Tag Archive | "David Lough"

The Royals stand pat by the trade deadline. Sort of.

The non-waiver trade deadline came and went and the Kansas City Royals still have everyone on their Major League roster. Ervin Santana is still in the starting rotation and make funny Twitter videos. Luke Hochevar is still in the bullpen and not with Boston. Chris Getz is still at second base, to the dismay of Royals fans.

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Despite an eight-game winning streak and being two games above .500, General Manager Dayton Moore didn’t make any bold moves to buy or sell. But he did make a trade: Reserve outfielder Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for minor-league pitcher Kyle Smith.

So the Royals “big” move was to trade off a High A starting pitcher who was the 12th ranked Royals prospect by Baseball America for a 29-year old right-handed career .222 outfielder. This year, Maxwell suffered a broken hand and concussion (he did recover by the All-Star break) and so far has played 40 games. His role seems to be a platoon outfielder against left-handed pitching.

Maxwell does pretty well against left-handed pitching with a .253/.370/.455 average, while the Royals as a team are .233/.283/.328 against left-handed starters.

The best case for Maxwell is to platoon him with David Lough, but if you look at Lough’s splits, he’s hitting .278/.302/.401 against righties and .283/.316/.415 against lefties, which is pretty even. It’s not like Lough struggles against left-handed pitching.

Some argue Lough might not have the endurance to go a full season, but he’s 27 years old and played the last four seasons in AAA Omaha, playing over 100 games in three of those four seasons. And Maxwell’s high game mark in the Majors was 124 games in 2012. In other seasons, he played 15, 40, 67 and 40 games. Perhaps a platoon situation would rest both players and help them improve, but that’s not a sure thing.

And there’s the roster spot the Royals need to clear before they put Maxwell on the roster. The team plans to add Maxwell by Thursday’s game against the Twins, but they haven’t made a decision who will be sent down. Lorenzo Cain and Chris Getz are nursing injuries, but they’re not going on the DL. And the Royals aren’t planning to send a bullpen arm down either.

So who will it be? Knowing the Royals, it will be David Lough. Never mind he’s hitting .291/.308/.432 and is a defensive asset in right field. And never mind the Royals drafted him in 2007 and he’s been with the Royals organization his whole career. The Royals didn’t make this trade to send Maxwell to Omaha, so they will put him on the Major League roster. When the Royals got Elliot Johnson, they sent longtime farmhand Irving Falu to Omaha and it wouldn’t surprise me if they do the same thing with Lough.

I’m not saying Lough is the caliber of Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer or Salvador Perez. But Lough is a good role player who’s making a positive contribution to the team. And if Lough was right-handed, the Royals wouldn’t make this trade.

Maybe the Royals will prove me wrong and send someone else down besides Lough and this article will be moot. I hope they do, but I’ve hoped for a long time when it comes to the Royals.

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Kansas City Royals: Still a ways to go

After May, it looked like another typical Royals season. But approaching the All-Star break, the Royals are around .500 and within striking distance of the A.L. Central. It’s a position the Royals haven’t been in since 2003, when they had marquee names like Darrel May, Ken Harvey and Desi Relaford (those were the days). The team is playing better baseball, but they’re not playing good enough baseball.

DaytonMoore

Things are getting better. Eric Hosmer is playing like he should. Jeff Francoeur is gone and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Fan favorite Johnny Giavotella has the chance to be the everyday second baseman. Greg Holland is one of the best closers in baseball. The outfield is solid with All-Star Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, David Lough and Jarrod Dyson. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is the cornerstone of the team and he’s only 23 years old. The offense is waking up. Yes, the Royals are the best they’ve been in years.

