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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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Spring Training Report #3: Let the Games Begin

SPRINGDALE, AR – The Kansas City Royals are just two games into the spring season, but already have shown a winning attitude.  They dominated the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers in a 6-1 win to open the year, and used a late rally to win 7-6 in their second game.

Many former Naturals have been a part of the team’s early spring success.  Johnny Giavotella scored two runs in the first game, while Mike Moustakas had a pair of hits and an RBI in game one.  Giavotella continues to have the upper hand in the battle with Chris Getz to be the Royals starting second baseman, but Getz has shown a better ability to drive the ball so far this spring.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, a non-roster invitee to spring training, capped the 6-5 win in game two with a two-run double in the ninth inning to drive home former Naturals Moustakas and Wil Myers.  Myers has picked up where he left off last fall in the Arizona Fall League this spring.  He has gone 2-for-4 so far this spring and scored twice in just two games.  Myers is trying to make the step up to Triple-A Omaha to start the 2012 season.  Derrick Robinson, who is trying to make that same step, also had a big day Monday for the Royals delivering a two-run single in yesterday’s game.

The Royals are in action Tuesday playing in two games (split squad) against San Diego and Cleveland.  The minor league affiliates will begin playing spring games next Thursday March 15th.  The last minor league game this spring will be March 28th.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Naturals in Other CampsJuan Abreu (2009) allowed one run in one inning of work so far this spring for the Astros.  Abreu, who made his major league debut with Houston last season is trying to make the team in a relief role.  Angel Sanchez (2008) is in camp with Houston as a non-roster invitee but has yet to see any game action for the Astros.  Kila Ka’aihue (2008) has gone 2-for-10 thus far in three games for the Oakland Athletics.  He is competing for playing time at first base and designated hitter with Daric Barton and former Texas leaguer Chris Carter (Midland, 2009).  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) made his debut for the Nationals this spring tossing a scoreless inning March 4 against Houston.  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 2-for-4 with an RBI so far this spring, while Mejia is 1-for-5 with a triple and an RBI.  Hughes made his first appearance on March 3 throwing a scoreless inning against the Detroit Tigers while surrendering a pair of hits.  Former Natural Jeff Bianchi, who is in major league camp with the Milwaukee Brewers, made the highlight real last night tripping on two different occasions while trying to score on a botched fly ball in a game versus the San Francisco Giants. Bianchi had singled off Giants’ ace reliever Sergio Romo.

Transactions:  Former Natural Dan Cortes failed his physical last week.  This voided his minor league deal with the Washington Nationals, making him a free agent.  Longtime Natural Blake Johnson was signed to a minor league deal by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday March 2nd.   Johnson is the only player to suit up for Northwest Arkansas in all four seasons of their existence.  This season the right-hander will either find himself at Double-A Chattanooga or Triple-A Albuquerque.

Other Injury Notes: Felipe Paulino experienced some tightness in his hamstring last week during camp, but it does not appear to be something that will be a long term issue at this point.  Manny Pina is expected to miss the rest of spring training as he recovers from knee surgery, while Paulo Orlando who is recovering from surgery for a sports hernia is expected to be back soon for the Royals.

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.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale.  Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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