Reliever Juan Cruz has yet to see any Cactus League action and probably won’t for a while. Coming off a right shoulder strain that cost him nearly two months late last season, Cruz is taking it slow.
“Is he limited? No. Is he a little bit behind the pitching schedule of some of the other guys? Yes,” manager Trey Hillman said.
Cruz was the last pitcher to report to camp and he’s trying to build up his shoulder. He was 3-4 with a 5.72 ERA last year but got into just 46 games. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $6-million deal.
The Royals had a lot of fun with Kansas City Wizards soccer player Korede “K” Aiyegbusi who served as the ballboy for Friday’s game against the Rangers. The 5-5 defender is from London and apparently wasn’t up to speed on baseball or the game’s humor. So when he was sent to find the “key” to the batter’s box or to fetch a box of “curveballs” or “sliders” he was eager and willing to go. “He was outstanding,” Hillman said. “He got the batter’s box unlocked just in time for the game. He was on his way to the bullpen for a box of sliders but an unnamed staff guy called him back, not knowing exactly what was going on. So that unnamed staff guy is seriously in my doghouse.” The umpires played along. “One guy took the bull by the horns. He’s the one who sent him to the bullpen,” Hillman said. . . . Catcher Manny Pina, drilled by the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz in Friday’s game, had just a bruised right bicep and was back on the field Saturday. There was no bad history between the two players, Pina said. In fact, they were roommates when both were with the Rangers’ Double-A club at Frisco. Feliz visited Pina on Friday night to make sure he was OK. The fastball just got away from him. . . . Jose Guillen played right field in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Rangers, pounded a long double to right-center field and moved around the bases in good form. . . . “I’m getting there, I’m feeling healthy so it’s matter of getting the timing back,” Guillen said. “I didn’t play a lot last year. I had two surgeries and it’s a matter of hard work, getting more playing time and getting that rhythm back. I know what I need to do from there.” . . . The biggest relief for Gil Meche after his two shutout innings on Saturday was no pain in his back. “I just hope it never comes up again,” he said. “With the work I put in – not to toot my own horn – but I did a lot of things they wanted me to do with the back to ensure I wouldn’t have any problems. Everything has worked out pretty good.”
— Dick Kaegel
Zack Greinke finally answered the call at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night by pitching six-plus shutout innings and ending his 0-6 career blight there. Royals 2, White Sox 0.
“My offspeed was working and I treated it like a playoff game almost,” Greinke said afterward.
Offspeed, full speed, it all worked for Greinke.
“This is just what me and Gil are supposed to do every time out, I think,” he said.
Gil Meche did all right in the opener with seven innings, leaving with a 2-1 lead that was lost. But, yeah, that’s what Gil and Zack are supposed to do.
And when Juan Cruz and Joakim Soria did what the bullpen is supposed to do, get nine straight outs, the Royals were 1-1 with only 160 games to go.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has trumpeted the Royals as a coming team for a couple of years now.
And here’s what he said after Wednesday night’s game: “They got stronger. I have said that for the last couple of years and this year I said that in Spring Training. This ballclub is going to compete and they are going to give a lot of people headaches. They have a good ballclub all around.”
That’s coming from the manager of the defending division champs.
So maybe it is time for the Royals to say, Hello Central, here we are.
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