The Royals scratched Willie Bloomquist from their lineup just before Monday afternoon’s game against Oakland. With good reason.
Bloomquist had just been traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Bloomquist had been slated to play left field and bat second for the Royals. Instead, just a half hour before the game, he was in manager Ned Yost’s office being told of the trade.
A versatile player, Bloomquist was in his second season with the Royals and was batting .265 in 72 games with 10 doubles, a triple, three homers and 17 RBIs. He also stole eight bases in 13 tries.
Bloomquist got off to a slow start this season but, in 34 games since June 27, he was batting .311 (33-for-106). He had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter. He also was hitting .355 (27-for-76) with runners on base as opposed to just .191 (18-for-94) with the bases empty.
This season Bloomquist played all three outfield positions as well as second base and third. In the past, he’s also played first base and shortstop.
Because of his ability to play virtually any position and run well, Bloomquist has been considered a natural for a National League team because of the more frequent lineup changes, use of pinch-hitters and double switches.
Now he gets his chance with the NL’s Central Division leaders after playing only in the American League with Seattle and the Royals. However, because the deal came after Aug. 31, he will not be eligible for postseason play with the Reds even if a player is injured. To replace a disabled player in the postseason, a player must have in that organization prior to Aug. 31.
At 32 and in his ninth Major League season, Bloomquist was a positive influence among the younger players on the team. Last season, after signing as a free agent with the Royals, he also batted .265 in 125 games, stole 25 bases and set career highs in virtually every category. He played every position except pitcher and catcher.
Royals manager Ned Yost saw the ultimate example of Willie Bloomquist’s usefulness in the space of two innings in Friday night’s 10-inning, 2-1 win at Anaheim. Bloomquist, as a pinch-runner, stole a base and scored the tying run in the ninth inning. Then he belted a RBI single for the winning run in the 10th.
“He’s a National League player – that’s a National League style. A National League player can have a major impact on a game. You can sit there for nine innings and jump right into the fray and make a difference,” Yost said.
“It’s a little more difficult to do that in the American League. But what Willie brings is a comfort that I can do anything I need to do.”
The stolen base was impressively made while the third batter, Mike Aviles, was up and he did it successfully because he bided his time and picked just the right spot.
“He was making sure he gave himself the best opportunity to be successful instead of just blindly running,” Yost said.
Next pitch Aviles ripped a double and Bloomquist scored from second.
Bloomquist finished the game at first base and made a sharp fielding play and throw to second base for a force-out in the ninth. That’s another part of Bloomquist’s value.
“You can play him absolutely anywhere in the field with the exception of behind the plate and I’m not so sure that he couldn’t handle that,” Yost said.
Bloomquist was on deck in the 10th and had not yet batted in the game so the Angels walked David DeJesus intentionally to get to him.
“I was not the least bit upset when they walked David DeJesus yesterday because I just knew that Willie was one of the guys, just like (Wilson) Betemit, who’s out hitting early, he’s prepared to get in that game and be successful. And that’s what you want your bench people to do.”
Bloomquist ripped a RBI single and, after a slow start this season, that made him 14-for-38, .368, since May 22.
The Royals moved to plug their shortstop gap by acquiring Yuniesky Betancourt from the Seattle Mariners on Friday.
Betancourt, plus cash, was obtained in exchange for Minor League pitchers Danny Cortes and Derrick Saito.
However, Betancourt will not join the Royals immediately because he’s on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring and has just begun an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Tacoma. He’ll continue his rehab work with the Royals’ Double-A club at Northwest Arkansas.
Betancourt, a .250 hitter in 63 games this season for the Mariners, has two homers, 10 doubles, a triple and 22 RBIs. However, he’s a career .279 hitter in five seasons with the Mariners since making his debut in 2005. A right-handed hitter, he’s tough to strike out, an average of just once in every 11.83 plate appearances.
His 341 double plays rank second in Major League Baseball to the 357 by Oakland’s Orlando Cabrera.
The Royals have been struggling to fill shortstop since Mike Aviles, their 2008 Player of the Year, was injured early this season. He’s out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Willie Bloomquist has started 27 games at shortstop but that’s not considered to be his prime position. Still on the roster is Tony Pena Jr., strong defensively but hitting just .089. Another shortstop, Luis Hernandez, was designated for assignment last Tuesday.
Cortes was assigned to the Mariners’ Double-A team at West Tennessee and Saito will go to Single-A Clinton.
— Dick Kaegel
Royals center fielder Coco Crisp will undergo right shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season, manager Trey Hillman said on Tuesday.
Dr. James Andrews will perform the surgery to repair a labrum tear at Birmingham, Ala.
“So he’s out for the season and, obviously, that’s not what we were looking for but it’s something that needs to be done,” Hillman said. “They don’t know exactly what they’re going to have to do until they get in there but they’ve got a pretty good idea.”
Crisp was hampered swinging, particularly from the left side, and was hitting just .228 in 49 games. As the leadoff batter, though, he drew 29 walks and had a healthy on-base percentage of .336 along with 13 stolen bases.
