Rick Ankiel might get back into center field when the Royals open a three-game series at Chicago on Monday night. He hasn’t been in the starting lineup for eight straight games because of what’s termed a mild right quad strain.
It’s the first quad problem that Ankiel has had as a pro and manager Trey Hillman didn’t want to risk further injury on the artificial turf of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. But if it’s suitably warm in Chicago, he might turn Ankiel loose on the natural grass of U.S. Cellular Field.
Hillman used Alex Gordon at first base for the last three innings of Saturday night’s game and says he might see more duty there as needed. For the time being, Gordon is sitting the bench as Alberto Callaspo takes over third base now that Chris Getz is back at second base. . . . Blake Wood seems to be getting on track as Triple-A Omaha’s closer. He picked up back-to-back saves against Iowa to reach five for the season. Kila Ka’aihue hit his seventh homer in a 2-1 win over Iowa. . . . Right-hander Tim Melville, a fourth-round draft pick in 2008, was banged for nine runs in four innings as Single-A Wilmington lost to Winston-Salem, 10-5. Melville is 1-3 with an 11.88 ERA. . . . There were 20 walks, including 13 by Single-A Burlington pitchers, in the Bees’ 9-6 win over Quad Cities. Right-hander Tyler Sample, KC’s third-round draft pick in 2008, got his first win despite issuing six walks in five innings. He gave up just two runs.
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.
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
Seems like Dayton Moore was quite serious when he vowed to upgrade the Royals’ defense. Now he’s got three center fielders – Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and David DeJesus – roaming his 2010 outfield. That’s left, center and right, respectively.
And he’s pretty clear that Chris Getz, considered a better glove than Alberto Callaspo, will fill second base. And Jason Kendall supposedly is an improvement over the catching combo of Miguel Olivo and John Buck.
All this leaves Jose Guillen as the DH and Alberto Callaspo in limbo. Guillen will probably grumble because he views himself as a good outfielder and a complete player but, with his bad wheels barking, he didn’t move around all that well last year. Callaspo has to be disappointed because he had a breakout year with a .300 average and a bunch of extra-base hits and now there’s no place to play – not second, not even DH.
That should make for an interesting shakeout during Spring Training.
Ankiel looks forward to being in the middle of that outfield.
“All three of us could play center. I think we’re going to do well,” he said. “Certainly when you look around the league you can compare us with any other team.”
Ankiel indicated Monday that the virtual guarantee that he’d play center field swung his free-agent decision toward the Royals.
“I like center, I think you get a good view of the game, I think it keeps you into the game a little bit more, obviously you can get better jumps being right behind the pitcher,” Ankiel said. “I’ve played all three. They all have their different aspects, different angles but I like center better.”
Moore is happy with his new outfield acquisitions.
“You look at the free-agent pool that existed for the 2010 season and Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik are two of the better athletes in that group, period, and that’s not debatable,” he said.
So now it’s a real deal. The Royals have traded Mark Teahen and cash to the White Sox in exchange for second baseman Chris Getz and third baseman Josh Fields.
The Royals announced the trade on Friday, a day after the report was widely circulated.
Teahen, who played both infield and outfield for the Royals, could replace Jermaine Dye as the White Sox right fielder or take over at third base. The White Sox declined their option on Dye’s $12-million contract for 2010.
Just how Getz and Fields would fit into the Royals’ plans remains to be seen. The Royals’ incumbents at those players’ prime positions are .300 hitter Alberto Callaspo at second base and projected star Alex Gordon at third base.
Getz, 26, was Chicago’s primary second baseman last season although he was slowed by a sports hernia which required surgery on Oct. 2. He’s reported about ready to resume his baseball work.
Callaspo gave the Royals a big season at bat, eventually swinging No. 5 in the lineup. No only did he hit .300 but he hit the first 11 home runs of his career with eight triples, 41 doubles and 73 RBIs. But the Royals want to improve their defense, which ranked last in the American League, and Callaspo had 17 errors last season.
Getz, a left-handed batter who hit .262 as a rookie in 2009, played just 107 games with 18 doubles, four triples, two homers and 32 RBIS. But he adds another Royals’ need with speed on the bases. He had 25 steals in 27 attempts.
Fields, also 26, had an impressive rookie season in 2007 when he hit 23 homers and drove in 67 runs while batting .244 in 100 games for the Sox. But Joe Crede reclaimed the third-base job in 2008 and Fields lost out to Gordon Beckham this year.
However, it’s possible that Beckham could move into the Sox’s vacated second-base spot with Teahen playing third base.
Because Fields also has played first base, he could fill a role behind Billy Butler if the Royals decide not to tender Mike Jacobs a contract.
Teahen, 28, gives the Sox versatility. Aquired from the A’s by the Royals in the three-club 2004 Carlos Beltran deal, he played third base in 2005 and 2006, then switched to the outfield when Gordon took over at third base in 2007. Teahen has played right field as well as left and center and first base. Oddly enough, he began 2009 season as the starting second baseman but had to return to third base in early April when Gordon underwent hip surgery.
In his five seasons with Kansas City, Teahen batted .269 in 676 games with 59 homers, 24 triples, 146 doubles and 293 RBIs. His career on-base percentage is .331.
