Yes! It was an especially cold day. Opening Day, 1991 (I believe). I would have been four years old. I remember how awe-inspired I was at the gigantic crown-scoreboard and Jumbo-Tron. I don’t remember paying attention to the players, but I do vaguely remember Bo Jackson! I remember that, despite clear skies, it was about 30 degrees. And I remember the Astroturf. That’s about it.

Are you old enough to remember the 1985 season? If so, where were you when Darryl Motley caught the final out of Game 7?

Nah. I wasn’t there for 1985. Sorry!

Are you old enough to remember seeing George Brett play? If so, what is your favorite George Brett memory?

As I mentioned above, my first favorite Royals player would have to be George Brett. Sitting in the club level, third base side—which is exactly where I sit to this day—I remember tearing up after he waved farewell on his final home game. Although I only vaguely remember witnessing his final two or three seasons as a Royal, this moment helped solidify him as my first definite favorite Royal.

Tell me your favorite memory from the 2003 season when the Royals spent most of the season in first place in the AL Central.

Easy. The Kevin Appier complete game shutout against the New York Yankees. It occurred in August on a muggy summer evening in Kauffman Stadium. I remember feeling on top of the world that evening. I had just finished eating dinner with my father and his girlfriend on the Plaza. My father and I were in such a good mood. For that instant, I was convinced the Royals would sniff the playoffs. Listening to 810 WHB throughout the day, mowing the lawns, and discussing Royals baseball with my friends and father—I remember that summer like it was yesterday.

Who is your favorite Royals player right now? Why?

Zack Greinke. I just contradicted my “unRoyal bias” credo, but it’s true. Every time I see his face on the television, or overhear a segment on the radio introducing his name, I stop my other, frivolous-in-comparison activity and listen carefully to every word he says. I feel he’s a pretty insightful and smart young man. Furthermore, he seems pretty down to earth.

What are your favorite memories of Mike Sweeney?

I’m probably unlike most people in that I never had a significant one-on-one encounter with Mr. Sweeney (other than receiving his autograph at the Royals banquet in 1999). His outgoing and down-to-earth nature really made him compatible with Royals fans and the rest of the world, in my opinion. My favorite memories of him would have to take place in the nitty-gritty: on the diamond itself. Around the turn of the century, he was an absolute beast at the plate. I remember feeling incredibly confident every time he stepped up to the plate. It seemed that, usually, he proved me right with all those extra base hits to the gap in left-center and late-inning clutch hits.

What are your thoughts about the current Royals roster?

I’ve given Dayton Moore more than his share of hardships within the comfortable realm of the Royals blogosphere. Instead of writing a manifesto, let me just say that I feel that this ball club is too talented to be performing at this level this season. I do feel that, although I like where our pitching is headed, our GM needs to readjust his thinking on offensive management. Perhaps even more importantly, some will say, our owner needs to commit to building a winner in KC. Although he has taken some steps to “right the wrongs” he has committed in the previous dozen or so years, he still has a long way to go. It starts with overloading on the draft, Minor League player development, and scouting, and it manifests with a respectable Major League payroll. We’re getting there, but the work is far, far from done.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ryan Lefebvre's Comments About Bradley

Full Disclosure: I've interviewed Ryan Lefebvre twice in the past two years. Here is a link to the first interview I did with him before the 2007 season. Here's a link to a story I wrote about him for Baptist Press Sports after interviewing him about a month ago. Having met him several times, I am a professional acquaintance with Lefebvre--nothing more, nothing less. With that said, I like the guy. He's got a great baseball mind, he's doing some good work in the Kansas City community, and and he's one of the nicer guys I've met in the industry. Now let's move on to the post...

I know that there was some initial shock over the fact that Milton Bradley climbed the stairs to the fourth floor at Kauffman Stadium in an attempt to talk/confront Ryan Lefebvre in the press box yesterday after the game because he didn't like what Lefebvre said about him on the air. But now that more than 24 hours has passed, I doubt that anybody is really surprised. And it would seem to me that he proved Lefebvre's point about him in the process.

