March 2010

Farnsworth works two scoreless in short start

It was one of those everybody-pitches days for the Royals – they used seven of them in a 10-2 loss to the Angels – and so starter Kyle Farnsworth worked two scoreless innings and took a seat. That was the plan.

“Two or three (innings). I did all right the first two so they said, ‘That’s good enough, let the other guys go,’ so that’s what the plan was today,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth would like to wedge his way into the rotation but that hope might hinge on whether or not Gil Meche’s shoulder allows him to make his first start.

“That’s not my decision. All I can do is go out and put zeroes up, pitch well and let them decide what’s best for the club,” he said.

Farnsworth has put up all zeroes in just two of his five outings and he’s given up 13 runs in 14 2/3 innings. But the Royals are pretty pleased, especially with the success he’s had with his new changeup.

“For the most part. I’m real happy with the way my changeup has been working and I’m trying to get a good feel for that. And just repeating my delivery – that’s night-and-day compared to where it was at this time last year,” he said.

The changeup gives Farnsworth a different look.

“Everybody knows everything that I’m doing is going to be hard, hard, hard. I’m going to be coming at you throwing strikes and I’ve got to do something to get ’em off the fastball,” he said.

Right now it appears that Kyle Davies will get the call as the fifth starter but if Meche were to drop out, Davies could move up a notch and Farnsworth could be No. 5. If not he’ll be in the bullpen where he’ll still employ his effective changeup.

“I’m not going to change anything I’ve been doing this Spring Training if I go to the bullpen so I’m definitely going to use all my pitches like I have been,” he said.

Joakim Soria took the loss on Monday, giving up four runs as all five batters reached base against him. Despite that, he feels his spring is going well because his right shoulder is giving him no trouble, unlike last season. “If you take away this day, I’ve been feeling very good, my arm feels very good and I’ve worked very hard for that,” Soria said. “That’s the most important thing, to be healthy. . . . The Royals used so many pitchers in the 10-2 loss to the Angels that left-hander Rowdy Hardy, a backup brought along from the Minor League camp, mopped up and threw 1 1/3 innings. . . . Only Farnsworth and Matt Herges were not charged with any runs.

–Dick Kaegel

KC at Bat: Hochevars control takes a holiday

Luke Hochevar had trouble with his control Sunday in the Royals’ 10-8 win over the White Sox.

“Scratch that one out,” Hochevar said. “I didn’t command the baseball very well, especially early on. I just didn’t pitch very good. Later on, I starting getting a better feel and started commanding the strike zone better. But even then I made a couple of mistakes out over the plate and they got some base hits.”

In five innings, he gave up nine hits including a homer and six runs (five earned) with three walks and a hit batter. That raised his ERA to 3.94.

“The good of it was that Hoch was able to get five ups-and-downs and stay under the 90-pitch threshold. That’s what we were shooting for today,” manager Trey Hillman said.

Hochevar has one more start before the opening of the season.

“Just iron some things out,” he said. “But overall physically I feel good. That’s the main thing right now. I know I’m going to have good command. That’ll come.”

Guess what team is leading the Major Leagues in hitting this spring? Yep, the Royals at .319. But Hillman isn’t that excited yet, noting the club also hit well (.310) last year in the Cactus League. There is one positive change, however.  “We’ve got a lot of hard line-drive base hits and not as much loft as last year so hopefully it’s affecting it,” he said. The “it” refers to the nets that hitting coach Kevin Seitzer hung from the top of the batting cages, encouraging the hitters to avoid lofting the ball into the light Arizona air and go for the hard liners instead. Must be something to it. The Royals have 19 homers in their 25 games so far compared to a ******** 56 blasts in 36 games in 2009. Obviously that power didn’t carry over when the team left the desert. . . . Jose Guillen’s 4-for-4 against the White Sox boosted his average to .342 and Hillman sees good bat speed from the veteran. “When I haven’t seen the bat speed, there’s something wrong physically,” Hillman said. “That ankle really bothered him last year.” But surgery last September seems to have solved the ankle problem. . . . Mitch Maier had two more hits and is hitting .440. He also appeared to make a diving catch in center field although it was ruled a trap. “Tremendous spring. And he’s playing center field better than I’ve ever seen him play it,” Hillman said. Judging from his spring play, Maier gives the Royals a nice option in case Rick Ankiel’s ankle keeps him off the field when the season starts. Ankiel, who last played in a Cactus game on March 11, was supposed to play four or five innings in a Minor League game on Sunday.