Teahen, a left-handed batter who hits to all fields, this year had a .271 average with 12 homers, 50 RBIs in 144 games, including 99 starts at third base, 31 in right field and three at second.
The cash given up by the Royals will help the Sox pay the expected raise Teahen can be expected to get in salary arbitration. He earned $3.575 million this year and could get into the $5-million range next season. By contrast, Getz made $401,000 and Fields made $410,000 this year and they are not eligible for arbitration.
Right fielder Jose Guillen was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said prior to the home opener.
Moore disclosed that Guillen has a grade 2 tear of the right hip flexor and is expected to return after the 15 days.
“Jose wanted to play through it but this is the right thing to do for him and the team,” Moore said.
Guillen appeared to pull up while running out a ground ball in the ninth inning on Thursday at Chicago where he served as the designated hitter.
The Royals had to make room on the roster for starting pitcher Sidney Ponson, who was pulled up from the Triple-A roster to start Friday’s home opener against the New York Yankees. Guillen’s move to the disabled list apparently kept third-string catcher Brayan Pena on the Royals’ roster.
Manager Trey Hillman had Guillen out of his lineup against the Yankees on Friday but said only that he had a sore right hip. Hillman replaced Guillen in right field and the cleanup spot with Mark Teahen, batted David DeJesus third in Teahen’s spot and put Alberto Callaspo at second base against left-hander Andy Pettitte.
— Dick Kaegel
Mike Aviles and Mark Teahen weren’t in Sunday’s high-scoring rout at the Mariners’ ballpark but they weren’t idle.
They were left behind in Surprise to play in a Triple-A game, giving shortstop Aviles and would-be second baseman Mark Teahen another chance to work together. Another of manager Trey Hillman’s motives was to give Aviles some swings in a relaxed atmosphere after he’d had a rough 0-for-3 game against the Rangers.
No report on how the fielding went but the hitting went well. Aviles went 3-for-5 with a triple and Teahen was 2-for-5.
Against the Mariners, Alberto Callaspo played the whole game at second and he had a real blast at the plate with four hits including three doubles in the 17-12 win.
Hillman, by the way, gave a hint that there’s a chance the Royals might not open with 12 pitchers and 13 position players after all. Because of three open dates in April, there have been discussions about keeping just 11 pitchers for a while.
“I don’t think it’s going to go there but it has come up – what about the possibility of going 14 and 11?” Hillman said.
As far as the rotation goes, he’s taken the three off days into consideration and concluded the Royals will need a fifth starter at least twice during April.
One more thing. Aviles and Teahen both took batting practice on Sunday morning against left-hander John Bale, the first live BP that he’s thrown since returning to camp after thyroid surgery.
“He threw 25, 26 pitches and the ball got out of his hand better than I anticipated,” Hillman said. “He looked pretty good.”
The Royals will try to get Bale into a game before camp breaks. After undergoing surgery, Bale is regaining strength and weight – he’s up to about 212 after getting down to about 200. But he’s not likely to be ready for the start of the season, at least on the Major League level.
— Dick Kaegel
Nothing in stone yet but how can you keep Mark Teahen out of the lineup? He’s hitting .500 after Saturday’s game against the Rangers. He has five homers and 12 RBIs in just 14 games, his spring curtailed by his World Baseball Classic absence.
The only question, of course, is can Teahen do the job defensively at second base? At times he looks a bit stiff out there but, as he did Saturday, he’s demonstrated he can handle the routine plays and do all right on the backhand.
The test, as Gold Glover Frank White often says, is whether or not Teahen can pull off the plays that happen with his back to first base. In other words, move toward the bag at second to take a throw and then pivot for a double play with a runner thundering right at him. Or slide to his right for a backhand stop, then plant, whirl and throw. That answer can only come in the heat of actual games and so far Teahen hasn’t had much of a test there.
But manager Trey Hillman said after Saturday’s game that he likes the way Teahen has played at second. And he’s got to absolutely love the way Teahen’s been hitting the ball.
Not much time left to make the second-base decision. And, in fact, Hillman could just switch from Teahen to Willie Bloomquist to Alberto Callaspo as the occasion demands.
But, on Opening Day, we might just see what we saw on Saturday at Surprise: Teahen playing second and batting third. Stay tuned on that.
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
Could Orlando Hudson be in the Royals’ second-base future? ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that the Royals are trying to figure out a way to fit Hudson into their budget.
That could be true because general manager Dayton Moore has said all along he’s always thinking about ways to improve the lineup. He also acknowledges that the problem is he’s reached (and probably exceeded) his $70-million plus payroll limit. Moore is already sticking his neck out to some degree. To add Hudson or any other player with a stiff price tag, Moore will have to lop off a sizable salary elsewhere.
There’s no doubt that Hudson, one of several alluring players still on the free-agent market, would help the Royals’ lineup. Right now at second base, there’s Alberto Callaspo and Willie Bloomquist set to do battle with Mark Teahen willing to shift to that spot if he can show he can handle it.
Moore will not comment on individual free agents and he cannot be asked about it now anyway. Sadly, he went to Houston on Saturday to be with his ailing mother.
Sure, Hudson would be a nice addition. But he won’t come cheap even if he’s running out of time; he made $6.25 million last year. Moore would have to figure out a money tradeoff to pull that off.
— Dick Kaegel