Third baseman Mike Moustakas keeps lighting up the sky at Springdale, Ark. He blasted a couple of two-run homers for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Thursday as the Naturals completed a four-game sweep of Tulsa. That brought his Texas League-leading average to .394 and he was tied for the league lead in homers, 10, and RBIs, 33. And that’s despite missing 12 games because of injury.
Royals manager Ned Yost, who assessed Moustakas before taking the managerial job, was asked about the Moose’s rise toward the Major Leagues.
“He swung the bat for me very, very well. Played very good defensively there. I mean he’s getting closer,” Yost said. “There’s no thing like just going out and playing and getting experience at that level. The thing that I keep looking at in these guys is they’re getting closer. When he is ready to go, we’ll know when that time it but he’s definitely getting closer.”
Could Moustakas be thrown out onto the Kauffman Stadium diamond right now?
“I don’t have to throw him out there now so that’s something I don’t have to think about,” Yost said. “If there was something that happened and we needed a third baseman, well, then we’ll sit back and look at it. But that’s not the case now and again I try to look every single day I try to look how we can make our club better with the guys here. He’s definitely in the plans for us long-term but, as of today, we keep going with what we’re going with and we’ve done all right.”
Right-hander Aaron Crow pitched that victory for the Naturals, improving his record to 2-3. . . . Eric Hosmer’s double in Single-A Wilmington’s 9-2 loss at Lynchburg put him second in Carolina League with 16. He was leading the league with a .384 mark. . . . Twelve-year-old Dylan Peters of Olathe, Kan., was in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat on Friday night. He wrote an award-winning book, “Tic Talk – Living with Tourette Syndrome” and has spoken to thousands of kids in the Kansas City area about accepting and comforting those who suffer from personal challenges.
David DeJesus was out of right field on Thursday night at Tampa Bay but he stayed at the top of batting order. He was the designated hitter as Jose Guillen played right for a change. This was just the second time that DeJesus had been the Royals’ DH; the first time came on July 23, 2008, against Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. On that occasion, he was 2-for-4 with a double. This time he was 1-for-3 with a walk.
Aaron Crow got his first pro victory, pitching eight innings on Thursday night as Double-A Northwest Arkansas knocked off Springfield, a Cardinals’ farm club, 9-2. The ex-Mizzou star gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in eight innings. He struck six and threw just 79 pitches – 55 for strikes. Crow was the Royals’ top draft pick last year and their fifth-round choice, Louis Coleman from LSU, pitched a perfect ninth to finish up. Ernesto Mejia belted two home runs for the Naturals. . . . First baseman Kila Ka’aihue hit his sixth homer, doubled and knocked in four runs as Triple-A Omaha beat Iowa, 11-7, in a game stopped by rain after 5½ innings. . . . Royals catcher Jason Kendall appeared in his 1,929th game behind the dish on Friday night at Tampa Bay. He’s in sixth place all-time for games caught; next in his path, ex-Royals manager Tony Pena with 1,950.
David DeJesus put it succinctly when he talked about Rick Ankiel’s performance in Tuesday’s intrasquad game: “Everything he hits is a home run.”
That was true. He belted two solo homers – one off Luke Hochevar, one off Minor Leaguer Danny Duffy – as his team rolled, 6-0. He teed off on Hochevar’s changeup and Duffy’s breaking ball. In his other at-bat, Ankiel didn’t hit the ball – lefty Adam Bostick struck him out. Alberto Callaspo, batting right-handed, also homered off Duffy.
DeJesus had three at-bats and belted a triple, a double and a single.
“I just wanted to stay relaxed at the plate,” DeJesus said. “It’s way different doing (batting practice) with the pitchers behind the screen. When you get out there with no screens, you feel like you lock in a little better and it’s definitely always good when you get your first day with three hits.”
He could have had two triples but stopped at second base because he knew the inning was going to be halted at that point anyway. (Three innings were waved off because the pitchers had reached their pitch limit.)
Ankiel thought he got a little help on his second home run by the light Arizona air. “Definitely an Arizona home run,” he said.
Manager Trey Hillman liked what he saw from his offense – there were 13 hits in the five innings – despite skipping live batting practice early on in camp.
“I don’t think we were too far behind considering we didn’t take batting practice the first two days,” Hillman said. “If we hadn’t done well offensively today, by at least one side, I’m sure these guys would’ve grumbled that we missed those two days. But it looked like the mistakes from the pitchers got hit. They got some balls out over the plate.”
But he saw some good things from his pitchers as well.
“Hoch left a changeup up but other than that, he pitched very well, was very efficient. I thought (Aaron) Crow did a real good job. Even though he fell behind, he did a real good job of getting back in the count,” Hillman said.
And he was impressed by Rule 5 draft choice Edgar Osuna, a left-hander.