–Dick Kaegel



Kaaihue is making a strong case for himself

How ya gonna keep Kila Ka’aihue down on the farm?

Ka’aihue’s towering home run snapped a 12-12 tie in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 14-12 victory over Oakland. That gave the big first baseman from Hawaii a club-leading four home runs with 11 RBIs and his 3-for-4 boosted his average to .381 with 16 hits.

“He’s having a heck of a spring and he’s making a tremendous case for himself,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.

But Ka’aihue is a first baseman-designated hitter and that’s a crowded department on the club with Billy Butler and Jose Guillen around.

“We’ve still got plenty of games left. I’m going to keep playing him,” Hillman said. “I’ve never said he’s not going to make the club and I’ve never said he’s on the club. And I’ve always said everything about him we like. So we’ll see how things go. It is a crowded spot but we need to have some run producers.”

Ka’aihue, a left-handed slugger, has seemed destined for a return to Triple-A Omaha all spring but, as the skipper likes to say, stay tuned.

Meantime on Saturday, Hillman’s pitchers (and those of the A’s) were unimpressive with Josh Rupe especially banged around. Rupe was making a strong case for a bullpen spot but, in starting against the A’s, he coughed up six runs in the first two innings.

Brad Thompson and Bryan Bullington each gave up three runs in three innings. But Thompson did pitch out of some jams and Bullington followed one bad inning with two good ones.

“I was real pleased that Thompson battled through some adversity and figured out a way to stop the bleeding,” Hillman said.

Hillman was also happy with the way Bullington finished up and how the ball was getting out of his hand.

The skipper had to get after Roman Colon, who was brought in to pitch the ninth with a two-run lead and immediately walked the leadoff batter. After ball one to the next batter, Hillman jumped up and went to the mound for an intense one-on-one.

“I thought he was too concerned about a runner on first base there in that situation and I just wanted to eliminate that,” Hillman said.

Colon got a strikeout, gave up a single, then retired the next two batters to end the slugfest.

–Dick Kaegel


Butler is on a 13-for-22 Cactus League tear

Billy Butler continued his hot hitting in Friday’s 8-4 win over the Dodgers. He went 3-for-3 which gave him 13 hits in his last 22 at-bats and raised his Cactus League average to .429 (21-for-49).

The Royals put the Dodgers at a disadvantage by using the American League DH while Dem Bums played it National League straight by letting the pitcher bat. But it was OK’d by LA manager Joe Torre, an agreeable sort.

“We had to get it cleared. Thankfully we were playing a team that didn’t mind. They’ve got to agree to it,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.

And, with Butler’s three singles and Kila Ka’aihue’s home run and single, the Royals’ DH slot was 5-for-5 with three runs scored and three driven in. Thank you, Joe.

By the way, Ka’aihue leads the club with three homers and is hitting .342 but still is regarded as having little chance to make the club. But who knows?

Hillman was pleased by the two left-handers who succeeded Zack Greinke to the mound. Dusty Hughes gave up a run-scoring single immediately after replacing Greinke in the sixth but then worked two scoreless innings.

“Up to today it’s been a little bit of a very inconsistent and rough spring for him from what we wanted to see,” Hillman said.

John Parrish, who missed last season after shoulder surgery, worked a perfect ninth with one strikeout.

“Very good, very in command, best I’ve seen pitch-to-pitch from him,” Hillman said.

–Dick Kaegel

Meche leaves game with stiff throwing shoulder

Royals starter Gil Meche came out of Monday’s game with a stiff right shoulder but he doesn’t believe it’s a serious matter.

Meche pitched the first three innings of a 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox and gave up three runs on four hits before ending his outing.

“There’s no pain going on so I’m not worried about it,” Meche said.

But there was enough stiffness in his throwing shoulder that he was concerned that another inning or two might cause more problems.
“I think I’m in a position now to where I didn’t want to keep pushing it with the season coming up,” Meche said.

