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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Coco Crisp sounds as if he’d really like to come back to the Royals next season but, as a free agent, he’s kind of caught in the middle. Surgery on both shoulders last summer makes him a gamble for teams to sign before they can judge his recovery and that might not be possible until January or whenever he can resume full baseball activities. For his part, Crisp says he’s feeling good and expects to be back to normal – maybe even better with his repairs – this season.
Crisp was impressive last spring, changing his approach at the plate to coax more walks and being aggressive on the bases. He looked like an ideal leadoff man and was roaming center field wide and free. A good guy with a terrific family, he was a calm veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Royals GM Dayton Moore was impressed with him but, due to the uncertainty of Crisp’s condition, feels compelled to look at other alternatives such as free agent Scott Podsednik and the Orioles’ Felix Pie. Of course, the Royals already have Mitch Maier in house with considerable potential and Josh Anderson as a backup. Another alternative would be to move David DeJesus back to center field from left and try newcomer Josh Fields in left.
The bottom line consideration, as usual, would be what money Crisp would want to come back. During a long phone conversation, we asked if he’d come up with a price.
“Yeah, yeah, a hundred million dollars per year, obviously,” he said merrily. “That’d be OK with me.”
Coco always comes with a smile.
How many players have a restaurant dish named after them? Just a few, probably. And now Joakim Soria has joined that exclusive group.
The Joakim Soria dish was unveiled last week by Maria DeJesus, who operates a Mexican restaurant in Sedalia, Mo. The occasion was the Mexican Restaurant Association’s national convention in Kansas City.
Soria, from Monclova, Mexico, came to a dinner gathering with his wife Karla. He was joined by left fielder David DeJesus and his girl friend Kim for some good food, good mariachi music and some foot-stomping folk dancing. DeJesus (no relation to chef Maria) is the spokesman for the Guadalupe Centers Inc., a Latino support organization which hosted many of the convention sessions.
Manuel de la Vega, the association president, noted that the Soria dish was fashioned after the type of cooking they have in the state of Coahuila. That’s where Soria’s hometown, Monclova, is located. Soria loved it and said he was happy to be with other folks proud of their Mexican heritage.
Oh, by the way, in addition to his gastronomical endeavors, Soria is doing his workouts at Kauffman Stadium to strengthen his entire body. And, nope, no sign of the shoulder problems that hampered him early last season.
He says he’s feeling really good – and full, too, after diving into that Joakim Soria dish.
ALSO NOTABLE: DeJesus is continuing his charitable work around Kansas City. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, he’ll head a Royals contingent that will serve Thanksgiving meals to homeless and poverty-stricken men, women and families at the City Union Mission’s two facilities. This is the fourth time the Royals have provided and served the meals. Royals Hall of Famer Frank White will head a group serving at the Family Center and DeJesus will be at the Men’s Center. . . . Although he’s traded to the White Sox, Mark Teahen will follow through on his annual fashion show and dinner to benefit the YMCA Challenger effort to build a ballpark and sports facility for physically-challenged kids. “I do want to make it clear that I’m going to see through the whole Challenger deal in Kansas City. That is important to me and I think it’s part of what I’ve been able to do in Kansas City,” he said. That event will be on Jan. 16 at Union Station and Teahen believes his now former teammates will again pitch in and model clothing in the show. That’s around the time of the Royals FanFest so many of them will be in town. Teahen said the project needs another $300,000 to get the construction underway. . . .
GM Dayton Moore, in his press briefing after the Teahen deal, said he wasn’t concerned about dealing with (and possibly strengthening) an AL Central foe: “This is the fourth deal that we’ve completed with Kenny and the White Sox and we’ve just got to focus on our baseball team and what makes us better. We’re not in a position to worry a whole lot about what the White Sox are doing or the other clubs. We’ve got to do what we have to do to put our best team on the field.” Kenny, of course, is Sox GM Kenny Williams. This deal brought infielders Chris Getz and Josh Fields. The other swaps brought outfielder Paulo Orlando (for pitcher Horacio Ramirez, Aug. 9, 2008), first baseman Ross Gload (for pitcher Andrew Sisco, Dec. 16. 2006) and pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Danny Cortes (for pitcher Mike MacDougal, July 24, 2006). Orlando hit .261 for Single-A Wilmington this year; the others are gone. . . . Getz, in a teleconference with reporters, noted: “I was actually being platooned, I wasn’t playing much against lefties. I hope I’m in a situation where I can get more at-bats against lefties. Who knows how it’s all going to play out?” Getz, a left-handed batter, hit .265 (82-for-310) against righties, .246 (16-for-65) versus lefties. . . . Fields, who popped 23 homers in his rookie season of 2007, believes swinging in more wide-open Kauffman Stadium might help him: “You get to a big park and you start disregarding the home run and take good relaxed swings at balls and take what you get. You actually become a better hitter in a bigger park instead of just trying to hit home runs all the time.”
— 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.
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