How ya gonna keep Kila Ka’aihue down on the farm?
Ka’aihue’s towering home run snapped a 12-12 tie in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 14-12 victory over Oakland. That gave the big first baseman from Hawaii a club-leading four home runs with 11 RBIs and his 3-for-4 boosted his average to .381 with 16 hits.
“He’s having a heck of a spring and he’s making a tremendous case for himself,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
But Ka’aihue is a first baseman-designated hitter and that’s a crowded department on the club with Billy Butler and Jose Guillen around.
“We’ve still got plenty of games left. I’m going to keep playing him,” Hillman said. “I’ve never said he’s not going to make the club and I’ve never said he’s on the club. And I’ve always said everything about him we like. So we’ll see how things go. It is a crowded spot but we need to have some run producers.”
Ka’aihue, a left-handed slugger, has seemed destined for a return to Triple-A Omaha all spring but, as the skipper likes to say, stay tuned.
Meantime on Saturday, Hillman’s pitchers (and those of the A’s) were unimpressive with Josh Rupe especially banged around. Rupe was making a strong case for a bullpen spot but, in starting against the A’s, he coughed up six runs in the first two innings.
Brad Thompson and Bryan Bullington each gave up three runs in three innings. But Thompson did pitch out of some jams and Bullington followed one bad inning with two good ones.
“I was real pleased that Thompson battled through some adversity and figured out a way to stop the bleeding,” Hillman said.
Hillman was also happy with the way Bullington finished up and how the ball was getting out of his hand.
The skipper had to get after Roman Colon, who was brought in to pitch the ninth with a two-run lead and immediately walked the leadoff batter. After ball one to the next batter, Hillman jumped up and went to the mound for an intense one-on-one.
“I thought he was too concerned about a runner on first base there in that situation and I just wanted to eliminate that,” Hillman said.
Colon got a strikeout, gave up a single, then retired the next two batters to end the slugfest.
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
Right-hander Luke Hochevar, who took the loss for the Royals on Saturday against the Cardinals, was optioned to Triple-A Omaha as the club made a total of six roster moves following the game.
Shortstop Mike Aviles and reliever Robinson Tejeda were placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The Royals added pitchers John Bale and Roman Colon and infielder Tug Hulett, all recalled from Omaha. Bale had been on an injury rehabilitation assignment.
Aviles has a strained right forearm and Tejeda has tendinitis of the right rotator cuff.