May 2009

Buck goes on disabled list; Brayan Pena promoted

Catcher John Buck was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a slight herniation in his lower back, Royals manager Trey Hillman announced before Sunday’s game against the White Sox.

Catcher Brayan Pena’s contract was selected from Triple-A Omaha to take his spot on the roster.

Buck was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital after being suddenly seized with back pain just before his time at bat in the third inning on Saturday night.

“The inning ended with him reaching up and tagging on the strike three and he came down, took his catcher’s gear off and realized his spot in the lineup was due up,” Hillman said.

“He was reaching for something – I think his catching helmet had fallen off – and felt a little tweak. He grabbed his bat and as soon as he went up the stairs (of the dugout), he went down. It just grabbed on him. It’s unfortunate.”

Hillman said Buck was still confined to the hospital on Sunday.

“He was in some pain last night,” Hillman said. “It grabbed him so hard they said he went down to his knees.”

Buck, relegated this year to a secondary role to Miguel Olivo, was batting .226 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 28 games. He had made a special effort to streamline his body during the winter and was in excellent condition this spring.

Pena was batting .307 with four homers and 18 RBIs for Omaha in 22 games, although he caught in just  five games and had played the outfield in nine. He appeared in four games for the Royals, going 2-for-7, before being designated for assignment on April 24. Pena cleared waivers and was assigned to Omaha on May 5.

–Dick Kaegel

Buck leaves game with back spasms

Royals catcher John Buck left Saturday night’s game against the White Sox because of lower back spasms.

Buck caught the top half of the third inning but Miguel Olivo batted for him in the bottom half and took over the catching duties. Buck last played on Wednesday and caught the entire game with no apparent problems.

–Dick Kaegel

 

Hillman suspended one game for explosion at umpire

Royals manager Trey Hillman won’t be managing his club in Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Tigers.

Hillman was suspended for one game by Major League Baseball for inappropriate actions during Monday’s game and was to serve the suspension on Wednesday.

The suspension was levied for Hillman’s animated argument with plate umpire Paul Emmel in the eighth inning of the Memorial Day game with the Tigers.

Hillman was ejected for comments from the dugout as Emmel called out Willie Bloomquist on strikes. The face-to-face confrontation went until Hillman inadvertently spit in Emmel’s eye, causing the umpire to back away. Crew chief Bill Hohn finally intervened and Hillman left the field.

Later Hillman said he was only trying to keep Bloomquist from being ejected for his comments, forcing the Royals to use catcher Miguel Olivo on the infield. Olivo was only on the position player left on the Royals’ bench.

The suspension was announced by Bob Watson, MLB’s vice president of on-field operations.

–Dick Kaegel

Luis Hernandez gets a shot at short

Trey Hillman said he’d mix Luis Hernandez into the shortstop picture while Mike Aviles recovers from his aching right forearm. Sure enough, there was Hernandez in the lineup on Tuesday night against the Tigers instead of Willie Bloomquist.

After Bloomquist hustled to a crucial double on Sunday against the Cardinals, Hillman had him back in the lineup against a tough right-hander, Justin Verlander, on Monday.

“I was hoping he could play on that momentum a little bit against a very good right-handed pitcher. It didn’t work out way,” Hillman said.

Bloomquist struck out both times against Verlander and fanned a third time against Zach Miner. Bloomquist is batting .349 against left-handers but just .244 against right-handers. So Hillman went with Hernandez, a switch-hitter, against righty Edwin Jackson.

“I’d like to see Hernandez a little bit more. There’s less than 200 Major League at-bats to get a numbers read on him. We like the way he can manipulate the bat a little bit as far as bat control and we’ll see how he does,” Hillman said.

Hernandez, who started last season as the Orioles’ regular shortstop but then lost the job, is regarded as an excellent fielder.

“Tremendous, he’s got great hands, knows where to be. Good baseball player. Doesn’t panic,” Hillman said.

Since coming up from Omaha, Hernandez had just eight at-bats with one hit before this start.

–Dick Kaegel

Hochevar optioned; Aviles, Tejeda on disabled list

Right-hander Luke Hochevar, who took the loss for the Royals on Saturday against the Cardinals, was optioned to Triple-A Omaha as the club made a total of six roster moves following the game.

Shortstop Mike Aviles and reliever Robinson Tejeda were placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The Royals added pitchers John Bale and Roman Colon and infielder Tug Hulett, all recalled from Omaha. Bale had been on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

Aviles has a strained right forearm and Tejeda has tendinitis of the right rotator cuff.

–Dick Kaegel

Next .400 hitter? Not Teahen (he says)

We’ve been asking questions lately for MLB.com’s feature “Around the Cage.” Some of our Royals have some interesting takes on things.

Mark Teahen on who might be the next .400 hitter: “Can I pick myself? I won’t – .400’s high, I’ve got to conquer .300 first. I know Victor Martinez is doing it now and he stays pretty consistent but with catching, I don’t know. Initially I would think Ichiro but he doesn’t walk ever so he gets too many at-bats to stay at .400. I’ll say Kevin Youkilis just because he pretty much puts together a quality at-bat every time he steps to the plate.”