Here's what Lefebvre said on the air:

"Here's a guy [John Hamilton], with all the troubles he's had, has shown that if you work at it, you can get your life back in order. And that would be a pretty good role model for Milton Bradley who clearly has no control over himself because it's the same thing year after year."

And then there was this:

"This game, this country really, if you follow baseball, has really embraced Josh Hamilton, and I think they've wanted to do the same with Milton Bradley, but Milton Bradley has refused to allow himself to be put in that position."

So, what exactly was Lefebvre referring to? Any or all of the ten incidents listed in this column in The Dallas Morning News today: from spitting gum at an umpire, to public intoxication, to failing to run out ground balls in Cleveland, to yelling at a police officer, to heated exchanges with teammates. Does this sound like a guy who is under control?

And if he has turned over a new leaf, as he claims to have done, then the best thing he could have done is to prove Lefebvre wrong by not adding to an already ridiculously long list of offenses. But to attempt to confront him in the press box, where he has no business being, just shows that he still doesn't have any control over himself.

Game 67: Texas @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 12, 2008 
Royals 6, Rangers 5 / Box Score
WP: Mahay (2-0), LP: Francisco (1-2), SV: Soria (15) 
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (7), Aviles (1)
Royals Record: 26-41

This one looked a lot like so many other recent Royals games. We jumped out to a lead, then gave it up, then fought back, only to fall behind again and usually that's where the story ends. But not this time. With the Royals down 5-4 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Royals tied it up when Tony Pena scored on a wild pitch and they took the lead for good with a sacrifice fly to center by Jose Guillen that almost wasn't deep enough to score Alex Gordon from third. But Gordon made a great head first dive and avoided the tag.

Mike Aviles continued to be impressive at the plate. He got his first Major League home run--a two run shot in the fourth inning. Callaspo was 2-for-4 and has quietly moved his average to .301 in limited playing time. Ross Gload was back at first base after the problems that Mark Teahen has had over there the past couple of nights. And Teahen moved back out to right field.

Well, at least we salvaged one game in the series.

I'm sure you've heard by now that Brett Tomko was designated for assignment to Omaha. He's a likable guy, but he's just not pitching well enough to be in the Major Leagues. As I said yesterday, I wouldn't be surprised if the Royals release him. Problem is, they are on the hook for $3 million.

Carlos Rosa got the call to the big leagues in Tomko's spot. I'm excited to see Rosa pitch, but I hope we aren't rushing him. He started the year in Arkansas where he was 4-2 with a 1.20 ERA in eight starts. He moved on to Omaha where he was 2-1 with a 3.96 ERA in five starts. He won't start for the Royals unless somebody goes down. He'll be used out of the bullpen.

The Royals move on to Arizona now to begin a new series there. Zack Greinke (5-4, 3.77) will go up against Doug Davis (2-3, 4.88). Greinke is 0-0 against Arizona with a 22.85 ERA in 4.1 IP. Davis is 2-2 against the Royals with a 6.03 ERA in 34.1 IP.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Game 66: Texas @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 11, 2008
Rangers 11, Royals 5 / Box Score
WP: Padilla (8-3), LP: Gobble (0-2)
Royal Home Runs: Grudzielanek (2)
Royals Record: 25-41

If we've learned anything as Royals fans, we've learned that lightning can and does strike twice with this team. As much as we hoped that last night was an anomaly when Mark Teahen dropped a ball at first base that eventually led to four unearned runs, and ultimately the game, it happened again.

Well, sorta.

The Royals were leading 5-1, just like last night when Mile Aviles made a poor throw to Teahen on a ground ball to short. Teahen should have made the play, but he didn't. It got past him and a run scored on the play. After Fulchino walked Michael Young, Trey Hillman brought Jimmy Gobble into the game and the flood gates opened. He gave up a single, a walk, and a grand slam home run. Oh, and then a double after that. Before the Royals finally got out of the inning, they gave up seven runs.

