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.
Worth noting: Outfielder Rick Ankiel, in his first rehab game with Triple-A Omaha, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in a 6-0 loss to Oklahoma City. Alex Gordon, who had one hit, is batting .416 in his last 16 games. . . . Catcher Wil Myers, leading Single-A Burlington with eight homers and 37 RBIs, was named starting catcher for the Western Division in the Midwest League All-Star game on June 22 at Fort Wayne. Also named was pitcher Bryan Paukovits, the Bees’ top winner at 3-3 with a 3.31 ERA. Bees manager Jim Gabella will manage the Western All-Stars. . . . Right fielder Jamie Romak’s hitting streak for Single-A Wilmington reached 16 games (27-for-60, .450). . . The Royals’ draft choices included infielder Michael Liberto of the University of Missouri, their 21st pick. . . . If the Nationals’ rotation holds, the Royals are likely to face Stephen Strasburg when they visit Washington on June 21-23.
Rick Ankiel might get back into center field when the Royals open a three-game series at Chicago on Monday night. He hasn’t been in the starting lineup for eight straight games because of what’s termed a mild right quad strain.
It’s the first quad problem that Ankiel has had as a pro and manager Trey Hillman didn’t want to risk further injury on the artificial turf of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. But if it’s suitably warm in Chicago, he might turn Ankiel loose on the natural grass of U.S. Cellular Field.
Hillman used Alex Gordon at first base for the last three innings of Saturday night’s game and says he might see more duty there as needed. For the time being, Gordon is sitting the bench as Alberto Callaspo takes over third base now that Chris Getz is back at second base. . . . Blake Wood seems to be getting on track as Triple-A Omaha’s closer. He picked up back-to-back saves against Iowa to reach five for the season. Kila Ka’aihue hit his seventh homer in a 2-1 win over Iowa. . . . Right-hander Tim Melville, a fourth-round draft pick in 2008, was banged for nine runs in four innings as Single-A Wilmington lost to Winston-Salem, 10-5. Melville is 1-3 with an 11.88 ERA. . . . There were 20 walks, including 13 by Single-A Burlington pitchers, in the Bees’ 9-6 win over Quad Cities. Right-hander Tyler Sample, KC’s third-round draft pick in 2008, got his first win despite issuing six walks in five innings. He gave up just two runs.
Luke Hochevar had trouble with his control Sunday in the Royals’ 10-8 win over the White Sox.
“Scratch that one out,” Hochevar said. “I didn’t command the baseball very well, especially early on. I just didn’t pitch very good. Later on, I starting getting a better feel and started commanding the strike zone better. But even then I made a couple of mistakes out over the plate and they got some base hits.”
In five innings, he gave up nine hits including a homer and six runs (five earned) with three walks and a hit batter. That raised his ERA to 3.94.
“The good of it was that Hoch was able to get five ups-and-downs and stay under the 90-pitch threshold. That’s what we were shooting for today,” manager Trey Hillman said.
Hochevar has one more start before the opening of the season.
“Just iron some things out,” he said. “But overall physically I feel good. That’s the main thing right now. I know I’m going to have good command. That’ll come.”
Guess what team is leading the Major Leagues in hitting this spring? Yep, the Royals at .319. But Hillman isn’t that excited yet, noting the club also hit well (.310) last year in the Cactus League. There is one positive change, however. “We’ve got a lot of hard line-drive base hits and not as much loft as last year so hopefully it’s affecting it,” he said. The “it” refers to the nets that hitting coach Kevin Seitzer hung from the top of the batting cages, encouraging the hitters to avoid lofting the ball into the light Arizona air and go for the hard liners instead. Must be something to it. The Royals have 19 homers in their 25 games so far compared to a ******** 56 blasts in 36 games in 2009. Obviously that power didn’t carry over when the team left the desert. . . . Jose Guillen’s 4-for-4 against the White Sox boosted his average to .342 and Hillman sees good bat speed from the veteran. “When I haven’t seen the bat speed, there’s something wrong physically,” Hillman said. “That ankle really bothered him last year.” But surgery last September seems to have solved the ankle problem. . . . Mitch Maier had two more hits and is hitting .440. He also appeared to make a diving catch in center field although it was ruled a trap. “Tremendous spring. And he’s playing center field better than I’ve ever seen him play it,” Hillman said. Judging from his spring play, Maier gives the Royals a nice option in case Rick Ankiel’s ankle keeps him off the field when the season starts. Ankiel, who last played in a Cactus game on March 11, was supposed to play four or five innings in a Minor League game on Sunday.
Royals center fielder Rick Ankiel will be out much longer than expected.
