If you want to get a look at the newest Royals and see your old favorites, they’ll be up close and personal at the 2010 Welcome Home Luncheon set for noon on Wednesday, April 7, at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. All the players plus manager Trey Hillman and his coaching staff are scheduled to be there.
Premium tables which include nine tickets for your gang and one for a Royals player, coach or alumnus cost $750. Tables of 10 are $500 and individual tickets are $55 each. You can get tickets through www.royals.com/welcomehome, by calling 816-504-4040 or by visiting the Kauffman Stadium Box Office (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. CT). Online and phone orders are subject to applicable service fees.
— Dick Kaegel
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.
When it was mentioned to Royals manager Trey Hillman that some scouts thought Mike Moustakas might make a catcher some day, he gave it a verbal shrug.
“I think he’s athletic enough to do anything. The body type profiles more to a corner than up the middle or behind the plate,” Hillman said.
Moustakas, though, is likely to stick at third base where the Royals feel he’s a better fielder than he’s given credit for. Hillman especially likes his arm.
Moustakas was among seven non-roster players cut on Thursday and there are likely to be more roster reductions soon, particularly after Friday morning’s “B” game is in the books.
Zack Greinke says he’s not thinking about that Opening Day date with the Tigers, not yet anyway. “Just trying to think about pitching good right now. I’m not there yet but it’s better than it usually is at this time of spring,” he said. “Just the command. The changeup’s way better. And fastball command has been pretty good – it just has good life on it but mainly the changeup is way better than it usually is this time of year. Usually the secondary pitches are bad early on in spring.” . . . Against the Rockies the other day, Greinke faced his old batterymate, Miguel Olivo, and struck him out on a changeup. . . . The only telecast from Surprise this spring will come on March 23 when the Royals will meet the Chicago Cubs at 3:05 p.m. CT. But the MLB Network will carry three KC games – next Monday night against the White Sox, March 21 against the Rockies and March 26 against the Dodgers (the last two on tape delay).
Reliever Juan Cruz has yet to see any Cactus League action and probably won’t for a while. Coming off a right shoulder strain that cost him nearly two months late last season, Cruz is taking it slow.
“Is he limited? No. Is he a little bit behind the pitching schedule of some of the other guys? Yes,” manager Trey Hillman said.
Cruz was the last pitcher to report to camp and he’s trying to build up his shoulder. He was 3-4 with a 5.72 ERA last year but got into just 46 games. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $6-million deal.
The Royals had a lot of fun with Kansas City Wizards soccer player Korede “K” Aiyegbusi who served as the ballboy for Friday’s game against the Rangers. The 5-5 defender is from London and apparently wasn’t up to speed on baseball or the game’s humor. So when he was sent to find the “key” to the batter’s box or to fetch a box of “curveballs” or “sliders” he was eager and willing to go. “He was outstanding,” Hillman said. “He got the batter’s box unlocked just in time for the game. He was on his way to the bullpen for a box of sliders but an unnamed staff guy called him back, not knowing exactly what was going on. So that unnamed staff guy is seriously in my doghouse.” The umpires played along. “One guy took the bull by the horns. He’s the one who sent him to the bullpen,” Hillman said. . . . Catcher Manny Pina, drilled by the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz in Friday’s game, had just a bruised right bicep and was back on the field Saturday. There was no bad history between the two players, Pina said. In fact, they were roommates when both were with the Rangers’ Double-A club at Frisco. Feliz visited Pina on Friday night to make sure he was OK. The fastball just got away from him. . . . Jose Guillen played right field in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Rangers, pounded a long double to right-center field and moved around the bases in good form. . . . “I’m getting there, I’m feeling healthy so it’s matter of getting the timing back,” Guillen said. “I didn’t play a lot last year. I had two surgeries and it’s a matter of hard work, getting more playing time and getting that rhythm back. I know what I need to do from there.” . . . The biggest relief for Gil Meche after his two shutout innings on Saturday was no pain in his back. “I just hope it never comes up again,” he said. “With the work I put in – not to toot my own horn – but I did a lot of things they wanted me to do with the back to ensure I wouldn’t have any problems. Everything has worked out pretty good.”
