After a number of moves in their pitching staff, the Royals seem to be ready to etch their starting pitcher rotation in stone. The obvious 3 choices entering camp (Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, and Zack Grienke) to fill the first 3 pitching positions in the rotation have all proven their worth, and kept their value, according to the Royals, earning their spots respectively. The last 2 spots are the question, and Kansas City seems to have made that decision. With the moves of Kyle Davies, Roman Colon, Chin-hui Tsao, to either options or minor leagues, they seem to have left-hander John Bale, and right hander Brett Tomko, pegged to slide into those spots.
Most of the opinions that I have found about this decision to get rid of de la Rosa, in favor of Tomko, has been negative overall. Tomko’s numbers seem to worry the critics, and rightfully so. De la Rosa (on paper) has a better looking portfolio, and a much better chance of a bright future. This is, of course, the reason we have sports writers, and so called “professionals.” We all have our own opinions, and ideas, as to the direction this team should take in order to turn things around. I will admit, the money that they threw at Tomko was a little shocking, but it shows the Royal’s commitment to change, and winning. However, the American League Central has no room for errors, if you want to be competitive. The Tigers, Indians, Twins, and White Sox, have enough talent throughout their organization to exploit weaknesses in any ball club in baseball, let alone a struggling one in the Royals.
Regardless of whether you agree or not to their decisions, the Royals have a starting pitching rotation. The chance of success can only be measured once the season starts and those guys get on the mound. Unfortunately, in Kansas City, bad showings are all to common, and will be noticed early in the season. The pitching staff will be pitching in the most talented division in baseball, and a weakness in the rotation is going to show, not only in numbers, but also the record that the Royals show after the first month. Traditionally, the Royals have been running themselves out of the race by then, and this is what the club wants to avoid. The amount of young potential talent behind the plate, may take some time to catch fire, and if their pitching staff can keep them close, there is no reason why the Royals can’t make this interesting.
Let’s face it: Every year they play the spoiler better than any other club in baseball, either knocking teams out of first place, or driving teams out of the playoff hunt all-together. With a “nothing to lose” attitude toward the end of the season they seem to thrive. Let’s just hope that they can translate that attitude to the whole regular season. Maybe I should say…”let’s pray.”
After scoring 11 runs the day before against Milwaukee, they had another decent outing Friday scoring 8 runs against a tough Seattle team. Meche looks in Regular Season shape as he went 6 and 2/3 innings, only allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, for his 3rd win this spring. Here come the bats. Both Jose Guillen and Alex Gordon slammed 2-run home runs off Bedard. Adding to the injury was both Mark Teahen and Mark Tupman having 2 hits apiece. Another star of this game would have to be Alberto Callaspo, who went 2-5, with 1 RBI, 2 runs scored, and hit a solid triple.
It is very nice to see those bats of Kansas City come alive. Noone has ever said they didn’t have the talent to get it done, but it is nice to see that they are giving themselves great examples for repitition at the plate. As much as it is exciting to see this sudden spurt behind the plate, the pitching is slowly becoming the story with this years Royals.
On Thursday, in that 11-3 victory over the Brewers, there is a stat that sticks out to me more than every other. In the box scores it shows that Tomko pitched a decent game allowing 3 runs (2 earned) over 4 innings, and then the bullpen pulled a goose egg for the remainder of the game. Duckworth, Musser, and Peralta all pitched 1 inning of scoreless ball, allowing three hits, and striking out 2 collectively. Nomo pitched for 2 innings, striking out 3.
On Friday, in the 8-3 win over the Mariners, the bullpen did it again. The trio of Ron Mahay, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Joakim Soria combined for 1 earned run, in 2 and 1/3 innings, after the previously mentioned outing that Gil Meche gave the team before that.
It just keeps looking better as the spring goes on. Now the bats are catching fire, as the pitching is starting to form into it’s own. Pretty exciting to be a Royals fan. Bring on the regular season.
Joakim Soria was charged with a blown save on Tuesday, and the lose, as he gave up 2 runs on 3 hits in the ninth inning of the contest against the Cubs in Cactus League play. Aramis Ramirez hit an opposite field, 3 run shot to top the Royals 6-5.
This lose sends the Royals back to exactly .500 in spring training ball. The starting pitching seemed to be solid, as John Bale gave up 4 runs on 5 hits spread over 5 and 2/3 innings.
One of the more positive lights for the Royals is the continued play from Mark Teahen. This kid did it again. He had 3 big hits, including a clutch, game-tying double in the 7th inning, following a two-run double by Alberto Callaspo.
All in all, I have to say that the offensive steam that this years Royals seem to have is not going away as the spring grinds on. I am very happy to see that the offensive potential does not seem to be the problem this year as it has been in years past. It looks like creating runs is becoming an option for this club once again.
