Tag Archive | "Duffy"

Kansas City Royals’ Rotation Finalized: What About Danny Duffy?

The Kansas City Royals have put the final touches on their starting rotation.  Throughout the spring, a competition was formed between Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura for the final spot in the rotation.  On Monday, that competition officially came to a close.

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Manager Ned Yost announced on Monday to a group of reporters, including Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, that there was no reason to hold back the announcement of the decision for the fifth starter.  With Duffy struggling this spring and Ventura being downright dominant, the time had come to make the decision official.

Ventura had thrown six shutout innings, striking out six Texas Rangers, on Monday night to solidify the decision.  That performance lowered Ventura’s spring ERA to 1.76 while elevating his strikeout total to 15 in just over 15 innings pitched.  The hard-throwing youngster did everything to prove that he was ready for this opportunity.

Competitions have winners and losers, however, and Duffy now finds himself on the outside looking in.  Early indications of the competition were that the loser would likely find himself in the starting rotation at Triple-A Omaha.  Due to the injury sustained by Luke Hochevar, now Duffy will be given the opportunity to claim the last bullpen spot.

The subject at hand is now which role better benefits Duffy in the long term?  He may be capable of claiming the final bullpen role but, despite his oddly weak spring performance, he has traditionally been a more than capable starter.

Ultimately, Duffy could see time as a starter this year and likely stands as the first player to receive a start should any of the current staff falter or become injured.  While sending him to Omaha may not be the best choice for his confidence, it may be the best option the team has for utilizing him efficiently later. Should someone find themselves hurt, it may be harder to slide Duffy out of the bullpen and into the rotation than it would to simply call him up from the minors.

Ventura pitched well enough to prove that he was ready.  He is likely the right man for the job.  Duffy carries the confidence of past success.  He has proven he can win at this level.

Both men will likely be in the rotation before the end of the season.  Until then, the question remains, what should be done with Duffy?

 

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season

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Five storylines from Kansas City Royals camp

This has been an interesting spring for the Kansas City Royals. Some position battles have been settled, while others are still being hotly contested. Some players have sizzled in the Cactus League, while others have struggled. There is no shortage of news as Opening Day is inching closer and closer. Here are five storylines from Royals camp:

1) Yordano Ventura will crack starting rotation

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Ventura was in a battle for a spot in the Royals rotation this spring, with his main competition being Danny Duffy. Well it didn't end up being much of a battle in the end. Ventura has dazzled this spring forcing manager Ned Yost to name him as one of his five starters. After Ventura pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the Rangers on Monday there really wasn't a choice for Yost.

"We knew this was probably the way it was going to go," Yost said after Ventura pitched six innings of four-hit ball in a St. Patrick's Night, 6-0, greening of the Rangers at Surprise Stadium. "After tonight I think we've just seen enough. There's no reason not to announce this now." -Royals.com


Yost also told Royals.com that Ventura will slide into the third spot in the rotation behind James Shields and Jason Vargas, rather than as a fifth starter like many expected. This spring, Ventura has a 1.76 ERA over 15.1 innings and has held batters to a .185 average.

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Now is the time for Kansas City Royals’ Duffy

After missing much of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, it appears that Danny Duffy is ready to claim a spot in the Kansas City Royals’ rotation for the rest of this season and possibly next season as well.

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Duffy, who has replaced the struggling Wade Davis in the starting rotation, shut down the Twins in his latest start. He pitched 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and no runs, while striking out seven. Perhaps the most important stat from that start, however, was that Duffy did not allow a walk. It was the first start in his career that he didn’t issue a free pass.

The knock on Duffy has always been his lack of control. And pitchers that come back from Tommy John surgery tend to struggle finding a feel for the strike zone initially. In his only other two starts this season, Duffy walked two batters in 3.2 innings and three batters in 6 innings.

In Duffy’s three years pitching in the majors, he has a walk rate of 4.5/9. While the walks tend to pile up for the talented southpaw, he has always shown strike out potential, with a strike out rate of 8.0/9 for his career.

Duffy was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft and coming into the 2011 season, he was ranked as the 68th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. So the potential has always been there.

The 6-foot-3 lefty spent six years in the minor leagues, earning 30-16 record, with an impressive 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His minor league K/9 is 10.6 and his BB/9 is 3.0, considerably less than his 4.5 mark in the majors.

