February 2009

Only three Royals remain unsigned

The only three Royals players unsigned are shortstop Mike Aviles, first baseman Billy Butler and outfielder Mitch Maier.

The club  announced Saturday that six players had signed contracts: pitchers Julio Pimentel and Robinson Tejeda; catcher Brayan Pena; first baseman Ryan Shealy; second baseman Alberto Callaspo, and outfielder Shane Costa.

— Dick Kaegel

Royals sign reliever Juan Cruz to two-year deal

Right-hander Juan Cruz, a free-agent reliever, was signed by the Royals on Saturday.

Cruz signed a two-year contract with an option for 2011. The deal was believed to be worth $2.25 million for this year, $3.25 million for 2010 and a club option for $4 million for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout.

To make room for Cruz on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated infielder Esteban German for assignment.

Cruz, 30, last season had a 4-0 record with a 2.61 ERA in 57 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He led all National League relievers with 12.37 strikeouts per nine innings, based on his 71 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings.

 “He’s a power pitcher, he’s a great competitor,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. “I think only Brad Lidge had more swings-and-misses last year. He was very effective against left-handers and very effective against right-handers and is someone who gives us a lot of power and aggressiveness. He’s been very successful the last two years.”

Cruz was under consideration by the Royals during the Winter Meetings when they signed relievers Kyle Farnsworth and Doug Waechter. Cruz was among several free agents left unsigned as Spring Training games got under way.

Cruz will help fill the bullpen gap created by John Bale’s absence because of thyroid surgery which is scheduled for Tuesday in Kansas City.

In eight Major League seasons, Cruz had a 29-31 record with a 4.00 ERA in 297 games.

German batted .245 in 89 games for the Royals last season, his third with the club.

— Dick Kaegel

Its a learning process at second for Teahen

Don’t get too discouraged by Mark Teahen’s first game at second base. It wasn’t pretty, he didn’t look very comfortable and all that but give it time. Teahen certainly wasn’t happy with his two errors and a couple of other misses but he kept an upbeat attitude.

“Obviously I would’ve liike to have made all the plays but that’s why we have Spring Training,” he said afterward. “I’m assuming I’ll feel more comfortable. That’s the plan. Like I said, you don’t want to peak too early so I’m giving myself room to go up.”

He was poking a little fun at himself there and that’s good. You can’t let this stuff get you down.

Manager Trey Hillman bumped into Teahen in the training room after Wednesday’s game and asked him if he wanted to discuss the game now or later. Teahen launched right into it.

One point Hillman made was that in the first inning, with one out and a man on first, Teahen might have just taken the ground ball he fielded to his left and thrown out the batter for the second out. Instead, he went for a double play and threw past shortstop MIke Aviles for an error. That open the gates for a six-run inning against Horacio Ramirez.

“From a mental mindset, he was in a good frame of mind. He pretty much understood and knew all the mistakes he had made,” Hillman told us on Thursday morning. “But, as we’ve talked, in the teaching moments he understood better after I explained the number of outs, how early we were in the game, Horacio having a chance to pitch out of some damaging run totals in the first inning. He understood a lot better about going to first base. He just did what he instinctively knew that he had the athletic ability to do. And he did have the athletic ability to do it, he just didn’t make an accurate throw.”

Small point but food for thought as Teahen adjusts to a new position.

— Dick Kaegel

KC Camp Capers: A Gator escapade

What was this? John Buck was wearing a Florida Gators baseball jersey during the Royals’ conditioning drills on Monday morning. He stuck out like an orange-and-blue sore thumb.

Not only that. The uniform number was 43, a replication of teammate Ryan Shealy’s garb when he played for the Gators. Shealy is the No. 1 Gators fan in the KC clubhouse, or maybe any clubhouse. And he lockers next to Buck.

“He was supposed to get me a sweatshirt and he never did,” Buck said. “Since I love Ryan so much, when I pull a prank I want to make him happy.”