But there’s still a ways to go. Besides James Shields and Ervin Santana, the starting rotation is hit-or-miss. One start, Jeremy Guthrie is great, another start he’s lousy. Wade Davis is failing as a starter and Luis Mendoza is back in the bullpen, with Bruce Chen taking his place. The bullpen doesn’t have a go-to guy for the eight inning. Inconsistent reliever Kelvin Herrera spends too much time on I-29 shuffling between Kansas City and Omaha. Giavotella is the everyday second baseman, but after seven games he’s at .208/.269/.292. Mike Moustakas isn’t where he needs to be and Billy Butler is at .270/.374/.407, which is almost pedestrian for the Royals designated hitter.

So far, the Royals can’t get to .500. They had a chance against the Yankees Wednesday night, but lost 8-1, and now are two games under .500.

The trade deadline is at the end of the month and the team has to decide if they want to make a trade for a run for the A.L. Central or stay where they are and hope things get better. So far, there’s no real trade rumors, big or small. It depends how the Royals play the next couple of weeks.

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Francoeur had his chance, Giavotella gets another chance

Last Saturday, the Royals cut ties with outfielder Jeff Francoeur, designating him for assignment. Taking his place is infielder Johnny Giavotella, who will get regular playing time at second base.

Johnny-Giavotella

Royals fans clamored for these moves, but it’s too early to tell if they will make a difference. This year, Francoeur spent most of his time on the bench and ended up with a .208/.249/.322 line with three home runs and 13 RBI. Giavotella went three for four with two RBI in his 2013 debut against the Minnesota Twins and went 0-3 with a walk against the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night.

Giavotella will get plenty of playing time at second, with Chris Getz being sent down to AAA Omaha. Giavotella still doesn’t have the defensive prowess of an Elliot Johnson (or Chris Getz for that matter), but he does have offense, something desperately needed in the Royals lineup. Giavotella didn’t make the most of his opportunities at second base the other times he was on the team, but with Getz in Omaha, Giavotella will get an opportunity to see if he belongs in the Big Leagues.

As for Francoeur, it was a move that needed to be done. He couldn’t find his hitting stroke and with David Lough and Jarrod Dyson playing well, the Royals weren’t doing themselves or Francoeur any favors. The players and the team like Francoeur and he does have leadership qualities, but he wasn’t getting it done on the field. And Francoeur would be the first to admit he wasn’t playing well enough to stay with the Royals.

These moves needed to be done, but there’s still more issues the Royals need to overcome if they hope to become contenders in the A.L. Central. Mike Moustakas is improving with a .218/.279/.326 average, but he still has a long way to go. Wade Davis is 0-3 in his last three starts and Jeremy Guthrie went 1-1 with a no decision. In those games, the Royals went 1-5. Billy Butler is still being Billy Butler, but he isn’t hitting with power, with only one home run in June. Alex Gordon had a rough June with only three extra base hits, but with his grand slam Tuesday night, he appeared to be getting on track again. That is, until Gordon left Wednesday night’s game with a concussion and a hip contusion. Let’s hope Gordon makes a quick recovery.

Given all the Royals troubles this year, they’re still hanging in there. They had a 16-11 June and were 38-42 on July 2, 5.5 games back of the Indians. But they need to do more than tread water. They need to win games and win series to get above .500 and contend.

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Dyson stealing his way into fans’ hearts

Speed kills and Jarrod Dyson has speed to burn.

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In the third inning of Tuesday’s game against the Braves, this was on full display. Dyson bunted down the third base line for a single to lead off the inning. He wasted no time stealing second base. He ended up being stranded on third base, but he showed how dangerous his speed can be for opposing teams. Without hitting the ball out of the infield, he had himself in scoring position.

This is what Dyson brings to the table for the Royals. His elite speed gives the team an added weapon that they were missing while Dyson was on the DL (he missed over a month with a high ankle sprain).

The Royals are currently fourth in the majors with 60 steals and Dyson’s return from the DL should only help add to that number. In his first three games back, Dyson had three steals. In 102 games last season, Dyson swiped 30 bases and he stole over 30 bases in four different minor league seasons.