Duffy debuted in 2011, starting 20 games and finishing with a 4-8 record and a 5.64 ERA. He showed improvement in 2012 before his injury. He started six games and recorded a 3.90 ERA.

While the Tommy John injury delayed his development, Duffy appears to be back on track. He has a chance to show that he is a big part of the Royals’ future. If he can finish this season strong and continue to improve with his control, he should lock up a spot in next year’s starting five and perhaps beyond.

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Here Comes Duffy

The Kansas City Royals were poised to make it “Our Time” in 2012 before star pitcher Danny Duffy found his way to Tommy John surgery.  The 2013 Royals, who are now four games back of both the division and the wild card, have suddenly taken on a successful feel.  Danny Duffy is set to return.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

May 13, 2012 would be the most recent time that Danny Duffy, once believed to be the future ace of the ballclub, would take the mound as a Kansas City Royal.  Not long after that, it was determined that Duffy would require “Tommy John” surgery and his season plus most of the next one, would be lost.

Duffy would begin the long process of recovery.  Physical therapy would lead to soft tossing a ball.  Eventually, playing catch on level ground and long toss would assist the young lefty in building up the strength that he needed to get back on the mound.  On May 26, 2013, just over a year since his last pitch, he would throw his first one in a AA rehab assignment with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  The initial outings were short but productive, seeing Duffy rack up 15 strikeouts in his first three appearances, spanning just 10 innings, while only walking four.  He would allow 12 hits but would limit his early opponents to five earned-runs.  He was on his way to AAA Omaha to continue his work with the Stormchasers.

Success was moderate but noticeable as he continued his walk back to the majors.  His second appearance in Omaha on June 10 would be his worst yet, yielding seven runs on seven hits and two walks without striking out a batter.  He would only last two-and-one-third of an inning and many started to wonder if he was rushing back.  His next start would only last three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks, though he would strike out five this time around.  Concerns began to mount.

Concerns were laid to rest shortly thereafter as Duffy proved that those two outings would be the shortest of his season, never failing to reach five innings again through his next eight starts.  He would never walk more than three batters the rest of the season, strike out fewer than four hitters only one time, and never yield more than four runs, which he only did twice.  His season reached a pinnacle as he made one more rehab start at AA on July 17.  That day, Duffy would last five-and-one-third of an inning, striking out a season best 13 batters and walking only one.

Duffy would return to AAA to make two more starts, both impressive, and seemingly rounded out his minor league stint for 2013.

Duffy’s season thus far has given seen him surrender seven home runs, walk 27, strikeout 77, surrender 59 hits and allow opposing batters to hit .250 against him over 64 innings pitched.

Tomorrow, August 7, 2013 is opening day for Danny Duffy.  He will return to the mound at Kauffman Stadium for the first time in almost 15 months.  He will take the ball as the starter for the Royals in the middle of a playoff run and look to solidify the rotation.

Duffy is back.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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What to do with Wade Davis?

When the Royals made a splash this off-season by acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, they figured they were getting two above average Major League pitchers that would solidify their rotation right away.

Shields and Davis

Shields has been as advertised, but Davis has quite frankly been terrible.

Davis’ ERA is approaching 6.00 (5.92) and his record has dropped to 4-8. In 97.1 innings pitched, Wade sports a 1.80 WHIP.

It’s not that Davis isn’t talented enough to be an effective starter. He posted respectable numbers in two seasons as a starter with the Rays. In 2010, he started 29 games and went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA. In 2011, Davis also started 29 games, with a 4.45 ERA and an 11-10 record.

When you compare the numbers from those two seasons as a starter, there are a few alarming trends. Most notably, Davis’ hits per nine and walks per nine are way up. This season, Davis is allowing a whopping 12.2 hits per nine and 4.1 walks per nine.

Davis spent all of 2012 as a reliever for the Rays, and was great. In 54 appearances, Davis was 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA and a career-high 11.1 K/9.

So the question for the Royals becomes, do you leave Davis in the rotation and hope for the best, or do you make a switch and move him into a bullpen that is already very deep?

It’s not an easy question to answer. He has proven that he can be an effective reliever and with the Royals needing to make a move in the standings, they may not be able to stomach many more of his bad starts.

The Royals have two good candidates to take Davis’ spot in the rotation in rehabbing starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Duffy is further along in his rehab than Paulino, but whenever they are ready they could challenge for Davis’ starting gig.