Oh, sure. This was a little payback. Buck didn’t get his Gators sweatshirt as promised so he ordered a jersey himself and wore it, just to aggravate his buddy.

To be sure he wouldn’t break any team rules, Buck got permission from skipper Trey Hillman for the prank. Shealy said appreciated any exposure his beloved Gators can get.

Shealy was asked if his No. 43 had been retired at Florida.

“Not yet,” he said. “But it’s hanging in a Gators’ bar, the Swamp across from the stadium.”

Iin other news: Wednesday’s first game against the Texas Rangers will count in the Cactus League standings. Originally, the Royals’ schedule indicated that the charity game would not count. But, upon further review and this may have gone right up to the Commissioner’s Office or the Supreme Court, it was decided that the game would count in the standings and the stats would count as well. Hey, it could have an effect on the Cactus League championship. . . . Spring Training records usually don’t mean Bo Diddley but, in 2003, the Royals had their best record ever in Arizona (19-10) and that was the year they held first place for a long time and finished in third place at 83-79, their last winning record. . . .Luis Silverio, the Royals’ former third base coach and now a special operative in the organization, stopped by camp for a visit and some meetings. After returning to his KC home, he’s off to Jupiter, Fla., where he’ll be a coach for the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. The D.R. will play in Puerto Rico. Then he’ll be back to Arizona to help coach the Minor Leaguers.

— Dick Kaegel

Dodgers drive away with Hudson

Well, it looks like we can forget those Royals-wanna-sign-Orlando Hudson rumors. Our Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers have reached a deal with Hudson for $3.4 million but with more than that (a possible $4.6 million) in incentives. It’ll be interesting to see what those entail. (Hudson made $6.2 mil last year.)

It was always a long shot that the Royals would sign Hudson because general manager Dayton Moore would have had to slash some payroll to add some payroll, not an easy task. Moore always downplayed the possibility, indicating he wasn’t going to go through the roster whacking players just so he could sign Hudson.

So let’s let Mark Teahen, Willie Bloomquist, Alberto Callaspo, Esteban German and Tug Hulett patrol the dirt around second base and see what happens. Manager Trey Hillman says he’ll take a long look at Teahen at second before he goes off to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. But he also wants Teahen to take some turns in the outfield, too, to stay sharp in the pasture. Put everybody who’s competing at first base and second base on the diamond at the same time and the field might tilt to the right. It’s going to be an interesting spring at those spots.

— Dick Kaegel

Bunting is the name of the game

The Royals went a little overtime on Friday, going almost four hours as they worked on bunting drills, executing bunt plays as well as defending against them.

Manager Trey Hillman wasn’t very happy with the Royals’ bunting game last season.

“We emphasized it last year as well and then we went into the season and we didn’t perform it very well,” he said. “I know that we’re teaching it right and we’re paying attention to detail. It can be concentration, it can be adrenaline and sometimes it’s just flat-out whether we have the ability to do the job.”

On Saturday, the Royals will have an unusually late starting time, 12:30 p.m. MT. That’s three hours later than normal to allow time for lab work associated with player physicals.

Outfielder Jose Guillen, recovering from the ingrown big toe nail that he yanked out, did conditioning drills on Friday but then Hillman told him to back off. “As much as he wants to be out here and go through everything, it’s counterproductive right now,” Hillman said. They’ll evaluate his ability to work out  daily….A planned two intrasquad games has been reduced to one, on Sunday. The Monday game has been scrapped. The first exhibition game is on Wednesday, a charity game against the Rangers….Infielder Tim Hulett, claimed on waivers from the Mariners, reported on Friday. He didn’t have far to travel; the M’s camp is just a few miles down the road.

