Tag:Kansas City Royals
Posted on: March 8, 2012 7:59 pm
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Small world, baseball. So it's not a shocker that Yonder Alonso knew a few Padres when he was traded from Cincinnati.
He was teammates with three current Padres at the University of Miami -- catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Blake Tekotte and catcher Jason Hagerty -- on a Hurricanes team that was the No. 1 seed entering the 2008 College World Series.
But the best story is his acquaintance with center fielder Cameron Maybin.
"My first impression was, 'Geez, who is this guy?'" said Maybin, who first encountered Alonso when they were playing Florida travel ball as high schoolers.
Maybin was playing for the Midland Redskins, Alonso for the Florida Bombers.
When the two met, Maybin says, Alonso went 4 for 4 with three home runs.
"I still have the tape of that game," Maybin says.
Playing alongside Alonso for the Bombers: current Blue Jays catcher J.C. Arencibia, Reds pitcher Mat Latos (whom Alonso was traded for, ironically), Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia and Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay.
"They were sick," Maybin says.
The Twins drafted Alonso in the 16th round that year (2005), but he passed and went to the University of Miami instead.
"I needed it," Alonso said. "I wasn't ready for pro ball. I needed more baseball in me, and I needed to mature a little bit more."
Sunblock Day: Cool Thursday, but the wind stopped and that made all the difference. As predicted, the high was right at 60 degrees.
Likes: Chris Getz, vying for a job as Kansas City's second baseman. Good kid. He loved the fact that I was wearing a "Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band" hoodie in Royals' clubhouse (hey, it's been cold ... and he's from the Detroit area). ... Sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. Perfect combo... Spotting a Culver's Frozen Custard in Arizona. ... Old Town Scottsdale. You can't go wrong. ... The Jacuzzi at my hotel pool, which provides some pretty solid therapy for this doggone oblique strain that has been nagging at me (yes, spring training can be tough for writers, too!).
Dislikes: Clocks changing Saturday. Ugh. I like the idea of it being light later and later. Love it. But man, I hate giving up that hour of sleep Saturday night.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"We're gonna need each other
"So I'll drive while you sleep
"And when I get too tired you can take the wheel from me"
-- Steve Azar, Hard Road
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:38 pm
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dirt.
As a catcher, you wallow in it.
As a catcher who hails from Punxsutawney, Pa., home of the esteemed groundhog ... well, how perfect is that?
Rookie Devin Mesoraco, on deck to become the Reds' backstop this season, is just the seventh major-leaguer to emerge from Punxsutawney, where the country turns its eyes each Feb. 2 to see how much longer winter will last. (Well, perhaps not the entire country. ...).
He family home, in fact is only about a half-mile from Gobbler's Knob, where Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prognostication in a sacred ceremony. (Well, perhaps maybe not exactly sacred. ...).
"I went one time," Mesoraco says. "My brother goes almost every year. He seems to enjoy it.
"The rest of my family ... I don't know if my dad has ever been."
Mesoraco was Cincinnati's first-round pick in the 2007 draft out of Punxsutawney High School -- yep, home of the Chucks.
"He's around," Mesoraco says of the city's celebrity groundhog. "He comes to school with his handler. He probably gets treated better than any other groundhog in the world.
"If a groundhog could smell good, it would be him."
Odd thing is, both big leaguers to come from Punxsutawney since 1960 have played behind the dish: John Mizerock, who who caught for the Astros and Braves in the 1980s, and Mesoraco.
Who knew that, in addition to being Groundhog World Headquarters, Punxsutawney would become a cradle of catchers?
Also from Punxsutawney, a town of some 6,000 people, according to Baseball-Reference.com: Billy Hunter, an infielder for the St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians in the 1950s (he also managed the Rangers in 1977-1978); pitcher Al Verdel (Phillies, 1944); outfielder Nick Goulish (Phillies, 1944-1945); outfielder Wilbur Good (Yankees, Indians, Boston Rustlers, Cubs, Phillies and White Sox from 1905-1918); and shortstop Hutch Campbell (Pirates, 1907).
Don't ask Mesocaro, 23, if he saw any of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day being filmed. For one thing, the move came out in 1993, when he was just 5. For another, it wasn't even filmed in Punxsutawney -- it was made in Woodstock, Ill.
But he didn't need the movie. He's had plenty of his own Punxsutawney Phil encounters of his own.