Manager Trey Hillman revealed on Sunday that Ankiel, who has a sore right ankle, could be out of Cactus League games for another week.
“I’m probably going to hold Rick out for the next six to seven days, just to make sure,” Hillman said. “We’ve still got plenty of time. When he pounds on it, he pounds on it pretty hard and it’s the middle of the field. He may beat that. Obviously I’m taking the passive (approach) rather than the aggressive.”
Ankiel was pulled from the lineup on Friday against the Seattle Mariners but the ankle was reported improved on Saturday.
“It was better yesterday but it was minimally better. It was better to a point where we felt like there wasn’t anything major going on in there,” Hillman said.
As far as Hillman knows, there was no specific cause for the injury.
“He doesn’t know how it happened,” Hillman said. “It was a little bit sore the day before. He didn’t do anything specific to it. That’s a mystery to me and if he did, he’s not telling me.”
It’s not classified as a strain or a sprain.
“Even with the double-top secret stuff I keep from you,” Hillman told reporters, “on the (injury) sheet there’s no ‘strain.’ It’s just sore.”
Ankiel will be restricted to upper-body weight and cardio exercises for the next few days to keep pressure off the ankle.
“We’ll try to keep him off of it as much as we can, especially if it’s pounding,” he said.
Ankiel has played in six Cactus League games, batting .214 (3-for-14) with a triple, a homer and four RBIs. With him out of the lineup, Hillman will take a look a prospect Jarrod Dyson in center field.
Dyson, a speedster, batted .258 in 63 games last season for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He had a total 46 stolen bases including a stay with Single-A Burlington where he batted .343 in 17 games.
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.
We’d heard that Royals games might start at 5 minutes after the hour this year but that obviously didn’t happen. It’ll still be 10 minutes after the hour for home games in 2010. The season opener at Kauffman Stadium on April 5 will have, we presume, Zack Greinke throwing the first pitch against the Tigers at 3:10 p.m. CT.
There’s just one holiday game at home this year, at 1:10 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 31, against the Angels. There’s also a 1:10 p.m. start for this year’s Saturday game against the Cardinals, set for June 26. That’ll give visiting Cardinals fans a chance to paint the town red on Saturday night. Regular start times at home will be 7:10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6:10 p.m. Saturday and 1:10 p.m. Sunday. And, the Royals announced, no price increases this year for single-game tickets.
For Spring Training, the club will have 20 radio broadcasts starting on Thursday, March 4, against the Rangers. All the Cactus League games will be Webcast on royals.com, including those not on flagship station 610 Sports Radio. The radio voices remain the same – Denny Matthews, Bob Davis and Steve Stewart with Ryan Lefebvre from the TV crew also pitching in. Matthews will be launching his sixth decade behind the KC mike. Stewart will anchor the Webcasts. . . . The Royals are busy signing players with pitchers Dusty Hughes, Edgar Osuna and Blake Wood and catcher Manny Pina among the latest to ink their pacts. Osuna is the Rule 5 draft pick from the Braves. He’ll have to be kept on the regular-season roster or be offered back to the Braves for half the $50,000 purchase price. The Royals hope that Osuna, from Mazatlan, Mexico, will be as good an investment as their last Rule 5 pick from South of the Border, Joakim Soria. . . . Infielder Mario Lisson was the guy bumped from the 40-man roster when center fielder Rick Ankiel was signed. Lisson was designated for assignment. Earlier, the Royals dropped another infielder, Luis Hernandez. It’s possible, of course, that either or both could re-surface with Minor League deals.
— Dick Kaegel
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.
The Royals were close to signing a deal with outfielder Scott Podsednik on Friday.
Podsednik, a free agent, is expected to take over the Royals’ center field spot. A speedster, the left-handed batter last season hit .304 for the Chicago White Sox with a .353 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases.
No terms of the deal, expected to be signed if all went well with a physical examination in Kansas City, were known immediately.
The Royals began last season with Coco Crisp in center field but he was shut down after 49 games and subsequently underwent surgery on both shoulders. The Royals declined their $8-million contract option on Crisp for 2010 and he signed with the Oakland A’s.
The Royals also had talked to agents for prospective center fielders such as Rick Ankiel and Randy Winn but Podsednik had been in their sights most of the offseason. He seemed the most logical fit because he figures as a top-of-the-lineup batter along with left fielder David DeJesus.
The Royals also signed Brian Anderson, another ex-White Sox outfielder, this offseason and have holdover Mitch Maier as another experienced center fielder.
Podsednik, 33, has a .277 career average in nine Major League seasons with Seattle, Milwaukee, Colorado and the White Sox.