He’s been replaced in center field recently by Mitch Maier although Willie Bloomquist could see action there as well.
Crisp is expected to spend at least two or three days in Birmingham after the surgery and then his program will depend on the exact nature of the procedure, Hillman said.
For the MLB.com feature called “Around the Cage,” we asked some of the Royals about power hitting. Here’s what they had to say:
Who’s the best power hitter in the game today?
Trey Hillman: “I’d have to say Pujols. He has the ability to use all fields, hit ’em on all counts, certainly one of the most feared hitters. I would say Albert.”
Willie Bloomquist: “Pujols. I haven’t seen him play a lot but he doesn’t miss. You either walk him or he’s going to hit something hard somewhere. He’s an absolute pure hitter with a ton of pop behind it. So everything I’ve heard is pretty much on a par for what I see. He’s legit.”
Who could hit the most and the longest home runs?
Mark Teahen: “I’m gonna go with Carlos Pena, because I’ve seen him hit a couple of balls (at Kauffman Stadium) that were ridiculous.”
Hillman: “I’d say Pujols fits into both of those. Distance, I’d put Jake (Mike Jacobs) in there. We’ve seen him hit a couple that have knocked our socks off but I think we’re going to see more that have more distance than most home runs have.”
Bloomquist: “(For longest) probably Josh Hamilton. His swing is kind of made for it, especially playing in Texas which is kind of a launching pad. (For most) They don’t pitch to Pujols enough; if they’d pitch to him, no problem. I would say probably Alex Rodriguez because of the protection he has in the lineup, he’s going to get pitched to. And that stadium is kind of a band box from what I understand. So I would go with him.”
Trey Hillman said he’d mix Luis Hernandez into the shortstop picture while Mike Aviles recovers from his aching right forearm. Sure enough, there was Hernandez in the lineup on Tuesday night against the Tigers instead of Willie Bloomquist.
After Bloomquist hustled to a crucial double on Sunday against the Cardinals, Hillman had him back in the lineup against a tough right-hander, Justin Verlander, on Monday.
“I was hoping he could play on that momentum a little bit against a very good right-handed pitcher. It didn’t work out way,” Hillman said.
Bloomquist struck out both times against Verlander and fanned a third time against Zach Miner. Bloomquist is batting .349 against left-handers but just .244 against right-handers. So Hillman went with Hernandez, a switch-hitter, against righty Edwin Jackson.
“I’d like to see Hernandez a little bit more. There’s less than 200 Major League at-bats to get a numbers read on him. We like the way he can manipulate the bat a little bit as far as bat control and we’ll see how he does,” Hillman said.
Hernandez, who started last season as the Orioles’ regular shortstop but then lost the job, is regarded as an excellent fielder.
“Tremendous, he’s got great hands, knows where to be. Good baseball player. Doesn’t panic,” Hillman said.
Since coming up from Omaha, Hernandez had just eight at-bats with one hit before this start.
Alex Gordon’s right hip injury proved to be much more serious than imagined.
Gordon, the Royals’ third baseman, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday with a labral cartilage tear of the right hip. He will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear on Friday by Dr. Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo.
The Royals said no estimate on how long Gordon might be out would be available until after the procedure. He was injured Saturday and missed the next two games but played the last two games.
To take Gordon’s place on the roster, the Royals recalled outfielder Mitch Maier from Triple-A Omaha.
Manager Trey Hillman said that Mark Teahen would replace Gordon as the starting third baseman.
Teahen, whom Gordon replaced as the third baseman two years ago, has been playing in right field for the Royals’ other disabled regular, Jose Guillen. He is on the disabled list, also with a right hip injury, but is expected to return by April 25.
“It seems like Teahen is the natural choice because he’s the most natural third baseman and, obviously, offensively we want Teahen’s bat in the lineup,” Hillman said.
“I think it makes us the best defensively on that side.”
For right field, it most will be Maier, a left-handed batter, or Willie Bloomquist, a right-handed batter, depending on the matchup with pitchers.
This could be a big break for Maier, who was getting considerable playing time last season after being recalled from Omaha on July 24 when Joey Gathright went on the disabled list. However, on Aug. 20, he was hit in the face by a pitch at Cleveland and missed 19 games with a cheekbone fracture.
Maier batted .370 (10-for-27) in six games for Omaha with two homers and nine RBIs. He’ll join the Royals on Friday night when they open a series at Texas.
Last season Maier hit .286 in 34 games for the Royals after posting a .316 mark for Omaha. He’s considered a good gap hitter – 14 homers is his Minor League high – and an outstanding outfielder.
Bloomquist, though primarily an infielder, has started three games in right field this year. He’s batting .231.
Teahen, in his two seasons at third base for the Royals, built a reputation as a solid defender. He played third base once in Gordon’s place this year and made 19 starts there last season.
“There’s always the possibility depending on what the matchups are, if we decide we want Mark back out in right field on any given day, then we might have Mike Aviles at third and Tony Pena back at short,” he said.
Aviles, the regular shortstop, logged a game at third base last Monday while Pena played shortstop and made at least one dazzling play.
