Worth noting: For a while on Friday, reporters thought that Wilson Betemit was starting at shortstop in the series opener against the Reds. It made some sense because Betemit had pounded two home runs including the game-decider in a 9-8 win over the Twins the previous night at Minneapolis. Turned out that a Reds’ employee got the wrong “Bet” when copying down the Royals’ lineup. Yuniesky Betancourt was at shortstop as usual and Betemit was back on the bench. . . . More Betemit: He was just the third Royals player to hit two home runs in the first game he started for them. The others were Mark Quinn on Sept. 14, 1999, against the Angels and Calvin Pickering on Aug. 22, 2004, against the Rangers. . . . . Three players from the Royals’ Wilmington club are on the Single-A Carolina League’s All-Star team. Eric Hosmer, who leads the league with a .361 average, is the starting first baseman. Also selected were catcher Salvador Perez, who is batting .284, and pitcher Alex Caldera, 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA. Hosmer has just two homers but has 22 doubles and 37 RBIs. The Carolina League will oppose the California League All-Stars on June 22 at Myrtle Beach.
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
The Royals designated for assignment shortstop Tony Pena Jr. and optioned center fielder Mitch Maier to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday.
The moves cleared roster space for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and third baseman Alex Gordon. Both are coming off the disabled list and will be in the starting lineup for Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Pitcher Sidney Ponson reported from his injury rehabilitation assignment but remained on the disabled list.
The Royals listed their starting rotation for the Tampa Bay series. Brian Bannister will start the Friday night opener, followed by All-Star Zack Greinke on Saturday night and Luke Hochevar on Sunday.
The club will further evaluate the status of Gil Meche, who left his last start because of a back spasm.
In addition, shortstop Luis Hernandez cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. He had been designated for assignment by the Royals
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