Both Duffy and Paulino still have hurdles they need to climb before returning to the majors, but once they return it would make sense to move Davis back into the bullpen.

Until they return though, Davis has an opportunity to turn around his season and make a case that he still belongs in the rotation.

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Second half story lines for the Royals

The Royals needed the All-Star break to refresh and regroup after losing five straight games. Kansas City now has a record of 43-49 and sits eight games behind the first place Tigers. The second half of the season should offer up many story lines for the Royals. Here are a few worth highlighting:

Eric Hosmer Savior

Can Eric Hosmer continue his hot hitting?
After a very slow start, especially in the power department, Hosmer has turned around his season in a big way. Over the past month, Hosmer is swinging a hot bat. He is hitting .317 with 7 home runs, 16 RBI and 16 runs. The 7 home runs are significant because Hosmer didn’t hit his second homer until June 13. The Royals are currently a below average offensive team (24th in runs scored and 29th in home runs) and they will count on Hosmer to provide a resurgence in the second half.

Will Billy Butler rediscover his power stroke?
Butler had a breakout year in 2012, clubbing a career-high 29 homers and driving in 107 runs. The big DH has only 8 home runs and 49 RBI before the All-Star break and his batting average is down to .271. Butler has three seasons with a batting average over .300 and is a .297 lifetime hitter, so his average should see a boost in the second half. But the question is whether his power will return or if 2012 was just an anomaly. Before last season Butler was known as more of a doubles hitter than a home run masher. His previous high in home runs was 21 in 2009. As mentioned previously, the Royals are second to last overall in home runs. If they want to move up in this category, their clean up hitter will need to pick up his pace.

Will Danny Duffy join the starting rotation?
Duffy is currently rehabbing from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in June of 2012. On Wednesday, Duffy fanned 13 batters in 5.1 innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Duffy is clearly talented enough to earn back a spot in the rotation, and there is an opportunity with Bruce Chen now in the fifth spot. The question is really whether Duffy will make a complete comeback from the surgery and become the promising pitcher he was before the operation.

Is Wade Davis better off in the bullpen?
It’s no secret that Davis has struggled as a starting pitcher this year. After coming over from Tampa Bay in the off-season, the Royals had high expectations for the right-hander. So far he has disappointed. His ERA is approaching 6.00 and he is 4-8 in the first half. Davis had a career year with Tampa Bay in his 2012 role as a reliever. He appeared in 54 games, all in relief, and pitched to a 2.43 ERA and posted a career-high 11.1 K/9. He clearly has the skills to be effective pitching out of the bullpen. If the Royals want to make the move, it could be a major shot in the arm for what is already a very good bullpen.

Will anyone emerge at second base?
The Royals just optioned Johnny Giavotella to Triple-A Omaha after what was basically a 10-game audition. Giavotella was not impressive in his limited time with the Royals, posting a line of .210/.289/.265. The choices now at second base include Elliot Johnson, Chris Getz and Miguel Tejada. Johnson has flashed good speed this season, with 12 stolen bases in the first half. He stole 18 last year in limited action with the Rays. His batting average is not good (.210), however, so he will need to improve in that regard. Getz isn’t hitting much better at .214 for the year. Tejada has only started seven games at second base this year, but is the best hitter of the three, sporting a .278 batting average. Three of his last six starts have come at second base though, so he might be settling in as the top option.

Will the group of Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and David Lough be enough in the outfield?
Alex Gordon is locked in to the job in left field, but the other two outfield spots are going to be split between Cain, Dyson and Lough. With Jeff Francoeur no longer on the roster, this outfield trio will be counted on in the second half. Cain is an intriguing source of speed with some power, while Dyson is an even better source of speed with virtually no power. Lough is more of a pure hitter with some speed and power. One, or even two, of these three will need to have a strong second half if the Royals want to be competitive this year.