"He's a big deal," Mesocaro says. "They bring him around in a big cage. At the library, he's on display 24/7. It's in the main park. He lives in what's called the Groundhog's Den. You can see him all the time. Him and his wife, Phyllis.
"I don't know what they do when they want some private time."
Sunblock day? Overcast skies in the desert today. They promised temperatures in the 80s. It's not even close. Some of these weather folks around here need to be replaced. I know where they can find a few groundhogs to do the job. ...
Likes: This passage from near the end of Rosanne Cash's terrific memoir, Composed: "We all need art and music like we need blood and oxygen. The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture becomes, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person's depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice; the more we need the simplicity of paint on canvas, or the arc of a lonely body in the air, or the photographer's unflinching eye." ... Great Michigan State-Ohio State game Sunday. The good guys didn't win, but it was terrific to watch. The Big 10 is the best conference in the country. ... Slickables, Home of the $2 ice cream sandwich. Great new discovery on Mill Ave. in the Arizona State University district. Freshly baked homemade cookies, you pick your two and which kind of ice cream you want between them. Everything from Snickerdoodles (by far, by the way, the most underrated cookie in the country) to chocolate chip to mint chip cookies. ... Grimaldi's Coal Brick-Oven Pizza. Heard great things about it and it didn't disappoint. The meatball pizza was delicious, but the pepperoni and mushroom was even better.
Dislikes: Still haven't picked up a copy of Leonard Cohen's new disc Old Ideas. Soon, soon.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You gave me light when I was blind
"You bring peace into my heart
"You drove me back to my beliefs
"And today I’m home again
"There must be a kind of light
"Lighting down you, from so far
"And wherever you go, it will follow you
"‘Cause you, my darling, you were made to shine"
-- Ilo Ferreira, Home Again
Tags: Al Verdel, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Bill Murray, Billy Hunter, Boston Rustlers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Devin Mesoraco, Grimaldi's, Houston Astros, Hutch Campbell, Ilo Ferreira, John Mizerock, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Nick Goulish, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Punxsutawney Phil, Slickables, Wilbur Good
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:26 am
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Best thing about Thursday for the bleary-eyed Tampa Bay Rays, of course, was simple: They're in. Somehow, some way, improbably, impossibly, incredibly ... they moved past Boston and into the wild-card slot for the first time since May at the very last possible minute.
Second-best thing about Thursday for the Rays?
In pulling off their miracle, they also avoided the dreaded one-game playoff with the Red Sox on Thursday.
Which means a team that has been in full-on sprint mode for weeks gets one very key day to rest its pitching before facing the Texas Airborne Rangers in Game 1 of an American League Divisional Series on Friday.
"It is very important not playing [Thursday]," manager Joe Maddon said amid the champagne showers in the Rays clubhouse overnight Thursday.
"Texas is very tough. Their numbers playing in their ballpark are sick. We've got to play our best baseball. We've got to be on our best behavior."
What Tampa Bay has had going for it all season is rich depth in its rotation. From James Shields to Jeremy Hellickson and beyond, the Rays can bring it on the mound.
But here was the state of Tampa Bay's pitching as the Rays were forced to chew through so many relievers during its wild charge this week that the bullpen stretched like salt water taffy: Starter James Shields, who beat the Yankees on Monday, was warming in the pen as the Last Man Standing in the 12th inning Wednesday.
Had the Rays been forced to play Boston in a one-gamer on Thursday, they would have had to get incredibly inventive to make it through (though perhaps not as inventive as chasing a trade with Kansas City for Bruce Chen).
"It's huge," All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria said of the chance to take a 24-hour breather before taking on Texas. "Those guys [the pitchers] have been grinding all year for us. You can't say enough about what the bullpen did [in Wednesday night's 8-7, 12-inning win over the Yankees]."
Now, Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey have a fascinating decision in choosing a Game 1 starter. Jeff Niemann, coming off of a sore back, or high-ceilinged prospect Matt Moore were in line to start the one-game staredown with Boston had it come to that.
Will the Rays elect to go with Big Game James Shields on short rest (he started Monday)? Niemann? Would the unconventional Maddon dare hand the ball to the rookie Moore?
It's all just one more good reason why Tampa Bay was thrilled to not have to play on Thursday: Gives them more time to think about these decisions.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?
Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.
Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.
Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.
The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).
"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."
Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.
"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.
"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."
Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.
"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."
As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.
"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."
-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."
-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.
