Always interesting going into Spring Training to look at the uniform numbers that will be popping up on new guys or on old guys who will be changing digits.
Manager Ned Yost will move up from No. 2 to No. 3, honoring his late, great friend, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. The number was vacated when Yuniesky Betancourt was traded to the Brewers.
The new shortstop, Alcides Escobar, takes over 2. Other newcomers and their numbers include Jeff Francis, 26; Vin Mazzaro, 32; Melky Cabrera, 53, and Jeff Francoeur, 21. Lorenzo Cain, the center fielder who came in the Zack Greinke deal, gets 6 and he’s already been warned by its former owner, Willie Wilson, that he expects a lot.
Cabrera wore 28 for the Yankees but switched to Bobby Abreu’s old 53 in 2009 after his buddy signed with the Angels. The Royals’ Kanekoa Texeira yielded 53 and took over 50 from bench coach John Gibbons. Nobody knew what number Gibbons was anyway because he always managed to wear some sort of jacket, even in 90-degree weather. There are some who suspect Gibbons never wears a uniform top. If he does this year, it’ll be 49.
Doug Sisson, the new first-base coach, will have 11, long worn with distinction by Hal McRae.
There’s no sentimentality involved for long-term favorites who were traded. Outfielder Derrick Robinson takes over David DeJesus’ 9 and infielder Jeff Bianchi was assigned Greinke’s 23.
For the Brewers, Greinke will wear 13 and maybe that’s why his buddy, Mike Aviles, is switching his Royals number from 30 to 13.
Who’s No. 1? That’s back on the back of center fielder Jarrod Dyson. The Royals’ most distinguished 1 was Cookie Rojas.
Billy Butler and the Royals have agreed to a four-year, $30-million contract extension, the first baseman said Saturday.
The multi-year contract avoids salary arbitration and gives Butler the security of a long-term deal through 2014.
“I just get to worry about playing baseball and it’s what’s best for me and my family,” Butler said. “That’s what it’s all about. I didn’t want to have to worry about going to arbitration every year and this where I want to be. The city’s great and we love it here. I can’t express how happy we are right now.”
Butler had filed in arbitration for $4.3 million and the Royals offered $3.4 million. Now that’s off the table.
His new deal was worked out by agent Greg Genske of Legacy Sports with Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
“It worked out for both sides,” Butler said. “I’ve always been happy to be a Royal. We have a lot of young guys coming up and we plan on doing great things. It just means I’m a big part of it.”
Butler, his wife Katie and their daughter Kenley live in Idaho Falls where Butler made his pro debut in 2004 with a rousing .373 average. He was in Kansas City for the Royals FanFest.
“It’s just what’s best for your family,” Butler said. “We’re happy to be done with it and Dayton and the whole organization were great.”
Butler on Saturday was to receive the Royals Player of the Year Award for the second straight time after setting new career highs in several categories, including average (.318), hits (189), walks (69) and on-base percentage (.388).
Bruce Chen has been added to the Royals’ roster after passing his physical examination, taking the spot vacated by Gil Meche when he retired.
It really seemed like Meche was going to give the bullpen a try when we talked in the last week of the season. He felt like he had to do something to earn the $12 million still left on his contract. A lot of players would’ve had the shoulder surgery, sat out the season, collected the money and said, “Thanks and see ya later.”
Meche wasn’t that kind of guy. And, after thinking about it this winter, he couldn’t even justify collecting such a huge pile of dough by pitching out of the bullpen. So he packed it in.
“I know bullpen guys don’t make that kind of money unless they’re a closer,” he said, “and I just felt it was the right thing to do. I’m not trying to look good in any way. I just know I wouldn’t be able to handle it if I got hurt and wouldn’t be able to play.”
After making about $43 million the last four years, Meche is set financially anyway.
Anyway, with Chen on the roster, that’s back to the 40-man limit and when Jeff Francis is officially added, another player will have to be dropped.
— Dick Kaegel
No surprise that Royals pitching coach Bob McClure is facing a big void in his rotation with Zack Greinke gone. But McClure also feels a personal loss for the guy he helped guide to the 2009 Cy Young Award.
McClure worked with Greinke over a five-year period and every Spring Training there seemed to be some project that the two men worked on. The spring before the Cy Young, for example, refining a changeup was the focus and it made a huge difference in Greinke’s game in ’09.