Will the Royals be buyers or sellers?
The Royals should be active at the deadline one way or the other. If they can hold their ground or move up in the standings, they could become buyers. Because they were so aggressive in the off-season, it may be tough to sell assets at the break. There are plenty of players that could fetch good returns, but the Royals saw themselves as contenders after a busy off-season and might be reluctant to give up on the season. The schedule leading up to the July 31 trade deadline includes a three game set with the Tigers, four home games against the Orioles, three road games against the White Sox and two road games against the Twins. The first seven games will be tough and could be key in determining the Royals’ course of action. One option if they do become sellers would be to target a big return for current closer Greg Holland. Holland could return the Royals a package of top-tier prospects and they have depth in the back-end of the bullpen with Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera. If things go well after the break, the Royals could look for an upgrade at second base (there have been some Chase Utley rumors) or to add another arm for the starting rotation.

Can the Royals make a move in the AL Central?
The Royals have a big opportunity to quickly make up some ground in the division. They open the second half with a three games series with the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. If they want to contend in the Central, the Royals will have to catch up to the Indians as well, who currently sit 1.5 games behind the Tigers. In order to climb the standings over two very good teams, the Royals will need to make some savvy moves (whether buying or selling). They will also need many of the previously mentioned story lines to end up in their favor. It should be an exciting second half of the season and the Royals will play a role in deciding the outcome of the AL Central. Whether it is as a contender or as a spoiler remains to be determined.

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Duffy begins rehab ahead of Naturals Homestand

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. – The Naturals’ parent club, the Kansas City Royals announced  that starting pitcher Danny Duffy will begin his Major League rehab assignment with the Naturals on Sunday against the San Antonio Missions.

Duffy is expected to be with the Naturals for their upcoming homestand that begins on Tuesday May 28th.

Last season the hard-throwing lefthander made the Royals starting rotation out of Spring Training and made six starts, going 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA, striking out 28 batters in 27⅔ innings, before being placed in the Disabled List on May 14 with a left elbow injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 13.

A major contributor on the Naturals Texas League Championship team, Duffy made two post-season starts and earned the win in the opening game of the Texas League Championship Series against the Midland RockHounds. Duffy went 5-2 with a 2.95 ERA in seven regular season starts with the Naturals in 2010.

Duffy is the second former Natural to return to the team on a rehab assignment, joining Greg Holland who returned to Northwest Arkansas for two games in 2012.

The Southern California-native will wear number 41 for the Naturals. The Naturals roster is at the Texas League limit of 25 players, plus Duffy who is on a Major League rehab assignment.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and proud host of the 77th Annual Texas League All Star Game. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.

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Who Is Number Two In KC Rotation?

The Kansas City Royals took huge measures this offseason to fix their number one on-field issue, the rotation.  The addition of James Shields gave them a legitimate ace pitcher at the front of their rotation.  The rebuilt rotation looks stronger but leaves the question open: Who’s number two?

Rotation

Throughout 2012 the opinion around the Royals fanbase was very similar.  Many people felt that the team was full of pitchers that projected as the fourth or fifth best pitcher in a rotation.  There was no clear cut “ace” nor was there anyone that the fans felt confident in taking the mound to stop a losing streak.  The team had major league quality pitching, it just was not elite.

Dayton Moore seemingly set out to fix that during the end of 2012 and into the offseason.  A three year contract was reached with Jeremy Guthrie, who had pitched very well after joining the Royals during the second half of 2012, and trades were made for Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana.  The fifth spot is up for grabs this spring and eventually Danny Duffy will join these four to round out the starting five.

Shields obviously will head line the starting rotation for the Royals and is the type of pitcher that would headline most rotations across baseball.  Last year was a team full of rotation guys that projected as four and five starters, this year, it appears that the rotation may be full of guys that are top-three style pitchers.

Looking at the four starters that are set into the rotation this season, where will they rank at the end of 2013?

Wade Davis: Number Four
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Davis has been a solid Major League pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In four seasons he has proven to be a durable starter and a reliable relief pitcher.  The Royals brought him in as insurance and an upgrade over the pitchers they currently had, but he was never projected to be near the top of the rotation.  Davis will provide some inning-eating starts throughout the summer and be serviceable in his role, but ultimately will remain as a lower-rotation starter that may end up back in the bullpen before long if other pitchers are pitching well when Duffy returns.

Ervin Santana: Number Three
MARINEROS-ANGELINOS
Santana is the pitcher that the Royals most hope can realize his potential.  In eight seasons of starting pitching for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana has won 16 or more games three times in his career.  He has also lost 12 or more games three times as well.  An up-and-down career has seen moments of brilliance and frustration for Santana.  The Royals will hope that Dave Eiland can work with Santana on mechanical flaws in his delivery and help him regain his top-of-the-rotation form.  Santana should be able to be the number three starter when the smoke clears, though Kansas City may be hoping he is better than that.