Dyson isn’t the only threat on the bases for the Royals. Alcides Escobar and Elliot Johnson have 11 steals each and Lorenzo Cain has nine. Even first baseman Eric Hosmer has seven steals.

The Royals now have a log jam in the outfield with five players more than capable of manning the position. Alex Gordon should stick in left field. Dyson, Cain, and David Lough can all play center field and Jeff Francoeur is still around to play right field. On Wednesday, Cain played in center with Francouer in right against left-hander Mike Minor. In the previous two games, Dyson played in center with Lough in right, while Cain and Francoeur sat.

With Dyson in the lineup, the Royals are one of the fastest teams in the majors, especially if Dyson, Cain, Escobar and Johnson are all on the field at the same time.

Dyson currently sports a slash line of .292/.320/.604. If he continues to hit and get on base, he should force his way into the lineup, especially against right-handed pitchers.

Because the outfield is so crowded, Dyson may not see everyday at-bats. But even in limited plate appearances, Dyson could threaten the 30 steals mark on the season, which will only help the speedy Royals push the envelope on the base paths.

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Lately the Royals offense is more lucky than good

After being ten games below .500 at one point, the Kansas City Royals made it to the .500 mark early this week before losing two in a row to the Cleveland Indians, falling to a 34-36 record.

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After the debacle of May, it’s good the see the Royals playing better baseball. But they’re not playing good enough to contend for the A. L. Central, much less be a playoff contending team. Losing two out of three games to the Indians proves that. The team batting average is .257, which is only point better than last week. They’re also dead last in the A. L. with 37 home runs and a .368 slugging average, so the power isn’t there.

While first baseman Eric Hosmer shows improvement with a revised swing, third baseman Mike Moustakas is stuck with a .189 batting average and calls from some fans to send him down to the Minors and move Alex Gordon to third. Sending Moustakas to the Minors might help, but moving Gordon to third is a bad idea. Remember one of the reasons the Royals moved Gordon to the outfield? It’s because he wasn’t that good at third base.

And then there’s the Jarrod Dyson coming back from the DL problem. Dyson isn’t the problem. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur is the problem. Francoeur is at .214/.257/.335 and spends more time on the bench while David Lough patrols the outfield. Lough was called up when Dyson went on the DL, and Lough has done well with a .296/.310/.418 line and made a couple of spectacular defensive plays. He’s proven to be at least a league average outfielder and better than Francoeur is now. Which means Lough will likely be sent down to the Minors when Dyson returns.

Yes, it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes the realities of baseball doesn’t make sense. Dyson doesn’t have options remaining, so if the Royals don’t add Dyson to the major league roster, they have to trade, option or release him, which the Royals won’t do. However, Lough does have options remaining and the Royals can send him back to Omaha with no restrictions.

The Royals could release Francoeur and eat his remaining $4 million salary, but it’s unlikely the team would do that either, seeing they still believe Francoeur will come out of his hitting slump. The likely scenario when Dyson returns is to start him in the outfield, have Francoeur on the bench and send Lough to Omaha. It’s not the fair decision or frankly the most logical decision. But if Francoeur doesn’t show improvement, the club will have no choice but to cut him loose and call Lough up as a Royals outfielder, which could happen sooner rather than later.

Next is Chris Getz, the Jeff Francoeur of the infield. Getz has a .216/.278/.288 average and platoons with Elliot Johnson, who has a better .252/.284/.342 average. But is Johnson an everyday second baseman? Seeing Johnson appeared in 47 games and Getz in 46 games, the Royals don’t think so. Second basemen aren’t known for their power like first or third basemen, but if a team isn’t getting much production from the corners, then the second baseman has to pick up the slack. That’s not happening with Getz and it’s uncertain if it would happen if Johnson was an everyday player.

Then the usual offensive stalwarts, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, are having “down” years. Gordon is at .288/.344/.416 and Butler at .273/.379/.399. They’re not bad numbers, but the Royals need to find offense where they can get it.