And if that wasn't bad enough, Brett Tomko gave up even more runs in the ninth. He gave up three runs on a home run and four singles.

Our once solid bullpen is imploding. Losing Leo Nunez hurt, no doubt about that. But guys like Brett Tomko and Jimmy Gobble have been downright bad as of late. Gobble's ERA has climbed to over 8.00. And I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Tomko released soon. Brandon Duckworth is pitching well in Omaha right now and Kansas City could certainly use his arm. Let's hope he gets called up soon.

As for Gobble, he's not being used as a situational lefty like he was last year and his new role as innings eater is obviously not suiting his game well. I'd like to see Hillman go back to using him the way Buddy Bell did last year.

It wasn't all bad tonight. David DeJesus had two hits. So did Grud (including a home run), Teahen, and Mike Aviles. Jose Guillen was 3-for-5. But it was all overshadowed by the way the game ended.

Tomorrow afternoon, Brian Bannister (5-6, 4,98) will go up against Eric Hurley (0-0, 0.00). Bannister is 1-1 in his career against the Rangers with a 6.30 ERA in 10.0 IP. Hurley is making his first start of the year and he has never faced the Royals.

Game 65: Texas @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 10, 2008
Rangers 6, Royals 5 / Box Score
WP: Guardado (1-1), LP: Yabuta (1-1), SV: Wilson (12)
Royal Home Runs: Gordon (6)
Royals Record: 25-40

When you've got guys playing out of position, games like this one are going to happen. The Royals were on cruise control in the eighth inning, up 5-1, when Mark Teahen dropped a throw at first base with two outs in the inning. The Rangers scored four runs after that and just for good measure, they scored again on a passed ball by John Buck in the ninth to win the game.

In fairness to Teahen, this was his first error at first base in 12 games over there. I'm not in favor of playing Ross Gload there instead. But, as I've said before, I wouldn't mind seeing Alex Gordon play first base so we could put Teahen back at third. Gordon is an excellent first baseman and I don't think anybody had any issues with Teahen when he was playing third.

The losing appears to be getting to Trey Hillman, who has not been tossed out of a Major League game until last night when he argued with the home plate umpire after he didn't like a called strike. I'm guessing it had more to do with letting yet another game slip away. Although, the Royals really have seen some poor umpiring over the past 10 days or so.

The crazy thing about this game is, the Rangers had three errors and they were out-hit 13-9, but they won anyway. Sometimes that's how this crazy game works. Let's hope that the Royals get a few given to them in the same manor.

Tonight, Kyle Davies (2-0, 1.54) will go up against Vicente Padilla (7-3, 3.73). Davies is 0-3 in his career against the Rangers with an 8.03 ERA in 12.1 IP. Padilla is 1-1 against the Royals with a 4.30 ERA in 14.2 IP.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Game 64: Kansas City @ New York

Game Date: June 9, 2008
Royals 3, Yankees 2 / Box Score
WP: Yabuta (1-0), LP: Rivera (2-2), SV: Soria (14)
Royal Home Runs: Olivo (8), Guillen (11)
Royals Record: 25-39

There's almost no finer sight in all of baseball than seeing a grimace on the face of Mariano Rivera after giving up a game winning home run to a Royal. We got to see just that when Jose Guillen hit yet another home run against the evil Yankees yesterday. Guillen ended up being 9-for-16 with 4 HR and 11 RBI in the four-game series.

And what about Luke Hochevar's performance? He gave up just two earned runs on four hits and no walks in six innings. That type of outing in Yankee Stadium will surely be a real confidence booster for Hochevar. He has his ERA under 5.00 now, which isn't much to brag about, but I'll take a 4-point something ERA from Hochevar.

All eyes seemed to be on Joakim Soria in the ninth, given that he had his first blown save just the day before. But John Buck said that he could tell that Soria was already over it.