“You can see the pitchability,” Hillman said. “This is the second time in a row I’ve seen a good breaking ball – it’s got depth and sweep to it. He’s deceptive, especially with the changeup. He’s not afraid to throw to both sides of the plate. He threw Billy Butler a nice cutter inside and followed it up with a changeup and it resulted in two foul balls. But the only reason is because it was Billy Butler. He could’ve struck a lot of right-handed hitters out with that pitch coming in glove-side instead of using the changeup away.”
Most of all, though, Hillman liked his defense. The only error was a wide throw by Hochevar.
“Very clean. We had one error. I was very pleased with the defensive play,” Hillman said.
For Wednesday’s second intrasquad game, Hillman is switching the lineups around. Ankiel will be back but as a designated hitter; ditto for Jose Guillen. Mike Moustakas will get a shot at third base and several other non-roster players are in the two lineups as well. The pitchers will include Brian Bannister and Dusty Hughes.
Before Tuesday’s intrasquad game, Mike Aviles threw from shortstop for the first time in camp. He’s recuperating from Tommy John surgery in his right elbow so he was cautious but made about 15 of the long throws without a problem. He played second base in the game.
Outfielder Scott Podsednik was nicked in the hand by a pitch that glanced off the knob of his bat but he was OK.
Now here’s some good news for Royals fans. Zack Greinke pitched a round of live batting practice on Wednesday at the Royals’ Spring Training workout and pitching coach Bob McClure was asked how he did.
“He did fine, same as I’ve seen in the past. No difference,” McClure said.
You could interpret that as saying that Greinke is in Cy Young Award form.
Manager Trey Hillman was impressed by what he saw from right-hander Aaron Crow, the Royals’ top draft choice last year.
“He looked good. I’d like to see a little better command but it’s really early. But he’s got great stuff,” Hillman said.
Asked if Crow might be trying too hard, Hillman responded: “Yeah, especially in his first Major League camp. He doesn’t want to pitch in the Minor Leagues, he wants to be in the big leagues.”
That said, Crow hasn’t pitched much in the last two years and the Royals are figuring on starting him in the Minors, possibly at Double-A Northwest Arkansas although that’s up in the air.
Hillman also saw fine work from starter Kyle Davies and a non-roster right-hander, Philip Humber. A right-hander, Humber has logged 18 Major League games with the Mets and Twins. He’s been a starter in the Minors and last year went 7-9 with Triple-A Rochester. . . . “The other thing I wasn’t really planning on being impressed with was some of the swings,” Hillman said. “We had some really good swings. It’s not what I was focusing on but it grabbed my attention.” . . . The Royals got through Wednesday’s second full-squad workout without any injuries. But the training staff will be on high alert on Thursday because, as Hillman puts it, the third day seems to take its toll on tight or aching muscles. . . . The Society for American Baseball Research has a deal for you. SABR is giving away the download of its Emerald Guide to Baseball 2010. It’s been developed using the old guides once published by The Sporting News, Spalding and Reach. It has all the Major and Minor League statistics for 2009 plus team histories, contact information, 2010 schedules, a year in review essay, post-season box scores, transactions and obituaries among other things. To download, go to http://sabr.org. If you’re looking for a bound version, that’ll cost you $24.95 at www.lulu.com.
Get ready to point the rabbit ears on top of the ol’ TV set. Fox Sports Kansas City will beam out 142 Royals games this season.
They’ll get warmed up with a couple of Spring Training telecasts – the first on Tuesday, March 23, when the Cubbies are at Surprise Stadium. That will go live at 3:05 p.m. CT and then re-air in prime time, 8 p.m. CT. The second game will be at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday, April 2, when the Royals are in Arlington, Texas, for a game against the Rangers.
Then will come 140 regular-season games starting with Opening Day against the Tigers on Monday, April 5, at Kauffman Stadium. There will be 69 road games and 71 home games telecast. In addition to the Fox schedule, ESPN will carry the Royals’ July 4 game against the Angels from Anaheim, Calif.
The Fox telecasts will be preceded by a 30-minute pre-game show, Hy-Vee Royals Live, and followed by the Boulevard Royals Live show with Joel Goldberg as host.
Manager Trey Hillman wants to find spots to play Alberto Callaspo but he indicated that outfield is not likely. “We’re going to have to figure out a way. You don’t want to leave a .300 hitter sitting on your bench and one that had the slug that Alberto did,” Hillman said. “Thankfully he’s got some utility value. He looked real good at third base, he’s had some history of playing some outfield although once we signed Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, in my mind that could of took Callaspo out of the mix.” But Callaspo could play at second behind Chris Getz or third behind Alex Gordon or be used as a DH. “We’re not going to leave that bat sitting on the bench very often,” Hillman said.