“I’ll miss him,” McClure said. “When you’ve been around somebody as long as we’ve been around each other and gone through a lot of things – ups and downs, goods and bads – part of you is kind of missing.”
McClure wasn’t all that surprised by Greinke’s great Cy Young season. He had given then-manager Trey Hillman a head’s-up.
“The year before you could kind of see it coming. I remember telling Trey about halfway through the season before the Cy Young that he’s about ready to pop, it’s about ready to happen,” McClure said. “You could just kind of tell. I’ve played with guys and had the same thing happen – when you just walk out there and know you’re going to beat somebody. Then he took into the next season it kind of snowballed.”
There were a lot of things going on with Greinke as his success slipped last year. He was trying to cope with all the demands that his Cy Young fame engendered, he was adjusting to married life, he increasingly became annoyed by the Royals’ slow progress toward contention. And there was something else.
“When you’re that competitive and you have a year like he did, you end up trying to do more maybe,” McClure said.
That’s what happened with Bret Saberhagen after his Cy Young season in 1985. He went from 20-6 to 7-12 the next year and later realized that he was just pressing to be Mr. Perfect in ’86 instead of just relaxing, enjoying the game and letting things flow naturally.
Although there were rumbles that, at times last year, Greinke was perceived as not being as competitive or as focused as he was in ’09, McClure brushed that off.
“When I talked to him between the lines and talked to him between innings, it was a little different than when he would talk before or after a game,” McClure said. “I think there were times when it got away from him a little bit and he got a little predictable and then two runs in that inning turned into four.”
Now Greinke is with Milwaukee where, perhaps, he’ll be as fortunate as McClure was in his playing days. McClure had a fine year as a starter for the Brewers in 1982 and wound up pitching in the World Series that year.
Don’t look for the Royals to fall all over themselves trying to sign free-agent lefty Bruce Chen, their top winner (12-7) last season.
They love his work ethic, his mechanics changes, his attitude, his clubhouse presence. But he’s 33 and really doesn’t fit into their long-term plans. They’ve got a plentiful batch of young lefties close to being ready. He’s also viewed as a five-inning pitcher – he got beyond the sixth in just six of 23 starts.
Chen prefers a two-year contract, unlikely from the Royals, and his agent is Scott Boras, who figures to dangle his client in front of all 29 other clubs to get the best offer possible. If all that fails, Chen could wind up back with the Royals but it’s a long shot.
Who will win the World Series?
Let’s check with Dr. Emmett Brown. He knows.
Yeah, that’s Doc Brown, the wacky scientist played by Christopher Lloyd in the movie “Back to the Future.” That was 25 years ago, an anniversary that’s being celebrated by Hollywood just as the 2010 World Series is beginning in Northern California.
The movie, a money-making blockbuster, was about high school kid Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) who was accidentally transported in a time machine back from 1985 to 1955. He runs into his parents-to-be as teenagers and works to make sure they fall in love so he can get back to the future.
Remember some of the film’s great lines?
Doc: Then tell me, Future Boy, who is President in the United States in 1985?
Marty: Ronald Reagan
Doc: Ronald Reagan? The actor? Who’s Vice President? Jerry Lewis?
Early in the film, Doc Brown tells Marty where he’d like to go in his time machine, improbably crafted from a DeLorean automobile.
“25 years into the future,” Doc says. “I’ve always dreamed of seeing the future, living beyond my years, seeing the progress of mankind. . . . I’ll also be able to see who wins the next 25 World Series!”
Movie fans remember the end of the film when frizzy-haired Doc is about to take Marty and his girl friend Jennifer (Claudia Wells) zooming into the future in his garbage-powered DeLorean. In the script, they flew away in the car – “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” Doc proclaims – and left 1985 behind.
All of us, of course, know who won the next 24 World Series. But only Doc Brown knows if the 2010 winner is the San Francisco Giants or the Texas Rangers.
And, really, we did our best to check with him but he was much too busy. Something about a fluxcapacitor and a Clock Tower and, oh yes, he had to feed Einstein. He was barking.
Billy Butler’s off-the-field contributions continue to get recognition. He was cited as the October Player of the Month by Sporting Generosity, an organization in Washington, D.C., that recognizes contributions to the community by athletes.