"I still felt, talking to him out on the mound, that he still had that attitude--'OK, let's go.' That same old attitude," Buck said. "The way he was carrying himself and the way he looked, I don't think that was even on his mind. He was focused on what he had to do."

Things sure weren't easy for Soria, but he got the job done. He gave up an infield single to A-Rod. He walked Jason Giambi. Then he hit a guy with a pitch to load the bases before getting a ground out to end the threat and the game.

Mike Aviles had a nice series and is off to a good start. He's hitting .294 with a .333 OBP. He's also had 21 chances at shortstop and hasn't committed an error yet.

So, the Royals got a split in New York, which is about the best that you can hope for, and now they come home for a quick three game homestand against Texas before going back on the road. Unfortunately, they are still 14 games under .500, but it's hard to be anything but when you have an atrocious 12-game losing streak. Let's hope those days are behind us.

Tonight, Gil Meche (3-8, 5.54) will go up against Kevin Millwood (4-3, 4.65). Meche is 4-8 in his career against the Rangers with a 6.68 ERA in 66.0 IP. Millwood is 5-3 in his career against the Royals with a 4.96 ERA in 52.2 IP.

Monday, June 09, 2008

More Losing

Since the last time I posted, the Royals have dropped two more games in New York--one of which would be hard to believe if you weren't already a Royals fan. I'm talking about the 12-11 slugfest the Royals lost on Saturday.

Then yesterday, the Royals forced Joba Chamberlain to throw 78 pitches in 4.1 innings and they actually had the lead early on, but that changed when Bobby Abreu drove in Damon in the fifth and then Jason Giambi homered in the sixth.

And so now the Royals have one more chance at the evil Yankees this afternoon. They could still leave New York with a tied series, and I'm guessing that not a single Royals fan would argue with that. Luke Hochevar (3-5, 5.13) will go up against Mike Mussina (9-4, 4.01). Hochevar is 0-0 in his career against the evil Yankees with a 0.00 ERA in 3.0 IP. Mussina is 17-7 against the Royals with a 2.98 ERA in 232.1 IP.

Royals fans did receive some good news heading into the weekend. The Royals are finally rid of Angel Berroa. I never thought I'd see the day. They traded him to the Dodgers for Juan Rivera, a Minor League middle infielder. I see that Berroa is already 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Dodger blue.

Dick Kaegel over at offered these stats about Rivera:

Rivera, 21, has a .248 average with eight home runs and 71 RBIs in five Minor League seasons. This year, he was batting .241 in 10 games for the Dodgers' Great Lakes club in the Class A Midwest League.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Game 61: Kansas City @ New York

Game Date: June 6, 2008
Royals 2, Yankees 1 / Box Score
WP: Davies (2-0), LP: Rasner (3-3), SV: Soria (13)
Royal Home Runs: None
Royals Record: 24-37

This is a crazy game sometimes, isn't it? No indicator in the world pointed to a Royals win in New York last night, but yet it happened. And I can't think of a sweeter place to pull off a road win.

Kyle Davies had a large part to do with this win, but so did Mike Aviles, who finally got to play at shortstop. We've been hearing for the past few weeks that Tony Pena's bat doesn't mean all that much one way or another and if the rest of the offense could just get on track, we could accept a sub-.200 hitter on the everyday roster. Ironically, a Mike Aviles double in the fifth inning eventually led to the first run of the game. And how solid did he look at short?

And what about Davies? First he stops the 12-game losing streak, against C.C. Sabathia no less, and now he trots into Yankee Stadium and shuts down the evil Yankees. Now if we could just get the rest of the rotation back on track we might start winning a few more.

Ron Mahay and Joakim Soria did a nice job to close out the game and for just the second time in the last six years, the Royals got a win in Yankee Stadium. Don't forget that they won two out of three against the evil Yankees earlier this season in Kansas City, so the Royals lead the season series three games to one.