The Royals did a good job improving their starting rotation and despite some rough outings from the bullpen, the ‘pen is holding its own. The Royals pitching staff leads the A. L. with a 3.41 ERA and has kept the team from falling into oblivion. But the hoped for production from the lineup hasn’t been consistent. If the offense doesn’t improve, it could be another Royals season like it’s been the last ten to twenty years.

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Are These The Final Days Of Jeff Francoeur For The Kansas City Royals?

The Kansas City Royals are playing solid baseball and winning games, bringing them closer to the division leading Detroit Tigers.  The team is hitting well and is about to get a punch in the arm from rehabbing speedster Jarrod Dyson when he returns from his minor league rehab assignment.

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That leaves the Royals with a roster choice to make at the big league level and the choice may be simple: it’s time to release Jeff Francoeur.

Francoeur, known as “Frenchy” to many fans, has been a very likable and fan-friendly player in Kansas City.  The team has capitalized on his popularity with ticket specials, the “Frenchy Quarter” section in the ballpark, and many items bearing his name in the gift shops.  His popularity, however, has not transferred to solid play on the field.

He has been used sparingly in the month of June, yielding playing time to David Lough in right field.  Meanwhile, Lough has played well enough to deserve his spot on the big league roster, showing flashes of power and speed that may make him a solid option off the bench as the Royals enter a playoff run that has been a long time coming.

Dyson has not been a massive success during his rehab in Omaha, posting a paltry batting average just over .200.  He has, however, been getting on base, showing patience at the plate, and doing what he does best: running.  His place on the major league roster has always been speed off the bench, solid defense, and an occasional start.  A platoon situation in right field that features Lough sharing time with Dyson would be a huge upgrade from what Francoeur has provided the last few seasons.

The Royals are primed to make a run at a playoff spot this year.  To do so, they will need the best 25 men they can find to put on the field on an everyday basis.

When Dyson is activated, it will be time to say goodbye to Jeff Francoeur.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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Royals Roster Breeds Little Suspense

It’s a so far, so good Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals. As of Wednesday, March 20, the Royals lead the Cactus League with a 18-6 record. There’s no major injuries. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are playing well. The team hasn’t done anything that makes you scratch your head, at least not yet. They even made a good decision moving Hochevar to the bullpen. In other words, it’s an abnormal Royals Spring training.

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There’s some roster spots up for grabs, but they’re more set than the Royals let on. For instance, the “battle” between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza for the fifth starting spot. If you go by stats alone, Mendoza is clearly having a better spring, with a 0.82 ERA in three games with 11 innings pitched, giving up an earned run and no home runs. Meanwhile, Chen has a 7.90 ERA in four games with 13.2 innings pitched, giving up 12 earned runs and seven (seven!) homers. So Mendoza should get the fifth starting spot, right?

Royals manager Ned Yost says he’ll decide the starting rotation this Friday and I’m betting Chen will get the fifth starting spot and Mendoza will be a long reliever. Why? Remember, Spring Training stats are meaningless and with Chen’s 14 years in the Majors, he’ll get the benefit of the doubt. Mendoza has six years of Major League experience, but except for 2008 and 2012, he’s had limited playing time. If anything, Yost is a traditionalist and he’ll go with the longtime Royals starter Chen over Mendoza. I’d be surprised if Yost chooses Mendoza over Chen.

This isn’t a battle for a roster spot, but with David Lough having a great spring (a .500/.513/.711 line, with 19 hits, six doubles, a triple and five RBI over 20 games and 38 at-bats), He’s making an argument to have a shot at right field. But it’s likely Lough will go to AAA Omaha.

It doesn’t matter what Lough does, he’s not supplanting Jeff Francoeur in right field. Yes, over 22 games and 53 at-bats, Frenchy has a .208/.250/.396 line with 11 hits, three doubles, two triples, a home run and seven RBI. Remember when I said Spring Training stats are meaningless? They still are, even when some fans want them to apply to Francoeur.

