Spring Training Report #5: Finding the right combination

Spring Training Report #5: Finding the right combination
Sorting out the last few roster spots

SPRINGDALE, AR –The Kansas City Royals are facing a major challenge as spring training continues in Arizona.  As the spring goes on most years’ players separate themselves from the others they are competing with for roster spots.  This has yet to happen for the Royals, but in a good way.

The Royals have 43 players in camp and will be tasked with whittling that number down to the allotted 25 by Opening Day  The spots that remain up for grabs are the last two slots in the rotation, and a handful of spots in the bullpen.  Luis Mendoza, Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy, and Sean O’Sullivan remain in a tight competition for the last two slots in the rotation.  All four have shown steady improvement throughout the spring and are making the Royals decision tougher with each outing.  The four listed above will also be competing for a slot in the bullpen with former Naturals Everett Teaford, Kelvin Herrera, and Louis Coleman.  The most recent injury to Joakim Soria as well as a previous injury to Blake Wood could also open up another spot or two in the bullpen at least for the start of the season.
The Kansas City Royals had an off day in major league camp on Monday, but some of the major leaguers still got some work in, during the minor league games.  Teaford tossed four scoreless innings for the Naturals in their 5-1 loss to the Frisco RoughRiders. Teaford has yet to allow a run this spring in big league or minor league camp in nine innings of work.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Naturals in Other CampsJuan Abreu (2009) stint in big league camp ended late last week when he was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.  Angel Sanchez (2008) has gone 5-for-9 thus far in six games with two RBI and a run scored is trying to make the Astros as a utility infielder.  Kila Ka’aihue (2008) is continuing to compete for playing time at first base and designated hitter with Daric Barton and former Texas leaguer Chris Carter (Midland, 2009).  He is hitting .214 so far this spring, but does have two home runs and four RBI.  Ka’aihue is out of options, and must make the big league roster or be exposed to waivers prior to being sent to the minor leagues.  Jeff Fulchino (2008) threw four scoreless innings for the Nationals this spring, but did not make the team.  He was assigned to minor league camp last Friday.  Other former Naturals in spring training this season include a trio of players who are in camp with the Atlanta Braves, Dusty Hughes (2008), first baseman Ernesto Mejia (2010), and outfielder Jordan Parraz(2009).  Parraz has gone 9-for-22 (.409) with a home run and five RBI so far this spring, while Mejia is 2-for-13 (.143) with a triple and an RBI.  Hughes has allowed two runs over six innings of work so far this spring.  Former Natural Jeff Bianchi, was outrighted by the Milwaukee Brewers to Double-A Huntsville on Monday March 19.

Naturals Exhibitions:  Because of the number of players still in the big league camp, the Naturals are not playing with anywhere near their full complement of expected players for the regular season.  Thus far, the Naturals are still looking for their first spring win. Early players to impress in the exhibitions have been Buddy Baumann and Patrick Keating, who both were nearly perfect over five innings in the spring opener, and outfielders Roman Hernandez and Yem Prades, who have combined for quite a bit of the offense.  Prades and Hernandez, both Cuban defectors who have yet to play in Double-A, could be outfield options for the Naturals early in 2012, but Geulin Beltre, another outfielder who hit safely in his first four plate appearances in Friday’s game, probably is bound for one of the Class-A rosters.  It could be another week before the players that are appearing in the Naturals’ games are a better reflection of the club’s potential for this season.

Transactions:  Three more former Naturals Clint Robinson, Derrick Robinson, and David Lough were optioned to Triple-A Omaha Sunday’s Royals game.  This cuts the number of Royals players in major league camp down to 43.  Ryan Eigsti and Ben Theriotwere added to big league camp last Thursday after the injuries to both Salvador Perez and Manny Pina.

Other Injury Notes: Salvador Perez is expected to miss 12-14 weeks setting him up to return in late May or early June barring any setbacks in his recovery process.  It is possible that he could see some rehab time in Northwest Arkansas before being called back up to Kansas City.   Manny Pina is expected to miss the rest of spring training and possibly into May, while recovering from his own knee surgery.  Blake Wood has been shut down for a week with what team officials are calling elbow soreness.  Once the week has passed; Wood will begin a throwing program before returning to live game action.

Check nwanaturals.com for our Spring Training Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in spring training as well as cover other baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.

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