Kyle Davies’ contribution to the Royals’ 10-inning, 5-4 victory over the Blue Jays on Monday night might get lost in the ecstasy over the overtime win.
But, as manager Ned Yost noted, Davies limited the damage very well in his seven innings. He pitched out of jams and helped himself with no walks, an indication that this command-challenged pitcher is getting a strong hand on his fastball.
“That’s the big thing. You gotta make them put the ball in play,” Davies said. “You look at all the hits, I think there was one home run and how many singles? (Eight.) . . . For the most part I made them have to put good swings on the ball and they couldn’t drive it.”
Davies had no decision and remained winless in his last eight starts. But he’s been very impressive to Yost, especially in his last four outings.
“He just pitched a nice game tonight,” Yost said.
Davies has gone seven, 7 2/3, six and seven innings in his last four games.
“That’s what I have to pitch at. I have to pound the strike zone and get some quick outs. I know they got 10 hits, but for the most part they were pretty soft singles,” he said. “As a pitcher, you just want to keep [your team] in the ball game and you can’t do that by walking them and running up your pitch count.”
Davies made 93 pitches including 57 strikes. That’s one of his best percentages this season.
It was one of those everybody-pitches days for the Royals – they used seven of them in a 10-2 loss to the Angels – and so starter Kyle Farnsworth worked two scoreless innings and took a seat. That was the plan.
“Two or three (innings). I did all right the first two so they said, ‘That’s good enough, let the other guys go,’ so that’s what the plan was today,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth would like to wedge his way into the rotation but that hope might hinge on whether or not Gil Meche’s shoulder allows him to make his first start.
“That’s not my decision. All I can do is go out and put zeroes up, pitch well and let them decide what’s best for the club,” he said.
Farnsworth has put up all zeroes in just two of his five outings and he’s given up 13 runs in 14 2/3 innings. But the Royals are pretty pleased, especially with the success he’s had with his new changeup.
“For the most part. I’m real happy with the way my changeup has been working and I’m trying to get a good feel for that. And just repeating my delivery – that’s night-and-day compared to where it was at this time last year,” he said.
The changeup gives Farnsworth a different look.
“Everybody knows everything that I’m doing is going to be hard, hard, hard. I’m going to be coming at you throwing strikes and I’ve got to do something to get ’em off the fastball,” he said.
Right now it appears that Kyle Davies will get the call as the fifth starter but if Meche were to drop out, Davies could move up a notch and Farnsworth could be No. 5. If not he’ll be in the bullpen where he’ll still employ his effective changeup.
“I’m not going to change anything I’ve been doing this Spring Training if I go to the bullpen so I’m definitely going to use all my pitches like I have been,” he said.
Joakim Soria took the loss on Monday, giving up four runs as all five batters reached base against him. Despite that, he feels his spring is going well because his right shoulder is giving him no trouble, unlike last season. “If you take away this day, I’ve been feeling very good, my arm feels very good and I’ve worked very hard for that,” Soria said. “That’s the most important thing, to be healthy. . . . The Royals used so many pitchers in the 10-2 loss to the Angels that left-hander Rowdy Hardy, a backup brought along from the Minor League camp, mopped up and threw 1 1/3 innings. . . . Only Farnsworth and Matt Herges were not charged with any runs.
Nice way to get out of the box for new Royals left fielder Scott Podsednik. First inning: Sharp single to right field off Rangers No. 1 starter Rich Harden. Then, promptly, a steal of second base and, when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw struck his leg and the ball rolled into left field, it was on to third base. As Jason Kendall, the second batter, hit an excuse-me tap to third base, Podsednik was home.
The Royals had struck first. Alas, the 1-0 lead morphed into a 13-3 deficit, but at least Pod showed something.
“I was kind of nervous today,” he said. “I was more excited than anything. We were all looking forward to this first game and getting out there and playing a little bit. . . . I feel like I’ve been around long enough that I don’t feel like I have anything to go out and prove but we are kind of the new guys in camp so you want to go out and show that you’re ready to go.”
Unfortunately, the Royals pitchers didn’t seem to be quite ready. Kyle Davies and Robinson Tejeda made too many pitches and gave up too many hits and runs but, hey, let’s not panic. They didn’t.
“I didn’t throw as many strikes as I would like to but the one curveball that got hit out wasn’t a bad pitch. It was just middle of the plate, down,” Davies said, noting Saltalamacchia’s three-run blast. “The kind of stuff you work on in Spring Training, for me it’s getting myself in a good position to throw a lot of strikes. I walked one guy and on four straight pitches and you look at and say, well, there’s some stuff to improve on and that’s what Spring Training is for.”
Davies didn’t try to get too fancy in his first outing.
“Pretty much fastballs and changeups today. I threw two curveballs and one of them left the ballpark,” Davies said. “Mostly it was fastballs and my biggest thing in the past has been fastball command so the one thing that I’m stressing in Spring Training is let’s get the fastball over the plate first. Let’s throw 70 percent of them for strikes and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Tejeda also tried to keep it simple.
“My arm feels good and so far the velocity’s good and I think I’ve got pretty much control on my ball. I haven’t worked a lot on my breaking pitch yet but it looks like it’s going to be there, too,” Tejeda said. “Today I threw the changeup and the slider but I was pretty much working with my fastball.”
Now here’s some good news for Royals fans. Zack Greinke pitched a round of live batting practice on Wednesday at the Royals’ Spring Training workout and pitching coach Bob McClure was asked how he did.