Like Chen, Frenchy has several years of Major League experience over Lough, who debuted in the Majors last year. Francoeur provides “veteran leadership” managers like Yost want to see. Plus the Royals don’t want to have a $7.5MM a year player on the bench. Unless Francoeur suffers injury or the Royals trade him, Lough will be in Omaha. Or Yost might surprise us all and choose Lough over Jarrod Dyson as a fourth outfielder. But with Dyson’s experience and speed, it’s not likely the Royals choose Lough over Dyson. If Lough stays on fire in Omaha and Francoeur crashes and burns, Lough might get a long-term roster spot with the Royals this season.

In the battle for second base, I believe Chris Getz will start at second base and Johnny Giavotella will go to AAA Omaha. This spring, Getz has a .359/.419/.513 line and over 20 games and 39 at-bats, Getz has 14 hits, three doubles, a home run (yes, Getz hit a home run) and six RBI. Meanwhile, Giavotella has a .273/.289/.409 line over 20 games and 44 at-bats with 12 hits, three doubles, a home run and 11 RBI. Despite Getz’s higher line, they have similar offensive numbers.

But it all comes down to defense, and Getz still has the edge. Like Chen and Francoeur, Getz has more Major League experience than Giavotella and Yost will go with the “safe” bet. Now with Getz’s recent issues with injuries, there’s a good chance Giavotella will be with the team sometime this season. But his offense and defense will need to improve if he wants to stay at second.

Salvador Perez will be the starting catcher this season, but there’s competition between Brett Hays and George Kottaras for the backup catcher role. Both are veteran backup catchers and with similar spring offensive numbers (Hayes with a .241/.313/.483 line, seven hits, a double, two home runs and eight RBI, Kottaras with a .269/.424/.346 line, seven hits, two doubles, and three RBI), it’s honestly a coin flip between the two. Either player will be a good backup catcher and let’s hope Perez stays healthy so Hayes and Kottaras stay backup catchers.

Besides the starting rotation, Yost won’t make his final roster decisions until the end of Spring Training. Unlike previous years, there’s not a real bad choice for Yost to make. But whatever roster decisions the Royals make, everyone on the roster has to play to their potential for the Royals to have a good season.

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Kansas City Royals Spring Training Pics From Bob Fescoe

Bob Fescoe spent last week in Surprise, Arizona interviewing Kansas City Royals players and coaches for his morning show on Kansas City’s 610 Sports Radio.

When he was not on the air, he was taking in the sites of early Spring Training and snapping pics that he would later tweet out to his followers.

With Bob’s permission, we share those pics with you below:

Billy Butler BP

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Billy Butler takes BP with Frenchy and Hosmer looking on

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Spring Training Report #1: Naturals Reporting To Camp

Spring Training Report #1: Naturals reporting to Camp
Former Naturals Looking to Turn Heads this Spring


Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

SPRINGDALE, AR – The Kansas City Royals have opened spring training with pitchers and catchers already reporting to camp.  Position players will be reporting this Friday, although a number of them have already reported to the Surprise, Arizona facility.  The Royals are looking to build off a season that saw several of their young prospects and former Naturals make their major league debuts.
Former Naturals Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez all enter camp in new roles as projected starters this season, rather than battling to try an earn a spot on the big league roster as they have in past seasons.  Hosmer is coming off a year where he hit 19 home runs and drove home 78 in just 128 games in the major leagues.  He finished third last season in Rookie of the Year voting behind Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo.  Moustakas had his best month as a major leaguer in September when he batted .352 with four home runs and 12 RBI.  Perez made great strides in working with the pitching staff in 2011 and was strong at the plate posting a .331 average in Kansas City.
Another Natural, Johnny Giavotella is in camp after also making his major league debut in August last season.  Giavotella is expected to battle major league veteran Chris Getz for the starting job at second base.
Former Naturals Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando, David Lough, Wil Myers, and Derrick Robinson are also in major league camp competing with Mitch Maier and the newly signed Greg Golson to make the major league roster as a fourth outfielder.
The pitching staff is where most of competition will be this spring.  The starting rotation potentially has two positions that several players will be competing for with Luke HochevarJonathan Sanchez, and Bruce Chen considered to have already secured spots. Former Naturals Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery, are expected to compete for a job at the back end of the rotation along with Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza and Felipe Paulino.  Several former Naturals are looking to nail down a spot in the bullpen as well.  Louis Coleman, Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Jeremy Jeffress, Everett Teaford, and Blake Wood are among those competing with offseason acquisitions Jose Mijares and Tommy Hottovy.
Other former Naturals in major league camp include pitchers Chris Dwyer, Jake Odorizzi, Will Smith, Zach Miner, Roman Colon, catchers Manny Pina and Cody Clark, and infielders Irving Falu and Clint Robinson.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Naturals in Other Camps: At least eight former Naturals players are also showing up in other big league spring training camps around major league baseball.   Right-hander Juan Abreu (2009) has reported to camp with the Houston Astros after making his major league debut last season.  He’ll be joined by infielder Angel Sanchez (2008), an Astros’ non-roster invitee.  Kila Ka’aihue is also in camp with the Oakland Athletics and is expected to compete 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.  Former Naturals’ starter Dan Cortes (2008-09) is in camp after signing a big league deal with the Washington Nationals following his release from the Seattle Marinerrs.  Right-hander Jeff Fulchino, who spent an abbreviated two-game stint with the Naturals in the first week of their history, joins him in Nationals’ camp as a non-roster player.

A trio of former Naturals – left-hander Dusty Hughes (2008), first baseman Ernesto Mejia (2010), and outfielder Jordan Parraz (2009) – are also in big league camp, with the Atlanta Braves, as non-roster invitees.

‘Manny being Manny’ at Arvest???  Divisive big league slugger Manny Ramirez agreed to terms on a contract with the Oakland Athletics this week.  Manny will have to serve a 50-game suspension violating major league baseball’s substance abuse policy.  There is a provision that would allow Ramirez to play a ten game stint in the minor leagues before joining the Athletics roster for their 51st game – which would be a road contest May 30th against the Minnesota Twins.  This would put him on track to possibly begin a minor league stint on or around May 20th.  It is too early to speculate on where he may appear, or what minor league teams he may be with, but the Midland Rockhounds, Oakland’s Double-A affiliate, will be at Arvest from May 23-25th.  Should he appear in Springdale he would be the biggest name to rehab at Arvest Ballpark since Kevin Millwood made a rehab start against the Naturals in August of 2008, while on a rehab assignment from the Texas Rangers.

Top 100 Prospects: Several former and future Naturals are listed on the Baseball America top 100 prospect list.  Former Natural Mike Montgomery is ranked 23rd, while Bubba Starling, the fifth over all pick in the 2011 draft, is right behind Montgomery ranked 24th. Starling is not likely to see time in Northwest Arkansas before 2014.  The Royals had five players overall make the list, as current Natural Wil Myers is ranked 28th, and Jake Odorizzi is ranked 68th, and Cheslor Cuthbert, a promising third baseman from Nicaragua who is expected to begin the 2012 season with Wilmington, is 84th on the list.  Former Diamond Hog Zack Cox, who spent last season in the Texas League with Springfield, was ranked 88th.  The Royals are one of three teams to have three players make the Top 30 for 2012.  The Mariners and Diamondbacks also accomplished the feat.