The injury apparently occurred when Gordon slid into second base during a force-out play in Saturday’s game against the Yankees. He aggravated the hip when bolting from the batter’s box in his next at-bat and was replaced after five innings by Teahen.
After missing the games on Sunday and Monday because the hip was sore, Gordon returned to play Tuesday and Wednesday. In those two games, he was 0-for-6 and struck out four times.
It’s been a struggle at bat throughout the first 10 days of the season for Gordon. He’s just 2-for-21, .095, with one homer, three RBIs, in seven games.
Hillman noted that Gordon insisted that he was ready to play this week.
“He’s extremely tough,” Hillman said. “I was hesitant but he was so adamant about being able to play. But there was soreness there and I think it’s a testament to just how tough he is. Then, obviously, after a couple days he realized that he might need to go ahead and get something done.”
— Dick Kaegel
Nothing in stone yet but how can you keep Mark Teahen out of the lineup? He’s hitting .500 after Saturday’s game against the Rangers. He has five homers and 12 RBIs in just 14 games, his spring curtailed by his World Baseball Classic absence.
The only question, of course, is can Teahen do the job defensively at second base? At times he looks a bit stiff out there but, as he did Saturday, he’s demonstrated he can handle the routine plays and do all right on the backhand.
The test, as Gold Glover Frank White often says, is whether or not Teahen can pull off the plays that happen with his back to first base. In other words, move toward the bag at second to take a throw and then pivot for a double play with a runner thundering right at him. Or slide to his right for a backhand stop, then plant, whirl and throw. That answer can only come in the heat of actual games and so far Teahen hasn’t had much of a test there.
But manager Trey Hillman said after Saturday’s game that he likes the way Teahen has played at second. And he’s got to absolutely love the way Teahen’s been hitting the ball.
Not much time left to make the second-base decision. And, in fact, Hillman could just switch from Teahen to Willie Bloomquist to Alberto Callaspo as the occasion demands.
But, on Opening Day, we might just see what we saw on Saturday at Surprise: Teahen playing second and batting third. Stay tuned on that.
The Royals’ athletic trainers have been almost as lonely as the Maytag repairman. Not much business coming their way. “John Bale is having a little bit of stiffness in his upper back,” manager Trey Hillman told reporters on Monday. “He’s still doing almost all of the activities. No major concern there, he’s just having some soreness and some spasms going on.” Hillman said that was no urgency about Bale because he’s back in the bullpen and doesn’t need to get his arm stretched out as he did last year as a starter….Catcher Matt Tupman, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, is restricted in his throwing so far.
Just in case you were wondering, there are 15 players on the Royals’ 40-man roster who are out of Minor League options: Bale, John Buck, Alberto Callaspo, Shane Costa, Esteban German, Ross Gload, Jimmy Gobble, Jose Guillen, Ron Mahay, Gil Meche, Brayan Pena, Tony Pena Jr., Ryan Shealy, Robinson Tejeda and Doug Waechter. The other 25 guys have options remaining.
First baseman Mike Jacobs has his salary arbitration hearing set for Wednesday in the Phoenix area. He’s asking for $3.8 million and the Royals have offered $2.75 million. Middle ground is $3.275 million. No indication if a settlement is near or if they’ll go before the arbitrators….There’s a splashy new adornment to the Royals’ batting cages at camp. Overhead are art images of the 16 players in the Royals Hall of Fame, in alphabetical order from Brett to Wilson….Hillman left camp early on Monday to do his civic duty and participate in a charity golf tournament….If you haven’t noticed, outfielder Coco Crisp will be wearing uniform No. 2 and infielder Willie Bloomquist will be wearing No. 8. They agreed to switch digits during last month’s Royals FanFest. Crisp was No. 10 previously with the Red Sox and Indians; Bloomquist wore No. 16 with the Mariners. The Royals’ No. 10 is, of course, retired in honor of Dick Howser. And Billy Butler is wearing No. 16.
— Dick Kaegel
Could Orlando Hudson be in the Royals’ second-base future? ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that the Royals are trying to figure out a way to fit Hudson into their budget.
That could be true because general manager Dayton Moore has said all along he’s always thinking about ways to improve the lineup. He also acknowledges that the problem is he’s reached (and probably exceeded) his $70-million plus payroll limit. Moore is already sticking his neck out to some degree. To add Hudson or any other player with a stiff price tag, Moore will have to lop off a sizable salary elsewhere.
There’s no doubt that Hudson, one of several alluring players still on the free-agent market, would help the Royals’ lineup. Right now at second base, there’s Alberto Callaspo and Willie Bloomquist set to do battle with Mark Teahen willing to shift to that spot if he can show he can handle it.
Moore will not comment on individual free agents and he cannot be asked about it now anyway. Sadly, he went to Houston on Saturday to be with his ailing mother.
Sure, Hudson would be a nice addition. But he won’t come cheap even if he’s running out of time; he made $6.25 million last year. Moore would have to figure out a money tradeoff to pull that off.
— Dick Kaegel