The Kansas City Royals traded left fielder Scott Podsednik to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night in exchange for two Minor League players.
The Royals received catcher Lucas May and right-handed pitcher Elisaul Pimentel. May was assigned to Triple-A Omaha and Pimentel to Single-A Burlington.
Podsednik, hitting .310 in his first season for the Royals, had just extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games in the Royals’ 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon.
May, 25, was hitting .296 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs in 73 games for Triple-A Albuquerque. In eight Minor League seasons, the right-handed hitter has career average of .260 with 87 homers.
He played for Royals coach Eddie Rodriguez last fall as Team USA won the 2009 IBAF World Cup.
Pimentel, 22, was 9-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 17 games, including 16 starts, for Great Lakes in the Single-A Midwest League. He had 97 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings.
Podsednik was signed by the Royals last winter as a free agent.
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.”
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.
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.
Coco Crisp sounds as if he’d really like to come back to the Royals next season but, as a free agent, he’s kind of caught in the middle. Surgery on both shoulders last summer makes him a gamble for teams to sign before they can judge his recovery and that might not be possible until January or whenever he can resume full baseball activities. For his part, Crisp says he’s feeling good and expects to be back to normal – maybe even better with his repairs – this season.
Crisp was impressive last spring, changing his approach at the plate to coax more walks and being aggressive on the bases. He looked like an ideal leadoff man and was roaming center field wide and free. A good guy with a terrific family, he was a calm veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Royals GM Dayton Moore was impressed with him but, due to the uncertainty of Crisp’s condition, feels compelled to look at other alternatives such as free agent Scott Podsednik and the Orioles’ Felix Pie. Of course, the Royals already have Mitch Maier in house with considerable potential and Josh Anderson as a backup. Another alternative would be to move David DeJesus back to center field from left and try newcomer Josh Fields in left.
The bottom line consideration, as usual, would be what money Crisp would want to come back. During a long phone conversation, we asked if he’d come up with a price.
“Yeah, yeah, a hundred million dollars per year, obviously,” he said merrily. “That’d be OK with me.”
Coco always comes with a smile.