-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.
-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.
-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.
-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.
-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"
-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.
-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."
-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.
-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.
Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.
Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Driving in to Darlington County
-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County
Tags: Albert Pujols, Boston Red Sox, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago Cubs, Colby Rasmus, Daniel Descalso, Derek Jeter, Erik Bedard, Florida Marlins, Jack McKeon, Jason Isbell, Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals, Kerry Wood, Los Angeles Angels, Mariano Rivera, Michael Cuddyer, Mike Cameron, Mike Scioscia, Minnesota Twins, Modern Family, Ned Yost, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Ludwick, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals
Posted on: June 7, 2011 9:20 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 9:49 pm
KANSAS CITY -- Baseball works in strange ways sometimes, as anyone knows who remembers that the game's all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, started as a shortstop in Cincinnati's system.
Sometimes an astute coach suggests something early on in a player's development, and it works.
Back when Bautista spent barely more than a month with Kansas City in 2004, then-bench coach Bob Schaefer thought that just maybe ...
"I really liked him a lot," Schaeffer, who served under then-manager Tony Pena, says. "He was a third baseman-outfielder. He could run, but he didn't have great speed. He really didn't have a position.
"I told him one day that if I was manager, I'd talk to you about catching."
Schaefer grinned at the memory.
"He told me, 'I'm glad you're not the manager.' But his hands were good. I could see some bat quickness. He didn't know how to hit yet, but I liked his athletic ability."
"I was in the cage one day," he says. "But there's no way. I know I was a rookie and a young guy and I probably shouldn't be saying where I should or shouldn't play, but I don't think a move to the backstop is something I would have agreed with or ever done.
"Especially as a Rule V guy, no way. I don't have the defensive ability or the game-calling ability that a catcher [should] have."
Bautista is very intelligent and athletic, so maybe he could have learned.
We'll never know. It was just one of those fleeting ideas during a very unsettled season for him.
And he's done OK for himself since.
"I saw him in spring training," says Schaefer, now a scout for the Nationals after a stint on Joe Torre's coaching staff with the Dodgers the past few seasons. "He gets tremendous backspin on the ball. It's not surprising, these home runs, because when he hits the ball, it keeps carrying.
"He just didn't know how to hit back then. He's learned how to hit."
Posted on: June 7, 2011 12:36 am
KANSAS CITY -- Exiled at his own suggestion after blowing five saves earlier this year, All-Star Joakim Soria is back as Kansas City's closer.
Manager Ned Yost told Soria after the right-hander pitched two scoreless innings and earned the win as the Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2, 11-inning victory over Toronto at Kauffman Stadium.
Aaron Crow, who did not have a save opportunity while serving as temporary closer, will move back into his set-up role.
"That sets our bullpen up nice," said Yost, who thinks Soria needed to make a "mental adjustment" more than anything.
"Get back on the attack, get out and over on his front foot," Yost said.
Among Soria's struggles this season: His 16 earned runs allowed are three more than his season totals from both 2009 and 2010, and the five blown saves are the most of any of his five seasons.
He approached Yost following his fifth blown save of the season -- and second in two days -- on May 30.
"He's done it with a lot of class, a lot of dignity," Yost said of his two-time All-Star. "He stepped back when he felt he was hurting the team, and he stepped back when he had to make adjustments before coming back to help us."
Yost noted it was quick, "eight or nine days", but now he's again seeing "vintage Soria."
"He had two four-out innings where we made errors on ground balls when we should have made the out, and he's been fantastic," Yost said.
Entering this season, since becoming Kansas City's closer following the trade of Octavio Dotel on July 31, 2007, Soria had converted 122 of 132 save opportunities. His 92.4 conversion percentage during that time was second in the majors to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera (92.9 percent).
"I always felt good, but I'm in a better spot right now," Soria said. "I feel better in my command. I'll always be challenged in this game. I like challenges, and I put a challenge to myself to come back as quick as I can."
Posted on: June 6, 2011 9:31 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 9:46 pm
KANSAS CITY -- If Bubba Starling, the Royals' first-round pick in Monday's draft, follows the same path as Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon (this year's model), Billy Butler, Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow and even Mike Moustakas, an already rich farm system will become even more fertile.
Mixed in among the 25 consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance was one significant recent false start, in 2003. The Royals that year had their only winning season in the past 16, and Tony Pena was named American League manager of the year. Beltran, at 26, was the center fielder.
