The Royals beat the trade deadline by minutes on Saturday, dealing center fielder Rick Ankiel and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for three players.
The Royals received outfielder Gregor Blanco and right-handed pitcher Jesse Chavez, who will report to the Royals immediately, and left-handed pitcher Tim Collins, who’ll join Triple-A Omaha.
Blanco, 26, a left-handed batter, was hitting .310 (18-for-58) in 36 games for the Braves. He also batted .286 for Triple-A Gwinnett in 44 games.
Chavez, 24, was 3-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 28 relief appearances for the Braves. In three seasons for Atlanta, he was 4-7 in 116 games.
Collins, 20, had a 1-0 record and a 2.29 ERA for two Double-A clubs, New Hampshire in the Toronto organization and Mississippi in the Atlanta organization.
Ankiel had just returned to the Royals after a lengthy rehab assignment because of a quad injury with Omaha. Since his return, he was hitting .367 (11-for-30) with a home run and six RBIs in eight games.
Farnsworth was having one of his best seasons with a 3-0 record and 2.42 ERA in 37 relief outings.
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.
Royals reliever Kyle Farnsworth was bitten by one of his dogs on Tuesday morning and had four stitches taken in his left index finger but said he was able to pitch.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t my other hand,” said Farnsworth, a hard-throwing right-hander.
Farnsworth’s left index or forefinger was wrapped in tape which was protruding from his glove as he went through batting practice shagging balls in center field. The dog’s bit reached a tendon but did not cause serious damage, he said.
“My dogs got in a fight this morning and I just tried to break it up and they bit me in the process,” he said.
Farnsworth said he owned two American bulldogs, one about 80 pounds and the other about 90 pounds. They’re named Strike and Rambo. The incident happened about 7:30 a.m. CT Tuesday morning at his Leawood, Kan., home when the dogs got into a scrap apparently over sharing the affections of Farnsworth’s children.
He’s not sure which dog bit him.
“I think it was Rambo. I don’t know. I reached in there and started grabbing dogs and throwing dogs. And one of them got me,” he said. “One of those things that happens. It’s never pretty. I’ve had to do it a few times and it’s ugly.”
The dogs were current on shots so he has no rabies concerns.
“It hurts a little bit but no big deal, just a flesh wound,” he said.
Royals manager Trey Hillman said that Farnsworth was not expected to miss any time.
“Not planning on it, planning on wrapping it up and having him available today,” Hillman said.
Farnsworth at least was able to grin about the incident.
“That’s how I start my mornings off,” he said. “Wrestling with bulldogs.”
— Dick Kaegel
There’s a feature on MLB.com called “Around the Cage” that focuses on various topics each day during the week. Here’s what some of our Royals had to say recently.
Kyle Farnsworth on if the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is the best in baseball: “The ones I’ve been involved in, I think it is. Definitely the fans get into it a lot. The Cubs-Cardinals, that’s a good one, too, but Boston-New York it’s intense. And the games always seem to last four, four-and-a-half hours, they always seem to be marathon games and exciting. I enjoyed them a lot. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just one of those things that’s fun to play in. Both of them are, but the Yankees-Red Sox just seems to be more intense and everything for some reason. It might be (the northeastern mentality), just the hard-nosed stuff like that.”
Mitch Maier on his feelings about being drafted in the first round by the Royals: “I was excited and nervous. I was pretty sure I was going to get drafted where I was. . . . I had my college coach with me at home and my family. It’s definitely exciting and kind of nerve-wracking because everything is out of your hands at that time. You’re kind of just sitting there waiting to find out where you’re going to go. . . . (When the call came) I was ecstatic. I was thrilled. It’s hard to explain. It’s what you, as a kid growing up, dream about. Getting an opportunity to have that fulfilled is a huge moment.”
Brian Bannister on whether suspended Manny Ramirez, if voted in by the fans, should be allowed to play in the All-Star Game: “Honestly I think it should be a fan vote. The game is for the fans and if the fans support a player enough to elect him, then it’s almost like a jury in a courtroom, I think. The fans should be allowed to vote on whether he plays or not. I think that’d be a fair way and it’d really show what the fans are leaning toward. That’s the way we decide it in a courtroom and that’s the way we should decide it on a baseball field.”
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