Billy Butler, while commenting on his selection as the Royals Player of the Year, was asked if he or his agent had discussed a long-term contract with the club.
“Not that I know of,” he said. “I would hope that my agent would have called me if that would have happened. We have not been in any contact or anything along those lines. I know the Royals have a lot on their plate, trying to make the Royals better and everything like that, but obviously I have not heard of anything like that.”
Butler has 2 years and 102 days of Major League service time so he’ll cross into salary arbitration territory after next season.
Also on Monday, the Royals reinstated three players from the 60-day disabled list to their 40-man roster – outfielder Jose Guillen, shortstop Mike Aviles and pitcher Doug Waechter. That puts the roster at 39.
— Dick Kaegel
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.
When you think about it, the addition of Juan Cruz not only gives the Royals a stronger bullpen but it pretty much sews up who will be in it.
You start from the back end with closer Joakim Soria. Plug in Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay as the set-up types. You’ve got Doug Waechter and Robinson Tejeda as the middle men and Jimmy Gobble as the lefty specialist.
As manager Trey Hillman was saying the other day, Farnsworth, Mahay, Waechter, Tejeda and Gobble are the type of guys that can go two innings and maybe even Cruz. So you’ve got plenty of depth in case a starter goes bad in the fourth inning and needs a lot of help. Then you hope the starter the next day can get through six or seven to help stretch things out.
Of course, Hillman also mentioned such guys as Brandon Duckworth and Joel Peralta and Jamey Wright and Carlos Rosa et al because the skipper doesn’t want to throw cold water on anybody’s hopes. And he shouldn’t because, hey, anything can happen in the next month. Somebody could get hot, somebody could get stinky, somebody could get hurt.
In fact, John Bale already has been diverted to an uncertain status because of his thyroid surgery. There’s no telling if he might be ready by Opening Day but that’s probably a long shot. Which is why you can pretty much make a logical forecast on the bullpen seven even at this early juncture. Shapes up as pretty magnificent seven, too, doesn’t it?
— Dick Kaegel
Right-hander Juan Cruz, a free-agent reliever, was signed by the Royals on Saturday.
Cruz signed a two-year contract with an option for 2011. The deal was believed to be worth $2.25 million for this year, $3.25 million for 2010 and a club option for $4 million for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout.
To make room for Cruz on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated infielder Esteban German for assignment.
Cruz, 30, last season had a 4-0 record with a 2.61 ERA in 57 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He led all National League relievers with 12.37 strikeouts per nine innings, based on his 71 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings.
“He’s a power pitcher, he’s a great competitor,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. “I think only Brad Lidge had more swings-and-misses last year. He was very effective against left-handers and very effective against right-handers and is someone who gives us a lot of power and aggressiveness. He’s been very successful the last two years.”
Cruz was under consideration by the Royals during the Winter Meetings when they signed relievers Kyle Farnsworth and Doug Waechter. Cruz was among several free agents left unsigned as Spring Training games got under way.
Cruz will help fill the bullpen gap created by John Bale’s absence because of thyroid surgery which is scheduled for Tuesday in Kansas City.
In eight Major League seasons, Cruz had a 29-31 record with a 4.00 ERA in 297 games.
German batted .245 in 89 games for the Royals last season, his third with the club.
— Dick Kaegel