Butler’s biggest hit has been his “Hit-It-A-Ton” program which helps feed Kansas City’s homeless and low-income families through the Bishop Sullivan Center’s St. James Place. He donates a ton of food for every home run he hits and various businesses follow his lead. Since 2008, the program has accounted for nearly 1,000 tons of food.
He and his wife Katie have become leaders in the Royals’ charitable endeavors.
— Dick Kaegel
There’s a great chance to hear some good baseball talk and help a good cause on Thursday, Oct. 21, in Kansas City.
Jim Abbott, the no-hit pitcher who spent 10 years in the Majors despite being born without a right hand, will share his inspirational story in a conversation with Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski at the Bruce Watkins Cultural Heritage Center at 3700 Blue Parkway. The program will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT.
This is the launch of the “Inspired Performances” series of the National Sports Center for the Disabled-Kansas City. Proceeds will benefit NSCD-KC and its free sports camps for kids with special needs. Tickets are $50 per person for lunch and the program. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $100 which includes a pre-event meet-and-greet session with Abbott.
To order tickets, call 816-513-7571 or go on-line at www.nscd.org/kansascity.
Also scheduled to appear are two former Royals outfielders, Jim Eisenreich and Willie Wilson. Eisenreich successfully battled Tourette Syndrome in a 15-year Major League career. Wilson is a member of the Royals Hall of Fame.
Abbott, from Flint, Mich., was the Angels’ first-round draft choice in 1988. For his play at the University of Michigan, he won the Golden Spikes Award. In his first three years with the Angels, he won 40 games. He pitched his no-hitter for the Yankees on Sept. 4, 1993, against the Indians. And, of course, he threw AND fielded left-handed.
Just FYI: Abbott didn’t have overwhelming luck against the Royals in his career, going 6-12 against them in 25 games. Oh, and Eisenreich was 4-for-12, .333, against the big lefty but Wilson was a mere 1-for-11, .091.
It’s all being arranged by Bob Kendrick, who did such a great job for years at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He tells us that more that 500 kids with physical or mental challenges participated in the NSCD-KC sports camps this year, learning soccer from the Wizards, football from the Chiefs, baseball from the Royals and basketball from UMKC athletes.
— Dick Kaegel
The Royals announced on Saturday they are picking up the $6-million option on outfielder David DeJesus’ contract for next season.
Only the timing was a surprise. The Royals had until Oct. 15 to exercise the club option.
The option was an addition to a five-year, $13.8-million deal that DeJesus signed with the Royals that ran from 2006 through this season. He earned $4.6 million this year.
DeJesus, 30, was lost for the season on July 22 when he jammed his glove hand into the center field wall trying for a catch at Yankee Stadium. He underwent surgery four days later.
In 91 games this season, DeJesus hit .318 with five homers and 37 RBIs. He was the Royals’ leadoff batter for most of his eight years with the club but he batted third most often this season.
Although he played center field most of his career, he moved to left field in 2009 and to right field this year.
The Royals scratched Willie Bloomquist from their lineup just before Monday afternoon’s game against Oakland. With good reason.
Bloomquist had just been traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Bloomquist had been slated to play left field and bat second for the Royals. Instead, just a half hour before the game, he was in manager Ned Yost’s office being told of the trade.
A versatile player, Bloomquist was in his second season with the Royals and was batting .265 in 72 games with 10 doubles, a triple, three homers and 17 RBIs. He also stole eight bases in 13 tries.
Bloomquist got off to a slow start this season but, in 34 games since June 27, he was batting .311 (33-for-106). He had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter. He also was hitting .355 (27-for-76) with runners on base as opposed to just .191 (18-for-94) with the bases empty.
This season Bloomquist played all three outfield positions as well as second base and third. In the past, he’s also played first base and shortstop.
Because of his ability to play virtually any position and run well, Bloomquist has been considered a natural for a National League team because of the more frequent lineup changes, use of pinch-hitters and double switches.
Now he gets his chance with the NL’s Central Division leaders after playing only in the American League with Seattle and the Royals. However, because the deal came after Aug. 31, he will not be eligible for postseason play with the Reds even if a player is injured. To replace a disabled player in the postseason, a player must have in that organization prior to Aug. 31.
At 32 and in his ninth Major League season, Bloomquist was a positive influence among the younger players on the team. Last season, after signing as a free agent with the Royals, he also batted .265 in 125 games, stole 25 bases and set career highs in virtually every category. He played every position except pitcher and catcher.