“He did fine, same as I’ve seen in the past. No difference,” McClure said.
You could interpret that as saying that Greinke is in Cy Young Award form.
Manager Trey Hillman was impressed by what he saw from right-hander Aaron Crow, the Royals’ top draft choice last year.
“He looked good. I’d like to see a little better command but it’s really early. But he’s got great stuff,” Hillman said.
Asked if Crow might be trying too hard, Hillman responded: “Yeah, especially in his first Major League camp. He doesn’t want to pitch in the Minor Leagues, he wants to be in the big leagues.”
That said, Crow hasn’t pitched much in the last two years and the Royals are figuring on starting him in the Minors, possibly at Double-A Northwest Arkansas although that’s up in the air.
Hillman also saw fine work from starter Kyle Davies and a non-roster right-hander, Philip Humber. A right-hander, Humber has logged 18 Major League games with the Mets and Twins. He’s been a starter in the Minors and last year went 7-9 with Triple-A Rochester. . . . “The other thing I wasn’t really planning on being impressed with was some of the swings,” Hillman said. “We had some really good swings. It’s not what I was focusing on but it grabbed my attention.” . . . The Royals got through Wednesday’s second full-squad workout without any injuries. But the training staff will be on high alert on Thursday because, as Hillman puts it, the third day seems to take its toll on tight or aching muscles. . . . The Society for American Baseball Research has a deal for you. SABR is giving away the download of its Emerald Guide to Baseball 2010. It’s been developed using the old guides once published by The Sporting News, Spalding and Reach. It has all the Major and Minor League statistics for 2009 plus team histories, contact information, 2010 schedules, a year in review essay, post-season box scores, transactions and obituaries among other things. To download, go to http://sabr.org. If you’re looking for a bound version, that’ll cost you $24.95 at www.lulu.com.
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
Pitcher Sidney Ponson was designated for assignment by the Royals on Sunday and Kyle Davies was being recalled to take his spot in the rotation.
Ponson had a 1-7 record and a 7.36 ERA in 14 games including nine starts for the Royals. In his last start on Friday night, he was tagged for seven runs in 4 1/3 innings by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Davies, since being optioned to Triple-A Omaha on June 20, had a 4-2 record and a 2.14 ERA in eight starts. In 46 1/3 innings, he gave up 47 hits and 14 walks with 44 strikeouts. For the Royals this season, Davies was 3-7 with a 5.76 ERA in 14 starts.
The change means that Davies will start on Wednesday night against the Seattle Mariners in Kansas City.
The Royals have 10 days in which to put Ponson on waivers, trade or release him. Manager Trey Hillman indicated that, if he clears waivers, the Royals would offer Ponson a spot at Omaha.
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.
Gil Meche’s excellent outing on Friday against the Dodgers gives the Royals’ rotation picture a huge boost.
Sure, everybody knew he was much better than he’d pitched this spring. He was not a 10.45 ERA guy. He’d proved himself in the last two years. Even so, there were those nagging thoughts: What if that back problem really hadn’t gone away? What if he’d just lost something? What if, what if?
Anyway, Meche blew away the doubts with seven shutout innings, breezing through in about 80 pitches and using just three in the last inning. So he looks ready for Opening Day.
Zack Greinke will go in the second game and, even though manager Trey Hillman won’t say so, Kyle Davies has the third starting job sewed up.
So how does it shake out for the other two, with Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar, Horacio Ramirez and new arrival Sidney Ponson in the shootout?
Here’s a guess: Hochevar gets one spot because, frankly, he’s looked good enough to win it. The other spot goes to Ramirez unless that loose fingernail problem pops up again and proves to be a problem. The Royals badly want a left-hander in the rotation, just to break things up, and they think Ramirez will be better once he unleashes his cutter. He’s purposely held off on that pitch, which might be his best, while he improves his other pitches.
Bannister, who’s struggled most of the spring, gave himself a boost with five shutout innings in a Minor League game the other day. But it’d be easy for the Royals to send him to Triple-A Omaha to work on finding himself again. Likewise, because Ponson has pitched in just one Cactus League game and there’s time for him to pitch just one more, it’d be logical to send him to Omaha for more tune-ups. Then if somebody falters or gets hurt, the call can quickly go out to Bannister or Ponson.
The Royals can dip down and pull up a proven Major League starter. It’s nice to have that kind of depth and it’s something they haven’t had for a while.
How does a manager tell if his pitcher is losing something?
How about if he gives up a home run and then throws the next pitch about 10 feet over the plate and to the screen? That tipped off Royals manager Trey Hillman to Kyle Davies’ plight on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark.
Davies gave up a fourth-inning homer to Beau Mills and his next pitch sailed high over Tony Graffanino. Oh-oh. Hillman went out for a mound visit.
“Man, my legs are gone,” Davies told the skipper.
And when a pitcher’s legs go, so does he. Hillman let Davies finish off Graffanino with a strikeout but then waved in Tim Hamulack from the bullpen.
“I was going to let him get out of that inning but he just flat lost his legs,” Hillman said. “He was right at 59 or 60 pitches – but the fastball sailed all the way the screen.”
Hillman was pleased with Davies’ effort. He finally gave up his first two runs of the spring but one was unearned. Also, Davies didn’t walk anyone, always big for a guy who has battled for command during his career.
“Third outing in spring is usually when you get that little dead-arm stage so your body has to catch up with how many innings you’re throwing but I feel fine, just like I’m supposed to at this time,” Davies said.
His legs should be stronger next time, too.
— Dick Kaegel