Alex Gordon’s stay at Triple-A Omaha is going well. He was named Pacific Coast League Hitter of the Week. Gordon posted a .500 average (11-for-22) with three doubles, three homers, 10 RBIs and seven runs. He was also doing well in his conversion to left field from third base and threw out a runner at home plate.
It’s birthday time for the Royals. Jose Guillen turned 34 on Monday and Joakim Soria’s 26th is on Tuesday. . . . David DeJesus’ streak of errorless games had reached 188 games going into Monday night’s game against the Orioles. That was the third-longest streak among active outfielders. The Yankees’ Randy Winn was at 229 games and the Mets’ Jason Bay was at 222. Fourth was DeJesus’ teammate, Mitch Maier, with 165. . . . Who noticed this? Royals PR veep Mike Swanson certainly did. On Sunday, when the White Sox pitched Gavin Floyd against Brian Bannister, it marked the first Floyd-Bannister combination on the Kauffman Stadium mound since 1992. That was when the original Floyd Bannister, Brian’s father, last toed the rubber there for the Rangers in his final season. Actually, it occurred to Brian B. before the game but he didn’t say anything about it. Floyd Bannister pitched for the Royals in 1988-89. . . . Third baseman Mike Moustakas hit a grand slam, his seventh homer on Sunday but Double-A Northwest Arkansas lost at Springfield, 10-9. Left-hander Mike Montgomery took the loss, his first after four wins for the Naturals and Single-A Wilmington.
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.
Even though they had losing records and had to shut down early because of shoulder fatigue, pitchers Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies got sizable salary increases from the Royals.
Bannister, 7-12, agreed to $2.3 million for 2010 after making $1,737,500 last season. Davies, 8-9, took $1.8 million and went up from $1.3 million.
They agreed to terms on Saturday, avoiding the possibility of salary arbitration, along with pitcher Roman Colon who settled for $665,000 after making $435,000 last year. That’s if he makes the Major League roster, of course; his Minor League salary would be $240,000.
— Dick Kaegel
Despite all the tantalizing hints that the Royals could make a deal before the Trade Deadline, predictably nothing happened on Friday.
On the last day, pitcher Brian Bannister became the apparently most delectable item on the Royals’ menu. He was pursued by the Brewers (according to Fox Sports), the Marlins (South Florida Sun-Sentienl) and the Yankees (ESPN.com). If anything of that was true, obviously nobody came up with a good enough proposal. For the Royals to trade Bannister, who has just developed into a very reliable Major League pitcher, would be weakening the one big strength of the club — starting pitching.
The one move before the deadline was the purchase of center fielder Josh Anderson from the Tigers. That should help restore some of the speed and defense the Royals lost when Coco Crisp went out for the season.
Now comes the period where players can be traded only after clearing waivers. One possibility there is left-hander Ron Mahay. He’s almost sure to clear waivers and he’s a versatile veteran who’s been under-used by the Royals. At 38, he can still pitch and could be useful for a contender needing a lefty down the stretch. The acquiring club, though, would have to pick up what remains of his $4 million salary..
— Dick Kaegel
Now that the Royals have traded for Yuniesky Betancourt to fill their shortstop need and Ryan Freel to help in the outfield and infield, nothing seems bubbling.
General manager Dayton Moore was asked if more deals might be in the works before the deadline and he was noncommittal.
“At this time of year, it’s active, it’s unpredictable and things can pop up nightly as rosters change due to other trades and injuries and so forth. But right now we’re just monitoring our team and needs of others,” Moore said.
The Royals really need to do is add some offensive production to a club that has been running last in the American League in that vital category called runs scored.
What the Royals are not likely to do is part with the likes of pitchers Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar, first baseman Billy Butler, third baseman Alex Gordon or closer Joakim Soria – the young core of their club.
“We need to hang on to our good young players as most clubs try to do so any deal we make would be centered around holding on to our good young players,” Moore said.
Vet pitcher Gil Meche isn’t likely to be on the market either although his current back woes would likely dull any interest anyhow. Brian Bannister has emerged as an effective pitcher and, at 28, he’s not really in the “super youth” category. Still, the most common names being floated, as usual, are outfielder David DeJesus and infielder-outfielder Mark Teahen.
“As you know, I won’t talk about the specifics but we’ll always be open to good baseball deals that help our team today and long-term,” Moore said.
The Royals designated for assignment shortstop Tony Pena Jr. and optioned center fielder Mitch Maier to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday.
The moves cleared roster space for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and third baseman Alex Gordon. Both are coming off the disabled list and will be in the starting lineup for Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Pitcher Sidney Ponson reported from his injury rehabilitation assignment but remained on the disabled list.
The Royals listed their starting rotation for the Tampa Bay series. Brian Bannister will start the Friday night opener, followed by All-Star Zack Greinke on Saturday night and Luke Hochevar on Sunday.