Ron Mahay on the same subject: “Pujols is a .300-plus hitter every year. That guy is probably on the verge of doing something great like that. Every time I look he’s doing something special so if I’d choose Albert.”

Luke Hochevar on the pitcher he’d pick to go in a Game 7: “Other than myself? Right now, it’d be Zack (Greinke), there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Sidney Ponson on which division is the toughest: “That question will be relevant in September, I can tell you that. Because we need to play Boston still, we need to play Tampa Bay. We played Toronto and they’re good; the Yankees beat us but they’re third in their division. We beat the White Sox and we tied with Cleveland so it’s an incredible question for May 16. You have to play all the teams so you can judge them. That’s a question you have to ask me at the end of the season.”

Billy Butler on what he’d sing on “American Idol”: “I don’t if you’ve heard me sing but I wouldn’t make it to a song. They’d take one look at me and tell me to get off the stage. I’d probably sing some red-neck country song, like “Simple Man” by Charlie Daniels, and they’d kick me off before I’d ever get started.”

–Dick Kaegel

Royals expect Friday nights game to be played

Despite threatening weather, Royals management expects Friday night’s game to be played. A sellout crowd for the game against the Orioles is expected.

Mike Swanson, vice president of communications and broadcasting, said heavy rain is anticipated in the area of Kauffman Stadium but forecasts are for the weather to break around the 7:10 p.m. CT game time.

The Royals also announced that the 400 Dri-Duck Fountain Seats for the game are sold out. The club began selling the seats at 2:50 p.m. CT instead of the usual 4 p.m. because of the threatening weather. All the $7 seats were sold within 25 minutes. A few scattered single reserved seats and $7 standing room remain available.

— Dick Kaegel

Soria goes on DL; Hochevar recalled to start

The Royals placed closer Joakim Soria on the 15-day disabled list after Sunday’s game at Anaheim because of lingering soreness in his right shoulder.

Pitcher Luke Hochevar was recalled from Triple-A Omaha to take Soria’s place on the roster and Sidney Ponson’s place in the starting rotation. Hochevar will start on Tuesday night at Oakland, moving Ponson into the bullpen.

Hochevar has a 5-0 record in starts for Omaha with a 0.90 ERA.

There was no immediate estimate on how long Soria might be sidelined. He last pitched on Thursday against Seattle in a rocky but successful 29-pitch outing. His DL stay is retroactive to Friday.

Soria has appeared in just eight of the Royals’ 30 games. He had seven saves in seven chances, a 1-0 record, a 2.08 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.

–Dick Kaegel 

Soria situation will be worth watching

It’ll be interesting to see how this Joakim Soria scenario plays out. Is he just rusty or is he just a little stiff or is there something really wrong?

That was the question left hanging after his ragged and rugged but successful save on Thursday against the Mariners.

Looking like the Soria of old, he got two quick outs but then got mired in a 29-pitch process that didn’t end until a run was in and Ichiro Suzuki rapped into a force-out with the bases loaded.

Just 13 of those pitches were strikes and the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger did some statistical mining and found that was just the second time in two seasons Soria has thrown more balls than strikes. Also: only the third time that he’s allowed four baserunners and the fourth time he’s walked two while pitching an inning or less.

Soria, of course, is saying that he’s just fine. Manager Trey Hillman is saying he was just rusty. But he had stayed away from Soria for a couple of days because of that stiffness. Anyway, all the wariness goes back to that April week in Texas and Cleveland when he pitched only once and the Royals didn’t reveal his right shoulder was giving him trouble.

So stay tuned on this one.

— Dick Kaegel

Zack dealing quite nicely with new-found celebrity

It’s good to see Zack Greinke enjoying his new-found celebrity, even in a quiet way.

When Greinke was named American League Pitcher of the Month for April, he was genuinely pleased and happily discussed the honor with reporters. As you know by now, Zack doesn’t court publicity and can get along just fine without it. But he’s been going along with the hubbub with the smoothness of a real pro.

Mike Swanson, the Royals’ PR veep, is watching over Zack so the exposure is limited. He doesn’t like to do talk radio or sit-down TV interviews, much like Randy Johnson whom Swanson handled when both men were with the Diamondbacks.

When it was pointed out that Greinke had the third-lowest ERA, 0.40, of any pitcher that got off to a 6-0 start, the names of the previous two did not throw him off. He knew about Fernando Valenzuela, 6-0 and 0.33 in 1981, and even Walter Johnson, 6-0 and 0.35 in 1913.

Walter Johnson?

“Yeah, he was probably a pretty good pitcher,” Greinke said. “Christy Mathewson was probably my favorite, though. He just seemed more like a pitcher and Walter Johnson was just domination.”

So, you see, Zack has been doing a little reading. He knew Matty was the thinking man’s pitcher. Maybe he read Matty’s book, “Pitching in a Pinch.”

OK, probably not.

But Zack likes to look at the past and gains inspiration from some sports figures.

“In baseball, really just Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. And then Michael Jordan is probably my favorite of all time. And like Walter Payton,” he said. “I like the hard-working guys or at least they say they’re hard-working. Larry Bird, I just like guys who train all-year round and dedicate themselves to the game.”

–Dick Kaegel