This afternoon, Brian Bannister (5-6, 4.60) will go up against Andy Pettitte (5-5, 4.21). Bannister is 1-1 in his career against the evil Yankees with an 8.10 ERA in 10.0 IP. Pettitte is 12-3 against the Royals with a 3.06 ERA in 126.2 IP.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Other Draft Picks

Johnny Giavotella, second round. A second baseman with power (12 HR and 56 RBI at New Orleans).

Tyler Sample, third round. A big (6-7, 240) right handed pitcher who throws 90-92 mph. He's already undergone Tommy John surgery.

Tim Melville, fourth round. A right hander who has committed to North Carolina. 

John Lamb, fifth round. An average build lefty with a fastball in the 87-91 mph range.

Alex Llanos, sixth round. A 17-year-old high school shortstop.

All info comes from this article in the KC Star this morning.

Game 60: Kansas City @ Chicago

Game Date: June 5, 2008
White Sox 6, Royals 2 / Box Score
WP: Contreras (6-3), LP: Meche (3-8)
Royal Home Runs: Teahen (6)
Royals Record: 23-37

A blown call in the bottom of the second proved costly for the Royals yesterday. Repays showed the Jim Thome was out at third base when Jermaine Dye doubled to left, but he was called safe. Thome scored when Nick Swisher singled behind him, but the bases should have been empty. It's hard to say what might have happened after that, but after issuing a walk, Gil Meche did get Pablo Ozuna to ground back to the mound.

In reality though, bad calls are the least of this team's problems. A pitching staff that had it all together in early April has fallen apart. And an offense that sputtered out of the gate still hasn't hit it's stride--assuming it even has one. Oddly, Mark Teahen seems to have found his stroke again. He hit his third home run in the past three games and what's nice to see is that he's driving the ball from center to left. And David DeJesus continues to hit and get on base. But if you look at the rest of the lineup it's brutal.

Mark Grudzielanek has not been moving runners, which is uncharacteristic for him. Alex Gordon's average has dropped to .268. Jose Guillen is hitting just .249 and has just 3 RBI in the past 12 games. The Esteban German experiment at short is failing miserably. He was 0-for-4 yesterday to lower his average to .154. And Mike Aviles continues to sit on the bench.

The Royals are now just one game better than they were this time last season when they got off to that horrific 11-26 start. Of course, when you lose 15 out of your last 17, you can't expect much. And nobody really seems to have any answers. Hillman says he might double the situational hitting in BP.

Now the Royals head to New York where they'll take on the evil Yankees for the next four days. That should be fun. Kyle Davies (1-0, 1.80) will face Darrell Rasner (3-2, 2.67). Davies is 0-0 in his career against the evil Yankees with a 15.00 ERA in 3.0 IP. Rasner has never faced the Royals.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Royals Select Michael Montgomery in Second Round

In the second round, the Royals selected Michael Montgomery, a 6-4, 190 lb. left handed pitcher out of William S. Hart High School in California. ESPN reports that he has the ability to throw strikes, but he only has two pitches. His fastball ranges from 89-92 mph.

According to this blog, Montgomery has been offered a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. Also according to the same source, he was 8-2 with a 1.41 ERA this past season. He also had 99 strikeouts in 69 innings.

According to this Los Angeles Times article, Montgomery was dismissed from his high school basketball team his year. The article doesn't really give a reason, although it seems to hint at one.

Update 10:05 pm: This pick actually ended up being a sandwich pick, so technically, Montgomery was taken at the end of the first round.

Royals Select Eric Hosmer

The Royals took first baseman Eric Hosmer from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. in the first round of the draft this afternoon with the third overall pick.

Steve Phillips said that Hosmer is one of the top five power bats in the draft. He also said that Hosmer hit .487 in high school.

Keith Law pointed out that Hosmer hits for power to all fields.