Jeremy Guthrie: Number Two
JeremyGuthrie
Looking at past performance of all three starters would rank Guthrie much lower in this conversation.  However, in recent interviews Guthrie has talked very openly about a renewed confidence, a satisfaction with management and coaching and overcoming a mental block that he felt kept him for being a better pitcher in Colorado.  He has spoken to the fact that Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher friendly environment and that he feels that he has one of the best defenses in the league behind him.  The confidence shows in his statistics from last season, with nearly all of his stats showing best in his career type numbers.  He is pitching to contact, keeping the ball in the park, and letting his defense do the work.

By the time the smoke clears on the 2013 season, the Royals will be looking at a rotation that will feature top-tier players at most of the slots.  Jeremy Guthrie has every opportunity to become a great part of that rotation for the next three years.

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

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Royals Mid-Term Report Card By Position

As we sit at the All-Star Break, we take some time to reflect on the Kansas City Royals performance by position in the first half of the season.

There is no denying that expectations were higher for this Royals team. With this being the first year having most of the young players Royals’ fans have been hearing about starting the season with the team, it is only natural that fans expected to see production right away. Well, for the first week, things looked pretty decent. Then Johnny Broxton blew a game in Oakland and everything went to hell in a handbasket for 2 weeks. The Royals proceeded to get blown out on their home opener in front of a sold out crowd, in the second of 12 consecutive losses. Once the Royals finally snapped their losing streak, they actually began playing well. Despite several more injuries to key players, they managed to claw back to 5-6 games out of first place. Then they hit a swoon last week that puts them currently at 37-47 and 9 1/2 games out of first place in the division. How has each position performed? We will fill you in on that right now:

Starting Pitcher-C minus

People may feel like this is being too generous. But based on the injuries to guys like Duffy and Paulino, what more could you expect? Bruce Chen has regressed a little, and Luke Hochevar has been his same unreliable and inconsistent self. But Luis Mendoza has been a pleasant surprise, and guys like Vin Mazzarro, Nate Adcock, and Everett Teaford have done an ok job filling in. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Sanchez, I might be able to give this group a B minus.

Catcher-B
Brayan Pena will always be Brayan Pena. But this year he has solidified himself as a solid clubhouse presence as well as a high quality backup catcher. He and Humberto Quintero had to start more games than the Royals would have preferred due to Salvador Perez‘s knee injury, but that’s what they’re there for. Quintero is now gone, and since Perez returned from injury, he has been a monster in every respect. It would not surprise me if the Catcher position receives an A for its final grade based on what Perez is able to contribute in the second half of the season.

First Base-D plus

Eric Hosmer now has his batting average up to .231. This is saying something, considering it doesn’t seem that long ago that he was hitting a meager .179. The Royals and their fans expected more out of Hosmer this season, as they should have. I believe he will turn it around and have a very solid 2nd half of the season.

2nd Base-B

The tandem of Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz (when he as been healthy) has certainly outpaced expectations for this year. Johnny Giovatella’s less than inspiring performance after getting called up is certainly a downer, but overall I think the Royals have gotten more offensively than they expected to out of the 2nd Base position.

3rd Base-A

Mike Moustakas has exceeded all expectations both offensively and defensively. He is currently on pace for 29 HR’s and 91 RBI. While nobody doubted he could put up numbers like this eventually, nobody expected it to come this year. On top of that, he is playing gold glove calibur defense.

Shortstop-A

Alcides Escobar is hitting .307 and slugging .410. He also has 21 doubles at the break. And is probably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Yes, we will take that.

Outfield-C

Defensively, the trio of Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, and Jarrod Dyson has performed quite well. Offensively, however, the production coming from the 3 outfield spots is well below where it was last year and well below where anyone expected it to be this year. After a slow start, Alex Gordon has now raised his batting average to .274 with 27 doubles. However, his 5 HR’s are well off the pace of the 23 that he clubbed in 2011. His speed on the basebaths has also somehow disappeared, as he sits at 3 SB’s after swiping 17 bags last year. Jeff Francoeur has been similarly disappointing at the plate. After hitting .285 with 20 HR, 85 RBI, and 22 SB’s a season ago, he currently sits with a batting average of .251, 7 HR, 25 RBI, and just 1 SB. This is far from the kind of production they were hoping for in 2012, and is the primary reason Royals fans are clamoring for Wil Myers to replace Frenchy in RF. And the lack of production in CF is almost entirely due to the injury of Lorenzo Cain, who is scheduled to return this coming weekend. Jarrod Dyson is a nice player with a limited skillset, so he is performing about as well as one could reasonably expect him to. So once Cain comes back we should see an uptick in production from the CF position.