— Dick Kaegel

Royals claim infielder Hulett from Mariners

The Royals acquired a second baseman on Thursday but no, not Orlando Hudson. It was Tug Hulett, claimed off outright waivers from the Seattle Mariners.
Hulett will report to the Royals’ camp on Friday. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated left-handed pitcher Neal Musser for assignment.
Last season Hulett, 26, broke into the Majors in 30 games with the Mariners, batting .224 (11-for-49). A left-handed batter, he spent most of the summer with Triple-A Tacoma and hit .298 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs in 91 games.
Second base is his primary position but he’s also played shortstop and third base.
Manager Trey Hillman doesn’t slot Hulett into the battle for second base which already features Alberto Callaspo, Willie Bloomquist and Mark Teahen.
“I wouldn’t count him out because I don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s certainly not a priority with me with what we already have and are looking at there,” Hillman said.
Hulett’s father, infielder Tim Hulett, played 12 seasons in the Majors for the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals. Tim Hulett, born in Springfield, Ill., went to Auburn University.
Musser, 28, was 3-5 with a 4.34 ERA in 36 games last season for Triple-A Omaha. He appeared in just one game for the Royals but, in 2007, he was in 17 games with a 4.38 ERA and a 0-1 record.
Hudson, a free agent sometimes linked to the Royals, remained unsigned although the Los Angeles Dodgers were talking to him.

–Dick Kaegel

40th anniversary logos on uniforms

That dandy 40th anniversary logo that you see splashed on the Royals’ site will appear on the right sleeve of the Royals’ uniforms this season. You’ll also see it around Kauffman Stadium.

Among the special events in this anniversary season will be a game with ex-players called the Royals Hall of Fame Classic presented by Willie Wilson. The ol’ speedster is getting up a team of ex-Royals to meet a team of MLB All-Stars on July 17 before a night game against the Tampa Bay Rays. When was the last time there was any kind of “old-timers game” at Kauffman? Anybody remember one?

Another thing the club is doing is having fans submit photos, videos or written memories of their favorite Royals moments or best experiences at the stadium. These will be showcased as part of an advertising campaign so they have to be submitted by March 27. You can submit stuff by e-mailing it to  memories@royals.com.

— Dick Kaegel


Hudson talk wont go away

The Orlando Hudson talk involving the Royals isn’t going to go away until somebody signs the guy and the Dodgers are negotiating with the free agent second baseman. Royals general manager Dayton Moore was asked about the Hudson situation again on Wednesday. He was typically non-commital.

“Until every Major League free agent is signed, we look for ways to improve our team. But we don’t expect any new addition to our camp in the immediate future,” he said. “What we have here is what we expect to have. But you never know. The phone could ring and something could happen.”

But, really, there’s no hint that the Royals will land Hudson because Moore has reached his budget limit. He’d have to dump $4 or $5 million or whatever it takes to get Hudson and that’s not likely to happen.

Unless that phone happens to ring and . . .

–Dick Kaegel

Royals sign Jacobs, avoid arbitration

First baseman Mike Jacobs agreed to a one-year contract with the Royals, the club announced on Tuesday night.
Jacobs signed for $3.275 million, the halfpoint between the figures submitted by the two sides. Jacobs asked for $3.8 million, the Royals offered $2.75 million. The hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
The signing continued a streak for general manager Dayton Moore, who has never had an arbitration case advance to a hearing in his Royals tenure. Jacobs was the last remaining case for the Royals.
This was the first shot at a multi-million dollar salary for Jacobs, who was traded by the Florida Marlins to the Royals this winter with that in mind. The Marlins paid him $395,000 last year.
The Royals previously signed the three other players who exchanged figures in the arbitration process: Pitcher Zack Greinke to a four-year, $38-million contract; infielder-outfielder Mark Teahen to a one-year, $3.575 million contract, and pitcher Brian Bannister to a one-year, $1.7375-million deal.
Five others who were eligible for arbitration also signed one-year contracts: Catcher John Buck, $2.9 million; pitcher Jimmy Gobble, $1.35 million; pitcher Kyle Davies, $1.3 million; infielder Esteban German, $1.2 million, and pitcher Joel Peralta, $640,000.

— Dick Kaegel