ESPN is displaying graphics that say Hosmer is a solid defender who has an above average arm. He is said to have strong plate discipline. It sounds like Hosmer could be converted to a pitcher if the Royals chose to, but given his power at the plate, don't look for that to happen. It also sounds like Hosmer could easily be converted to a corner outfielder, and we all know how much the Royals need a power-hitting corner outfielder.

Hosmer is a Scott Boras client, and he's already signed to go to Arizona State, so he's got some bargaining power. The Royals are going to have to pony up to sign him. Within reason, I'd give him what he's looking for financially. I just would not promise him a spot on the 40-man roster.

Update: 10:06 pm: As typically is the case with our first round picks, I'm already a little irritated with this guy. He told the media in Kansas City this afternoon that he was too busy for a teleconference call with them. Please.

Ulysses "Slim" Hollimon

Major League Baseball is doing a special draft this year to honor the Negro Leagues, during which each team is selecting one former Negro League player. The Royals selected pitcher Ulysses "Slim" Hollimon. Hollimon played from 1948-1956 for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Baltimore Elite Giants. He pitched in the East-West All-Star Game in 1951.

2008 Royals Draft

The draft is set to take place this afternoon, and if you've been following what Deric Ladnier, the Royals' senior director of scouting, and J.J. Picollo, the Royals' director of player development, are saying, then it sounds like the Royals are favoring arms over bats.

Here's what Ladnier is saying about the Royals' direction: "I think you're always going to see us like pitching. High in the Draft, I think everybody is going to be looking for bats, because later on in the Draft, they're not going to be there."

Picollo put it this way: "I hate to be boring with it but, to me, as many good arms as we can have, the better we're going to be. But as we assess our farm situation right now, we feel that catching is a need. It would be pitching, catching and then infielders."

But with all of that said, both of them say that the Royals will take the best player who is available in each round. And neither of them is giving us any hint about who the Royals might take with their third pick in the first round. Knowing what their overall philosophy is, Bob Dutton says:

That suggests the Royals are taking a hard look at prep first baseman Eric Hosmer, whom Baseball America says "has one of the highest ceilings of any player in this year’s draft."

But as a high school player, from Plantation, Fla., Hosmer also provides Boras with maximum negotiating leverage because he can opt to attend college. Hosmer already has signed with Arizona State.

Here's a nice video of Hosmer's swing from YouTube:

Dutton also says that Pedro Alvarez, a third baseman from Vanderbilt, "appears to be the Royals' top preference." Although, he too is a Boras client and it sounds like the Pirates might beat the Royals to the punch. Here's a nice video showing him launching a home run:

Finally, Dutton says that if Alvarez is gone by the third pick, scouts and agents believe that the Royals will consider either Tim Beckham, a high school shortstop, or Buster Posey, a catcher at Florida State.

We'll soon find out.

Game 59: Kansas City @ Chicago

Game Date: June 4, 2008
White Sox 6, Royals 4 / Box Score
WP: Dotel (3-2), LP: Gobble (0-1)
Royal Home Runs: Olivo (7), Teahen (5)
Royals Record: 23-36

In the abstract, if you were managing an extra inning game, and you had one relief pitcher left who could probably go three innings if you asked him to, and you looked down at the match up sheet and saw that the guy who was coming to the plate against the current pitcher you have on the mound is 4-for-5 with three home runs against him, what would you do?

That's the decision that Trey Hillman was faced with in the bottom of the 15th inning last night when Paul Konerko came to the plate against Jimmy Gobble. Of course, nothing happens in the abstract, except for art, and Hillman surely considered that Konerko is having a sub-par year by his standards, so he chose to allow Gobble to pitch to him and Konerko became 5-for-6 against Gobble with four home runs.

Game over.

You could pin this loss on the offense just as easily. While they did figure out a way to get back into the game, they failed to get even a single hit in the extra six frames. Obviously, you can't win if you don't hit.