. . . The Royals will play some sort of simulated games on March 1, 2 and 3 as they loosen up for the first exhibition game against the Rangers on March 4. . . . Hillman doesn’t think Aaron Crow, the Royals’ top draft pick last year, would be considered for this year’s Major League bullpen. The former Mizzou right-hander is likely to be in the Minors somewhere as a starter. “With an arm that good and stuff that good, from a development background, my preference would be for him to continue to throw as many pitches as possible,” Hillman said. . . . Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who reported to the Surprise Complex earlier in the month, is back after returning home to the Dominican Republic for a short visit. Only a few position players have not yet been spotted in camp, including Callaspo, Jose Guillen and non-roster utility player Wilson Betemit. The first full-squad workout isn’t until Tuesday. . . . Zack Greinke will meet with the media after Saturday’s workout. Supposedly this will be his only give-and-take with reporters this year except on days he pitches. Greinke values his time and doesn’t want his Cy Young celebrity to interfere with his work.
— Dick Kaegel
Four of the Royals’ Top 10 prospects, as recently defined by Baseball America, will get a priority evaluation in the Major League Spring Training camp.
Pitcher Aaron Crow, rated No. 2, is on the 40-man roster and third baseman Mike Moustakas (No. 4), pitcher Danny Duffy (No. 8) and outfielder David Lough (No. 10) have also been invited.
The other six in the Top 10 are pitcher Mike Montgomery (1), catcher Wil Myers (3), first baseman Eric Hosmer (5), pitcher Tim Melville (6), pitcher John Lamb (7) and pitcher Chris Dwyer (9). They’ll be in the Minor League camp in the same complex at Surprise, Ariz.
Of the four Top 10ers in the big-league camp, Baseball America cites as Moustakas as the farm system’s best power hitter and best infield arm and Crow as having the best fastball and best slider. And, in the publication’s projected 2013 (yes, 2013!) lineup, Lough is seen as the center fielder and Moustakas as the right fielder (that Alex Gordon guy is still at third base) and Crow as the No. 4 starter. Duffy isn’t listed but neither is the projected bullpen so maybe he’s sitting out there in 2013.
Other up-and-comers from the Minors, already on the 40-man roster, that will get close scrutiny include catcher Manuel Pina, shortstop Jeff Bianchi, outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Jordan Parraz and pitchers Noel Arguelles, Henry Barrera, Edgar Osuna and Blake Wood. Arguelles is the Cuban lefty the Royals signed for $7 million. And guys like slugging first baseman Kila Ka’aihue and shortstop-third baseman Mario Lisson will be back for another try.
It should be an interesting camp for getting an eyeful of the Royals’ future hopes.
No surprise at all about the Royals’ top awards for September and a little piece of October. Billy Butler was the Player of the Month and Zack Greinke was Pitcher of the Month. Butler, of course, was named the American League’s top player for September and Greinke was a runner-up to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez as AL top pitcher.
Billy batted .330 in 30 games during that September-October period with 10 doubles, six homers and 26 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .422. And, of course, he made his mark by becoming the first Major Leaguer since 1900 to have four games of three doubles each in a season. That fourth game came on Sept. 9 against the Tigers. He also had a 4-for-5, two-homer game in which he drove in all the runs in a 9-4 loss to the Twins on Sept. 25.
Zack went 4-2 in six starts with a 1.38 ERA. In 39 innings, he had 40 strikeouts and gave up 30 hits and 11 walks along with six earned runs. Opponents hit just .213 against him. The big disappointment, of course, was not getting his 17th victory in his last start against the Twins. He gave up four runs in that game but just three runs (two earned) in the previous five starts.
Another fitting honor for the final month was Joakim Soria being named winner of the Majors’ Delivery Man of the Month Award. During September he had 10 saves in 10 chances and pitched 13 2/3 scoreless innings in a total of 12 games. That’s a big turnaround from his halting start which involved a stiff shoulder and time on the disabled list. Soria was happy with his 30 saves especially in light of the down time because of the shoulder and the limited save situations that came up. Soria, by the way, did not pitch in the October games.
Sorry to see John Mizerock leaving as the Royals’ bullpen coach. He logged something like 18 years in the organization and was an upbeat, fun guy who’ll be missed. He was good teacher of catchers, too, and Mike Sweeney always credited “Rock” as the guy who spurred his rise to the Majors when both were in the Minors. . . . In a front-office development, the Royals hired Michael Bucek to be vice president of marketing and business development. He’s coming from the Phoenix Coyotes in hockey but has 17 years in baseball including eight years with the White Sox and six with the Brewers. He’s a Chicago guy. . . . Top draft pick Aaron Crow is at the Arizona Instructional League in Surprise but, last we heard, he had not yet pitched in a game.