By the middle of '04, Beltran had been traded to Houston and by the middle of '05, Pena had been fired.
The general manager is different now -- Dayton Moore instead of Allard Baird -- but the owner is still the same in David Glass.
"Everybody wants to sign good, young players long-term," Moore told me during a conversation shortly after the Royals made Starling their top pick. "We're no different in Kansas City. We've demonstrated that over the last three years by signing Zack Greinke, although we traded him, Billy Butler and Joakim Soria to long-term deals. Those have been our three most productive players over the last four years."
And in the Royals' defense, though they're short on pitching, their price for Greinke was high, including current shortstop Alcides Escobar.
"That's why you've got to have a great farm system," Moore said. "If you have a lot of good players, it's going to be hard to sign all of them long-term in the economy of today's game.
"John Schuerholz in Atlanta [the former GM and current president] signed Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones long-term, but he couldn't keep Rafael Furcal. He signed John Smoltz long-term but couldn't keep Tom Glavine, even though he tried.
"Our goal, by 2012, 2013, is to have the majority of our 25-man roster reflect home-grown talent. Hopefully, we can do it. We're on pace to do it. Then there's a pride factor -- they know the rookie ball hitting coach and manager, the know the coaches and managers all the way up."
Then, Moore says, if players decline long-term deals or leave via free agency, "they're not just saying no to the Kansas City Royals. They're saying no to every coach, instructor, scout and front-office person. That's a major split."
"That's what we're trying to do," Moore said. "I believe in the plan. We have to execute the plan."
For more on the MLB Draft: http://eye-on-baseball.blogs.cbsspo
Posted on: June 5, 2011 7:46 pm
Rattle a couple of home runs around Yankee Stadium within a week of your major-league debut, and that'll help.
But Eric Hosmer, Kansas City's 21-year-old first baseman, it far more than just a tabloid sensation.
"As mature a 21-year-old as I've seen in a long time," Kansas City outfielder Jeff Francoeur says. "I wish I had half his approach when I was 21. But I was Mr. Cave Man, just letting it go."
Hosmer is anything but. He is refined enough to change his approach from at-bat to at-bat, and he is savvy enough to hit to all fields.
His 28 hits and 12 runs scored during the month of May led all American League rookies. Impressive in its own right, but when you consider that that he wasn't even promoted from Triple-A Omaha until May 6 ... talk about hitting the ground running.
For that, Hosmer, Kansas City's first-round pick in the 2008 draft (third overall), also was named as the Royals' player of the month for hitting .283 with five homers and 17 RBI.
"Spring training helped me a lot," says Hosmer, who won the Class A Carolina League batting title last year (.354) and tied for the league lead in on-base percentage (.429). "They invited me to big league camp knowing I wasn't going to make the team. They just told me to learn as much as possible and have fun with it.
"I tried to take that to Omaha. I told myself to work harder and learn as much as possible."
By the end of his month-long run there, there was barely any more to learn: Hosmer was leading all of minor-league baseball in both batting average (.439) and on-base percentage (.525) at the time of his recall.
A big man (6-4, 229 pounds) with lots of power, what the major-league spring training invite did was not only help boost his confidence, but make him even more comfortable with Yost and his staff. That way, when Hosmer joined the Royals in Kansas City on May 6, they didn't need to waste time with introductions. He already knew everyone and the way they worked.
The New York home runs came on May 11 -- first of his career against A.J. Burnett -- and May 12. Yeah, right, if you can make it there. ...
"He became an instant hero here with that," says television analyst Frank White, who was slick enough at second base that he was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. "That put an exclamation mark on his start."
By the time Minnesota left town after sweeping the Royals on Sunday, Hosmer was hitting .300 and carrying a seven-game hitting streak. He's hitting .400 during that streak, including five multi-hit games.
Talking before Sunday's game, several Twins coaches were marveling about how their pitchers had thrown Hosmer everything during the first three games of the series and rarely fooled him. Hosmer, they said, makes adjustments pitch-to-pitch, within the same at-bat, something that's difficult for most veterans, let alone a kid who on Sunday played in only his 28th big-league game.
So far, Hosmer has hit safely in 21 of those 28 games, including in 15 of 17 in Kauffman Stadium.
"He's got a long career ahead of him," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, himself a first-round pick (2004), says. "Whenever he goes through his growing pains, he's just going to get better and better.
"He's got the makings of an All-Star."