In an effort to help the lineup offensively, Hillman announced that he was going to give Esteban German a try at shortstop for a few games. But that begs the question--if German was next in line for a shot at the position, then why exactly did the Royals call up Mike Aviles? He's played once since he got to KC, and he didn't even see any action last night, during a 15 inning game. Well, Hillman addressed that question after the game:

"There hasn't been a whole lot of opportunity for Mike Aviles," Hillman conceded. "He only had one game. I'm accountable for that, but I'm going to go with the guy who gives us the best at-bats."

I'm not going to try to compare minor league numbers to major league numbers, but have you looked at what German is doing at the plate this season? He's hitting .167 with an OBP of .226. Granted, he hasn't been given a lot of playing time, but he certainly hasn't made the most of the little action he has seen. Aviles was hitting .336 in Omaha with 10 HR and 42 RBI. Again, the numbers can't really be compared, but if you are looking for a jump start offensively, doesn't Aviles warrant at least a look?

The Royals will try to salvage the final game of the series tonight. Gil Meche (3-7, 5.35 ERA) will go up against Jose Contreras (5-3, 2.89). Meche is 6-2 in his career against the White Sox with a 4.09 ERA in 70.1 IP. Contreras is 8-4 against the Royals with a 3.41 ERA in 97.2 IP.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Game 58: Kansas City @ Chicago

Game Date: June 3, 2008
White Sox 9, Royals 5 / Box Score
WP: Floyd (6-3), LP: Greinke (5-3)
Royal Home Runs: Teahen (4)
Royals Record: 23-35

The White Sox jumped all over Zack Greinke, who best described his own performance afterward:

"I'm better than that," Greinke said. "I was bad the whole time. Up, nothing was sharp and every fly ball was a home run it seemed like. Especially this park, they always do good against me."

Greinke gave up four home runs--two in the first two innings. And before he finally escaped the second inning, the Sox were already up 6-0. Jumping out to such a huge lead so early against our offense pretty much seals the deal.

Mark Teahen did blast a two run home run to left center in the seventh (nice to see him driving the ball the opposite way again); David DeJesus had three hits and an RBI; and Alex Gordon drove in a run with a single in the eighth. Scoring five runs is far more than our average, which is 3.6 runs per game, but not nearly enough to challenge the Sox in this one.

The Royals will try to even the series tonight. Luke Hochevar (3-5, 4.98) will go up against John Danks (4-4, 2.86). Hochevar is 0-0 in his career against the White Sox with a 0.00 ERA in 3.1 IP. Danks is 0-0 against the Royals with a 1.13 ERA in 8.0 IP.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Game 57: Cleveland @ Kansas City

Game Date: June 1, 2008
Royals 6, Indians 1 / Box Score
WP: Bannister (5-6), LP: Byrd (2-5)
Royal Home Runs: Guillen (7), Grudzielanek (1)
Royals Record: 23-34

This looked more like the Royals we expected when the season started. The Royals got a strong effort Brian Bannister, who gave up just one earned run on five hits and one walk in 7.1 IP, a home run from Jose Guillen, and a two-run double from Alex Gordon. Throw in a home run from Mark Grudzielanek as icing on the cake and we have ourselves a victory.

Here's what Banny said after the game:

"With that thing ending yesterday, it was just nice to go out there," Bannister said. "I think everybody was relaxed today. Everybody was having fun. It showed up in the hitting. It showed up in the defense. It showed up in my control and my pitching."

So now the Royals have won back to back games and it's safe to look at their record again. They are currently 23-34, which is a .404 winning percentage. That means they are on pace to win 65 games. That isn't acceptable in anybody's mind. Let's just hope that June is better than May was.

The Royals are off tomorrow. On Tuesday they'll begin a new series in Chicago. Zack Greinke (5-2, 2.88) will go up against Gavin Floyd (5-3, 3.22). Greinke is 2-6 in his career against the White Sox with a 4.16 ERA in 67.0 IP. Floyd is 0-1 against the Royals with a 3.38 ERA in 8.0 IP.

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