— Dick Kaegel
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.
Closer Joakim Soria has had no problems with the shoulder that troubled him early last season, according to manager Trey Hillman.
“He’s looked real good, he really has,” Hillman said after Saturday’s workout. “I tried to not to badger him but I’ve asked him probably three times how his body feels without getting specific about the shoulder but he says he feels very good. His command has been very good, his mechanics have been very free and easy. So far so good with him.”
One of Hillman’s goals is to keep Soria out of the two-inning save situations that he converted five times last year. A six-out save usually runs up so many pitches that Soria isn’t available the next day.
“You might still see the four-out but I’d like to stay away from the six-out,” Hillman said.
The Royals accelerated their schedule on Saturday afternoon, fearful that predicted rain would strike before the workout was finished. But the forecasters were way off. The Royals finished in mid-afternoon under sunny skies. “About an hour ago it was supposed to be blowing 35 or 40 miles an hour with the rain right behind that,” Hillman said. “I’m glad they missed, I’m glad we were able to stay out on the field. Really, in my opinion, we’ve already had enough adjustment days. This has been more like Florida Spring Training early on than Arizona.” Earlier the Royals had to adjust the schedule three straight days because of chilly, wet weather. . . . Rain is still forecast for Sunday. The Royals are scheduled to move into Surprise Stadium for batting practice at 9 a.m. MT as the city of Surprise holds a FanFest for the public. At 12:30, a home-run contest is scheduled between Minor League players from both of the complex teams. The Royals will use Mike Moustakas, who had 16 homers for Class A Wilmington; Ernesto Mejia, who led the Venezuelan Winter League with 14, and Scott Thorman, who whacked 20 in the Pacific Coast League last year. The Texas Rangers will deploy Justin Smoak, Chad Tracy and Mitch Moreland who combined for 54 homers last year. Tracy is the son of Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy. . . . The Royals’ pitching schedule for the intrasquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday has been adjusted. On Tuesday, Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow, Adam Bostick and Edgar Osuna each will throw two innings and Danny Duffy and Francisco Rosario each will throw one inning. On Wednesday, the two-inning pitchers will be Brian Bannister, Dusty Hughes, Carlos Rosa, Bruce Chen and Nelson Payano with Josh Rupe going one inning. The “innings” won’t necessarily be three-out innings. “We’ll monitor it by pitches,” Hillman said. “Typically it can go 15 per inning. If it goes to 17, if we feel like a guy’s conditioning is OK, we might let him go 17 to get through a hitter or something.”
— Dick Kaegel
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.
Royals manager Trey Hillman was interested to hear about Zack Greinke’s fascination with samurai swords. Greinke was given one by Mizuno, the Japanese equipment firm, for winning the AL Cy Young Award. Hillman, of course, is well-acquainted with the Japanese culture after five years of managing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
“Being over there for five years I have a little more feel for how much respect that exudes on who it’s given to,” Hillman said. “What does Zack think about it?”
He was told Zack thought it was “way cooler” than the Cy Young trophy.
“Way cooler? I hope he doesn’t break it out in the clubhouse,” Hillman said.
Bo Jackson used to fire arrows from a crossbow in the Royals’ clubhouse, sinking them into a target parked perilously close to the shower room entrance. No one was skewered, thankfully, as they toweled off. Anyway, Hillman didn’t seem anxious to have a samurai sword on the premises.