Soria gave up the game winning shot, and got the lose in this one, but I don’t think that this is any alarm for concern. He is doing just fine. We have to remember it is still only spring training, and maybe he needs to knock a little more dust off before the real season starts in April.
Overall, a pretty decent performance offensively, and there is still alot of potential talent waiting to be exposed. Let’s just hope that the youth of this team all take hold of Hillman’s philosophy and peak at the same, and right, times.
There was a fascinating article written in the Kansas City Star about the Royals, and ranked many different aspects of the team. Everything from starting pitching, relief pitching, pitching styles, certain individual pitches, base running, fielding, you name it, it was discussed. This is a great article to help us Kansas City fans sort through the guys playing for starting spots on this years team.
Let’s talk about pitching. Every pitcher knows that the fastball is the “make or break” for any pitcher starting off, and wanting to be noticed. However, throwing it for strikes is what seperates the major league pitcher from the rest. Finding your spot on the outside corner, or allowing it to trail up and in, still hitting the corner of the strike zone. Speed is obviously important, but some kind of movement usually helps get recognized.
I am talking about a ball like Joakim Soria (RHP); not the fastest ball on the roster, but definitely the most movement. This makes the ball almost look blurry to the batter, as he is trying to decide whether to swing at a strike, or allow it to pass, and maybe it will fall out of the strike zone.
Zack Greinke (RHP) has that power. He has the heat. He is the only pitcher on this Royal staff who has hit 100 mph on the gun in the past. At that speed, being tricky with movement is not as important, as you just “chuck it” and hope that the batter cannot catch up to it. Even if he does, it is most likely going to end up a souvenire for the local faithful.
Gil Meche (RHP) is your text book power pitcher. He has the ability to get ahead in the count early, which then gives him the ability to pick from his other pitches, and keep the batter off gaurd. Meche has the stuff that makes him a good major league pitcher.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what seperates good from great. A second pitch. Most of the best pitchers have this “out” pitch. Meaning that it gets them out of trouble in a bind and usually is what they use to get their team back into the dugout, and swinging at the plate.
Again, we look at Gil Meche. His second pitch is a curveball. When it is on, it is sick! When Meche does what he wants with that pitch it is unhittable. This is the stuff you see in highlight film reels being taught to our youth. It falls out of the sky. It curves right around a bat. This thing is crazy. It looks like it is being remote controlled from the clubhouse, or owner’s suite. This is the pitch that you can look for in any critical situation. In my opinion one of the best curves this league has to offer. The curve ball of Luke Hochevar (RHP), also, has been compared to Meche, which is a tremendous compliment.
This pitching staff seems to be ready to make their presence known this year. Pitching is key, and the Royals have some ballplayers who can do just that. Pitch.
The Royals came away with a win today against the San Francisco Giants in sound fashion. Zito gave up 5 hits, 8 runs (5 earned), and 4 walks in 2 and 2/3 innings, and saw his ERA balloon to 17.18. The hitting didn’t stop there. They totaled 14 hits all together in this contest, and spread it out pretty well. The real highlight was Damon Hollins who went 3 for 3 and drove in 5.
It’s really nice to see some solid at bats from the Royals this spring training. I am eager to see how they will react to this beating they handed the Giants, especially since this win came a day after they got a solid beating of their own curtosy of the Cubs.
Hideo Nomo pitched for the first time since his elbow surgery in 2005. He wasted no time showing why he won more games then any other pitcher in Japanese baseball history (123), allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, struck out 1, and did not give up a walk. By the looks of it the Royals now have more pitchers to start then they have positions to fill. Can you say pitching race? This is not something that I think the organization feels bad about. That is a positive position to be in as long as they can trust the right people to make the right decisions. It will be very interesting to see how they handle this new development in their pitching rotation. Hillman had this to say about Nomo’s performance today, “I’m comfortable with the way he’s progressing.” Sounds good to me. Tomorrow will tell how Nomo feels after today’s showing. If his arm and elbow don’t feel any adverse affects, I think he is winning over the coaching staff, and I can see him in this years starting rotation.
Whether he wants to admit it or not, Joey Gathright is playing small ball. Of the 6 games that he played in so far this spring, and his 12 at bats, he already has 6 stolen bases. I am sure that Hillman is happy to see this stat coming from a player who averages participating in a little less than half of the regular season games annually. Again, Hillman’s emphasis this season is going to concentrate on OBP (On Base Percentage). This leaves the responsibililty of bringing the runner home to smart base running, and fundamental baseball. If the lead off hitter can get on base, and then steal second and/or third, you are sitting in a very good place of allowing smart baseball players to bring him home. At that point in the inning, with a man or two on, you need the discipline at the plate to know that individual accomplishments go out the window when you could potentially be putting the game out of reach in the late innings, just by possibly bunting the runner across, or sacrifice flying a runner home.