“I don’t have a feel for my breaking ball too much. I keep saying that every time I pitch and I keep thinking it’s going to turn the corner but I just kind of have some shoulder stiffness. It’s nothing serious.”

Meche is scheduled to have two more Cactus League starts before pitching the season’s second game on April 7 at Kansas City.

He had experienced some stiffness earlier and underwent some tests.

“They checked me out, the shoulder’s strong but the tightness is there. I don’t feel real strong when I’m pitching,” he said.

“So I just kept working through it and after the third inning, it was like well, I’ve had enough. I didn’t want to keep going, I felt like I was getting stiffer in a way, I’m not throwing any good pitches. Just take it easy on this one and then see what happens my next one.”

Last season Meche did not pitch after Aug. 29 because of fatigue in his right shoulder. That, however, was believed to have been accentuated by back problems which he’s not experienced this year.

“Last year I did push through things and I know where that got me so I want to make sure I feel 100 percent when the season starts so it’s a matter of me being smart right now,” he said.

So far this spring Meche has pitched four games and has a 2-2 record with a 6.55 ERA. He’s pitched 11 innings.

On Monday, he left the game after throwing 56 pitches (31 strikes).

— Dick Kaegel






Welcome home luncheon set for April 7

If you want to get a look at the newest Royals and see your old favorites, they’ll be up close and personal at the 2010 Welcome Home Luncheon set for noon on Wednesday, April 7, at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. All the players plus manager Trey Hillman and his coaching staff are scheduled to be there.

Premium tables which include nine tickets for your gang and one for a Royals player, coach or alumnus cost $750. Tables of 10 are $500 and individual tickets are $55 each. You can get tickets through, by calling 816-504-4040 or by visiting the Kauffman Stadium Box Office (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CT).  Online and phone orders are subject to applicable service fees.

— Dick Kaegel

Ankiel could miss another week with sore ankle

Royals center fielder Rick Ankiel will be out much longer than expected.

Manager Trey Hillman revealed on Sunday that Ankiel, who has a sore right ankle, could be out of Cactus League games for another week.

“I’m probably going to hold Rick out for the next six to seven days, just to make sure,” Hillman said. “We’ve still got plenty of time. When he pounds on it, he pounds on it pretty hard and it’s the middle of the field. He may beat that. Obviously I’m taking the passive (approach) rather than the aggressive.”

Ankiel was pulled from the lineup on Friday against the Seattle Mariners but the ankle was reported improved on Saturday.

“It was better yesterday but it was minimally better. It was better to a point where we felt like there wasn’t anything major going on in there,” Hillman said.

As far as Hillman knows, there was no specific cause for the injury.

“He doesn’t know how it happened,” Hillman said. “It was a little bit sore the day before. He didn’t do anything specific to it. That’s a mystery to me and if he did, he’s not telling me.”

It’s not classified as a strain or a sprain.

“Even with the double-top secret stuff I keep from you,” Hillman told reporters, “on the (injury) sheet there’s no ‘strain.’ It’s just sore.”

Ankiel will be restricted to upper-body weight and cardio exercises for the next few days to keep pressure off the ankle.

“We’ll try to keep him off of it as much as we can, especially if it’s pounding,” he said.

Ankiel has played in six Cactus League games, batting .214 (3-for-14) with a triple, a homer and four RBIs. With him out of the lineup, Hillman will take a look a prospect Jarrod Dyson in center field.

Dyson, a speedster, batted .258 in 63 games last season for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He had a total 46 stolen bases including a stay with Single-A Burlington where he batted .343 in 17 games.

–Dick Kaegel

KC at Bat: Moustakas looks just fine at third base

When it was mentioned to Royals manager Trey Hillman that some scouts thought Mike Moustakas might make a catcher some day, he gave it a verbal shrug.

“I think he’s athletic enough to do anything. The body type profiles more to a corner than up the middle or behind the plate,” Hillman said.

Moustakas, though, is likely to stick at third base where the Royals feel he’s a better fielder than he’s given credit for. Hillman especially likes his arm.