Greinke, by the way, will get half of that gap filled in the right side of his mouth where two teeth were pulled last week. The wisdom tooth won’t be replaced, of course, but its broken neighbor that also had to be extracted will be. . . . Here’s how Hillman looks at the Tigers’ signing of outfielder Johnny Damon: “Arguably he had one of his best years ever last year. Some people are going to argue that it was the ballpark (new Yankee Stadium) that he was playing in (or) his comfort level and the support cast that was around him playing for the Yankees. Even with Johnny being a veteran at the age he’s at, I wouldn’t discount anything that he brings to that team in a bigger ballpark. He’s a guy that’s been making adjustments his whole career. He’s needs to flatten that swing out a little bit and hit more line drives instead of those fly balls over that short porch in Yankee Stadium. He’ll make the adjustment. That’s the way we’ll approach him – another dangerous tool for Jim Leyland in that lineup.” . . . Catcher Vance Wilson was given the day off on Sunday to recover from the aching back he experienced during Saturday’s workout. . . . Most of the position players who are in camp early to train voluntarily took the day off on Sunday.
Get ready to point the rabbit ears on top of the ol’ TV set. Fox Sports Kansas City will beam out 142 Royals games this season.
They’ll get warmed up with a couple of Spring Training telecasts – the first on Tuesday, March 23, when the Cubbies are at Surprise Stadium. That will go live at 3:05 p.m. CT and then re-air in prime time, 8 p.m. CT. The second game will be at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday, April 2, when the Royals are in Arlington, Texas, for a game against the Rangers.
Then will come 140 regular-season games starting with Opening Day against the Tigers on Monday, April 5, at Kauffman Stadium. There will be 69 road games and 71 home games telecast. In addition to the Fox schedule, ESPN will carry the Royals’ July 4 game against the Angels from Anaheim, Calif.
The Fox telecasts will be preceded by a 30-minute pre-game show, Hy-Vee Royals Live, and followed by the Boulevard Royals Live show with Joel Goldberg as host.
Manager Trey Hillman wants to find spots to play Alberto Callaspo but he indicated that outfield is not likely. “We’re going to have to figure out a way. You don’t want to leave a .300 hitter sitting on your bench and one that had the slug that Alberto did,” Hillman said. “Thankfully he’s got some utility value. He looked real good at third base, he’s had some history of playing some outfield although once we signed Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, in my mind that could of took Callaspo out of the mix.” But Callaspo could play at second behind Chris Getz or third behind Alex Gordon or be used as a DH. “We’re not going to leave that bat sitting on the bench very often,” Hillman said.
. . . The Royals will play some sort of simulated games on March 1, 2 and 3 as they loosen up for the first exhibition game against the Rangers on March 4. . . . Hillman doesn’t think Aaron Crow, the Royals’ top draft pick last year, would be considered for this year’s Major League bullpen. The former Mizzou right-hander is likely to be in the Minors somewhere as a starter. “With an arm that good and stuff that good, from a development background, my preference would be for him to continue to throw as many pitches as possible,” Hillman said. . . . Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who reported to the Surprise Complex earlier in the month, is back after returning home to the Dominican Republic for a short visit. Only a few position players have not yet been spotted in camp, including Callaspo, Jose Guillen and non-roster utility player Wilson Betemit. The first full-squad workout isn’t until Tuesday. . . . Zack Greinke will meet with the media after Saturday’s workout. Supposedly this will be his only give-and-take with reporters this year except on days he pitches. Greinke values his time and doesn’t want his Cy Young celebrity to interfere with his work.
— Dick Kaegel
For the first time since general manager Dayton Moore once again said that Trey Hillman was his choice as manager for 2010, the skipper himself was back in the dugout on Friday. He’s been away for four days for his father-in-law’s funeral.
Moore noted last Monday, as he discussed his own extension by the Royals through 2014, that he was pleased with Hillman’s job. Moore had already said several times this summer that Hillman would return next year. And Hillman again responded happily.
“I’ve said it several times but it’s very nice to have a boss that believes in you,” Hillman said. “Believes in your track record, believes in what you do here regardless of what the record is this season.
“I don’t think anybody could have ever imagined it would be as challenging as it has been with some of the things that have happened this season but it’s not anything I lose any sleep over.”
No surprise, considering Moore’s continuous endorsements, that Hillman was pleased about his boss’ contract extension.
“Whether I’m here or not, I’m happy for the organization because it provides stability at the top and that’s what this organization needs,” he said.