Bullpen-A minus

A lot has been asked of this bullpen and for the most part they have delivered. Even with Joakim Soria going down before the season, Jonathan Broxton has stepped up and performed admirably in the closer’s role. Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, Jose Mijares, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow have also been very reliable options out of the pen. The hope is that this group was not over-used in the first half of the season and doesn’t break down, but time will tell.

Looking at these performances, it is hard to not feel somewhat optimistic about the 2nd half of the season. With drastic increases in production expected from Catcher (Perez), Right Field (Myers), Center-Field (Cain), and the opportunity for Gordon to show improvement from the first half, the Royals could find themselves in position to make some noise in the 2nd half of 2012.

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The Royals replacements are doing all right (so far)

The hits keep on coming, but it’s not Eric Hosmer hitting into better luck. With left-handed starter Danny Duffy being out for the year due to a ligament tear in his elbow, the Royals suffered another injury to a key player. The Royals already lost closer Joakim Soria for the year to Tommy John surgery. Catcher Salvador Perez won’t be back until the All-Star Break recovering from a knee injury. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain is still recovering from a groin injury he suffered early in the season. Not to mention starter Jonathan Sanchez is on the DL with biceps tendinitis. These players were supposed to be a key part of the 2012 season and help make the Royals competitive. Instead, other players are filling the void.

With the loss of Danny Duffy for the year and Jonathan Sanchez out for a few weeks, pitchers Luis Mendoza and Vin Mazzaro are in the rotation. Mendoza and Mazzaro don’t inspire much confidence from Royals fans. But last Sunday, Mendoza pitched well, filling in for injured Duffy. And Tuesday night Mazzaro was unMazzaro like and pitched well enough against the Texas Rangers to win the game.

Mendoza and Mazzaro know they have a great opportunity to prove they belong with the Royals. But they need to pitch deep into games and keep the runs down if they have any chance to stay in the rotation.

Sometimes closer Jonathan Broxton makes the ninth inning more interesting than it needs to be. But in 15 games, Broxton has eight saves and until last night’s game with Baltimore, he’s held the opposing team scoreless with a 1.32 ERA. Many fans were surprised the Royals got Broxton in the off-season, but with the loss of Soria, it looks like a smart move.

Of course the Royals would prefer to have Salvador Perez behind the plate, but Humberto Quintero and Brayan Pena are holding their own. Interesting stats: before Wednesday’s game with the Baltimore Orioles, Quintero and Pena had the same amount of hits (15), doubles (6), RBI (7) and batting average (.238). Which mean they’re about the same player performance wise and one of them will be the backup catcher when Perez returns.

With Lorenzo Cain out since early April, Jarrod Dyson was plugged in to fill the void. After a forgettable two-game stint which sent him back to Omaha, Dyson was recalled a couple of weeks later and has done well in 18 games with a .304/.383/.362 average with 17 runs, 24 hits and nine walks. However, despite his speed, Dyson only has four stolen bases and was caught stealing twice.

If Dyson continues to play well, he presents the Royals with a dilemma when Cain returns. Do the Royals keep Dyson as the starting center fielder and put Cain on the bench or does Dyson go to the bench or Omaha and Cain becomes the starting center fielder? As long as Dyson plays well and the team is winning, the Royals will cross that bridge when they get there.

Despite all the injuries, the Royals are playing better baseball. And this is with Hosmer still struggling at the plate and Alex Gordon striking out more often and getting less hits and runs. On the positive side, Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar are playing well in the infield. The bullpen is pitching better and starters Bruce Chen and Paulino are pitching well.

It’s hard to forget the 12 game losing streak earlier this season, but fans have to be encouraged by the way the Royals are playing lately, despite all the injuries. Perhaps the team is playing up to their potential. Now the Royals need Eric Hosmer to be Eric Hosmer again.

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