The club will further evaluate the status of Gil Meche, who left his last start because of a back spasm.
In addition, shortstop Luis Hernandez cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. He had been designated for assignment by the Royals
Starting pitcher Brian Bannister was recalled from Triple-A Omaha by the Royals on Tuesday and reliever Doug Waechter was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Bannister will start Wednesday night’s game at Cleveland instead of left-hander Hector Ramirez. Bannister, after a rough first start for Omaha, has logged nine straight shutout innings while Ramirez has struggled for the Royals.
This move puts Ramirez back in the bullpen, essentially covering Waechter’s spot in middle relief.
Waechter has a lateral strain in his right elbow.
“He’s been having trouble getting loose and felt some clicking in there and was examined by Dr. (Steve) Joyce on Monday,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
Although Waechter told the Royals he felt he could pitch through it, the club decided to put him on the disabled list. Waechter had not given up a run this season until Friday night at Texas when the Rangers jolted him for two solo home runs in one inning of the Royals’ 12-3 victory.
Bannister was optioned to Omaha late in Spring Training along with fellow right-hander Luke Hochevar after the Royals decided to use Sidney Ponson and Ramirez in the last two rotation spots.
On Sunday, Bannister was used to pitch just two innings, both scoreless, in Omaha’s 3-0 victory over Albuquerque. That brief outing was in anticipation of the move with Waechter and Ramirez.
That gave Bannister nine shutout innings in his last two starts after a rocky first outing in which he gave up five runs in four innings. Overall, his ERA is 3.46 with a 0-1 record.
Hochevar also has been pitching well with a 3-0 record and 1.89 ERA in three starts for Omaha.
Ramirez, signed last winter to a $1.8 million contract, was supposed to give the Royals a left-handed starter in an otherwise all right-handed rotation. But he had a lackluster Spring Training and was penciled in for just two starts this month. He made one on April 11 against Cleveland and went 4 1/3 innings, giving up six runs in a 6-1 loss.
He’s also made two relief appearances and his overall ERA is 11.12 to go with his 0-1 mark. In 5 2/3 innings, he’s given up 12 hits including two homers and seven runs.
Waechter becomes the third player on the Royals’ disabled list. Third baseman Alex Gordon underwent right hip surgery on Friday and is expected to be out until at least late June. Right fielder Jose Guillen has a tear in his right hip flexor and could be back as early as Saturday.
Waechter’s stay on the DL is retroactive to April 18.
Sidney Ponson will pitch the first game at renovated Kauffman Stadium, manager Trey Hillman said on Wednesday in completing the Royals’ starting rotation.
Ponson and left-hander Horacio Ramirez will join Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies in the rotation.
Ponson will start on April 10 against the New York Yankees in the Grand Re-Opening of the stadium. Ramirez will make his first start on April 12 against the Yankees.
The Royals also optioned pitcher Brian Bannister to Triple-A Omaha, asked unconditional release waivers on pitcher Joel Peralta and placed left-hander John Bale on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27.
Earlier on Wednesday, they traded first baseman Ross Gload to the Florida Marlins for a player to be named.
Right-hander Luke Hochevar, one of the prime candidates for the last two spots in the Royals’ rotation, was optioned on Tuesday to Triple-A Omaha.
Hochevar’s departure cuts the list of starting aspirants to three, right-handers Sidney Ponson and Brian Bannister and left-hander Horacio Ramirez.
In five Cactus League games, Hochevar had a 3.86 ERA and a 1-0 record. In 16 1/3 innings, he gave up 17 hits and seven runs with four walks and seven strikeouts. Opponents hit .279 against him.
The first overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Free Agent Draft, Hochevar was brought into the rotation last April 20 after opening the season with Omaha. He made 22 starts for the Royals, going 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA before his season ended on Aug. 20 because of a rib-cage injury.
In this camp, he was not bothered by the injury. In his last Cactus League start, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he gave up three runs in the first inning but then worked three scoreless innings.
His candidacy for the rotation might have taken a hit when the Royals signed veteran Sidney Ponson who was immediately put into the mix. Ponson was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Oakland A’s.
Hochevar’s departure still leaves 36 players in camp including 18 pitchers, three catchers, 10 infielders and five outfielders. The Royals break camp on Thursday.
Manager Trey Hillman didn’t come out and exactly say it on Sunday but he came close to anointing Kyle Davies as the Royals’ No. 3 starter.
“I think that you can assume that,” he said, knowing full well that we’ve been assuming that for two or three weeks now.
Davies will pitch on Monday, right after No. 1 and 2 Gil Meche and Zack Greinke, so he’s right on target to start the third game at Chicago.
Just who will start the April 10 opener remains in question, of course, because the fourth and fifth spots are still undecided. So it’ll be either Horacio Ramirez, Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister or Sidney Ponson. It can’t be Meche because he’d have only three days of rest, not four, before the first home game against the Yankees.