Gathright is setting an excellent example of what Trey Hillman wants this year from his players. It is aggressive, smart base running, coupled with discipline at the plate, and the overall desire to win the game, by any means possible. Even if that means sacrificing individual marks for the better of the team. The Royals will find out quickly that manufacturing runs and keeping their opponents on their toes in the infield will go a long way this season toward their goal of turning this franchise around, and becoming a contender in the increasingly competitive American League Central.
Hopefully Joey’s passion for success, and his hard, aggressive base running, will rub off on his teammates, and translate into some much needed “W”ins for the ball club. Who knows, we may see more of Joey Gaithright. With 6 steals in as many games, I would think that he has proven himself on the base paths, now if we could spark that bat.
“Hillman delivers on-feild lecture to players over sloppy base-running despite victory.” That was the title of the article found in the Kansas City Star today. Can this be? A coach that coaches. Players responding to the coaching. It has been a while since we have seen anything like this at Royals Spring Training. Even after Ryan Shealy just hit a game ending home run to put the Kansas City Royals up 4-3 over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Surprise Field, on Thursday, Coach Hillman decided that there was some things that he needed to get off his chest. These are the types of talks in the big leagues that take place in the club house, or behind closed doors. Not this. He met with the team out on the field after the game (which was just won in dramatic fashion). He went over some fundamental base running tactics, and offered some solutions to the sloppy base-running that he has seen over the last couple of days. Most players said something to the fact of remembering these types of things happening in college, or when they were young, but never in the majors. And that is probably why Hillman did it that way. To get their attention. Every team is different, and maybe this team needed that to move on. Either way you look at it, these are the types of things that all Royals fans should be happy to see. Getting back to the fundamentals of baseball, which the Royals have been lacking for years.
As nice as it was having Dejesus bat lead-off last year, this spring shows that there is still plenty of learning and growth left in him in order to hit in that position. According to Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star, David DeJesus has been working with Quilvio Veras, a Royals instructor, at the mind set a lead-off hitter should have when approaching that plate. David admitted that his approach to the plate was the same whether he was batting first or anywhere else in the lineup, “Good at-bats.”
That is not going to cut it this year. OBP and runs scored are the two statistics that are being looked at closely. It’s quite simple really. A player must be on base in order to advance, and eventually cross home plate. This all starts with DeJesus, as instructor Veras explains. If he can get on base, the big guys move him around, score runs, and you win games. Seems like a pretty simple philosophy, just get on base. However, as Veras has mentioned a number of times this spring, it is important to get on base that first time, but then what? What do you do the second and third time up to the plate. What then? Having the approach of just having a good at bat does not cut it here. This is where watching film, and paying attention to tendencies, really helps out a lot. It is about doing your homework on your competition. Having a pretty good idea of what is coming next time through, to maximize your ability to reach base, at any cost, and let the big guys hit you around and home for a run.
This seems so simple when it is simply discussed on papaer like this. However, the details are what sometimes escape the good ones, as they are looking for a way to take the team on their shoulders, and win themselves. That is usually the first step towards starting over at the beginning and realizing what got them there in the first place.
Hillman is pressing the OBP heavy this year, and Coach Veras is on the same page. Getting DeJesus on base is the first step toward scoring the number of runs that could make them competitive this year.
According to springtraining08.com/royals the starting lineup is going to look very similar to this:
Projected Opening Day Lineup
Now this is something to talk about. If you were to take a very quick glance at this lineup, there are some names that jump out at you. Grudzielanek, if for nothing else the name that I stared at the longest, when he first came into the league, in order to “sound out” his name. Repeating it faster as I went until I could easily say “Grudzielanek.” But overall, a detailed look at this lineup sees alot of youth with super potential. Will Alex Gordon pick this year as his coming out year, and showcase this super ability, and start his walk toward greatness? Or is it Billy Butler’s year? How about Mark Teahen? Is this the year that he finds his place on the field, and can mature into a great player, playing only one position?
Overall I have to say that it has the potential to be a force this year, but let’s not forget the American League Central is no joke. And I would have to say for sure…if nothing else…being in this division can only help them down the road as ballplayers. They will be playing some of the best teams in the entire majors on a consistant basis. This usually results in a higher level of play from the team as a whole over the long run. So, if nothing else, look forward to the future, because the furture is being built on the education they will be receiving on the field. And that level of education cannot be matched by very many other teams in baseball.
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