Transaction Log: Former Naturals’ right hander Roman Colon returns to the Royals organization after spending the 2011 season in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization pitching for Triple-A Albuquerque.  In 27 appearances the 32-year old Colon posted a 2-1 record and a 4.85 ERA in 27 appearances.  Colon spent the 2010 season pitching in Korea, and has been invited to big league spring training this season, but if he wins a job coming out of camp, that’s likely to be in the bullpen with Triple-A Omaha…The Royals also signed right-hander Steve Kent to a minor league contract.  Kent is a 22-year old Australian right-hander who has spent the last two seasons in Class-A ball in the Atlanta Braves’ system.  He’ll join the cast of arms competing for spots with Kane County and Wilmington, but could advance to Double-A later in the season.  Kent’s career minor league record is 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA in 67 career games, including 30 starts.  He posted a 7.77 ERA in 48 2/3 innings last season for Class-A Rome (GA), where he missed time with injury.

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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Columbus Clips Chasers In Triple-A Title Game

Columbus Clips Chasers in Triple-A Title Game
PCL Champion Omaha can’t capitalize on early 3-0 lead, drops season finale

Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the ice cream sundae of a Pacific Coast League Championship already served, the Omaha Storm Chasers fell just short of putting the cherry on top in a 8-3 loss to the Columbus Clippers Tuesday night in Albuquerque. The Cleveland Indians’ affiliate won its second-straight Triple-A National Championship Game, rallying from an early 3-0 hole to cruise to victory.

The one-game, nationally-televised playoff showcase started out well for Omaha, but the offense and pitching stalled out after a first-inning display reminiscent of performances throughout this year’s championship run.

Irving Falu got things started with a one-out walk in the first, followed by a single by David Lough to put two runners on. Lorenzo Cain then drilled a two-run triple to the right-center gap, his third three-base hit of the postseason to the exact same spot on the field. One out later, John Whittleman came through with an RBI single in his first playoff at-bat, giving the Chasers a 3-0 advantage.

Omaha starter Sean O’Sullivan (0-1, postseason) retired the side in order in the bottom half of the first, but ran into trouble in his next two frames, allowing six runs on six hits. The big blow was a tape-measure three-run homer by Luke Carlin on a two-strike, two-out pitch in the second, knotting the score at 3-3. O’Sullivan and the Chasers would go on to lose for the first time in the right-hander’s final 10 starts of the season.

Clippers’ right-hander Joe Martinez (3-0, postseason) and reliever Chen Lee held Omaha scoreless on five hits after the early outburst, giving the International League champ’s offense time to tack on insurance runs in the fourth off Willy Lebron and the eighth off Kelvin Herrera. Former first-round draft pick Beau Mills took Herrera deep to start the bottom of the eighth, getting around just enough on a hard fastball to lift it the opposite way over the left field wall.

Lance Zawadzki had another fine offensive showing in the contest, going 2-for-4 to improve his batting average to .444 (8-for-18) in four playoff starts. The Chasers got hits from seven of the nine men in the lineup, with Zawadzki’s performance going down as the only multi-hit contest.

Some 800 miles to the northeast, Storm Chasers’ ace right-hander Luis Mendoza and a handful of 2011 Omaha alumni were busy defeating the A.L. Central champion Detroit Tigers by a score of 10-2 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Mendoza, the PCL Pitcher of the Year and PCL Playoff MVP, earned his first Major League victory since August 3, 2008, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers. He was aided by Chasers’ Opening Day first baseman Eric Hosmer, who went 5-for-5 at the plate with his 18th home run of the season.

Following the game, the Royals announced that six additional members of the 2011 Storm Chasers – Cain, Herrera, O’Sullivan, Jarrod Dyson, Vin Mazzaro and Manny Pina – would be joining the team in Kansas City. The occasion will mark Cain’s first appearance in the majors with the Royals and will be Herrera’s first taste of big-league action after starting the season in Class-A ball.

The PCL Champion Storm Chasers will open their title defense Thursday, April 5, 2012, when they host the Albuquerque Isotopes in the first game of a four-game series in the second full season at Werner Park.

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