Moustakas was among seven non-roster players cut on Thursday and there are likely to be more roster reductions soon, particularly after Friday morning’s “B” game is in the books.

Zack Greinke says he’s not thinking about that Opening Day date with the Tigers, not yet anyway. “Just trying to think about pitching good right now. I’m not there yet but it’s better than it usually is at this time of spring,” he said. “Just the command. The changeup’s way better.  And fastball command has been pretty good – it just has good life on it but mainly the changeup is way better than it usually is this time of year. Usually the secondary pitches are bad early on in spring.” . . . Against the Rockies the other day, Greinke faced his old batterymate, Miguel Olivo, and struck him out on a changeup. . . . The only telecast from Surprise this spring will come on March 23 when the Royals will meet the Chicago Cubs at 3:05 p.m. CT. But the MLB Network will carry three KC games – next Monday night against the White Sox, March 21 against the Rockies and March 26 against the Dodgers (the last two on tape delay).

–Dick Kaegel


Royals eager to see Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman

Despite the rainouts on Sunday, the Royals apparently will oppose Cincinnati’s precocious left-hander, Aroldis Chapman, after all on Monday at Goodyear, Ariz. There was a chance that Chapman would be bumped out of the Reds’ plans as the pitching assignments got scrambled but the word is that he’ll throw against the Royals anyway.

A fellow Cuban defector, Royals catcher Brayan Pena got an advance look at Chapman last January in Miami. That’s where the lefty was tuning up for the showcases that resulted in his six-year, $30.25-million deal with the Reds. Pena caught him in a bullpen session.

“His fastball has got tremendous life and he’s got pretty good control,” Pena said. “But I don’t know if Monday if he’s going to try to overpower everybody or will try to show too much. But everybody in baseball knows he’s got good stuff and his youth is what’s probably going to hold him down a little bit because they’ve got a big investment in him. But I think he’ll end up in the starting rotation next year or at the end of this year.”

Pena also saw Chapman pitch some live batting practice.

“Kendry Morales was hitting against him in live BP and he was telling me that he hasn’t seen a left-hander that throws that hard in a while in the big leagues or the Dominican or in Triple-A,” Pena said. “He was pretty impressive -he’s probably 6-4 or 6-5 and he’s got pretty long arms and when he pitches, he looks like he’s giving you a handshake. That’s how you close you see him.”

Billy Butler, who’s on the travel list to make the trip, was eager to see Chapman.

“Last year during the season there were a couple of things on ESPN we saw all the time about him,” Butler said. “And all this offseason he was throwing bullpens and everything like that in scouting events for teams. The guy got a lot of money so I know he’s got a good arm. I’ve never seen him throw but he’s throwing Monday and hopefully I’ll get a chance to see what he’s got. Not many people throw 100 miles an hour, let alone a lefty, so I think he deserves everything he got. That’s an impressive arm.”

Noel Arguelles, the Royals’ own Cuban left-hander, said last week that he hadn’t yet met Chapman. But Pena said some of the Cuban-born players were planning a get-together on Sunday in the Phoenix area.

–Dick Kaegel

Gordons right thumb broken, out 3 to 4 weeks

Third baseman Alex Gordon will be out for three to four weeks with a broken right thumb, the Royals announced Sunday morning.

Gordon was injured on a headfirst slide as he was thrown out attempting to steal second base in Saturday’s game against the Texas Rangers.

“I slid in the second (inning) and felt something. Kept playing and after the game they looked at it and wanted to do an X-ray and found out the tip of it was broken,” Gordon said.

Royals spokesman Mike Swanson described the injury as a “minimally displaced fracture of the right thumb.”

The injury opens the way for Alberto Callaspo and Josh Fields to jump into the third-base picture. Callaspo is already is jeopardy of losing the second-base job to Chris Getz. Fields, obtained from the White Sox with Getz in a trade, is without a regular lineup spot.

Although Gordon is projected to be ready to play by Opening Day, he won’t be able to throw or bat during his recovery, making the date of his return to games uncertain.

The injury came as a bitter blow to Gordon, who was rounding into great shape after being hampered by hip surgery last season.

“Just coming off the (hip) injury and now having this (stinks),” Gordon said.

–Dick Kaegel