Tag Archive | "Eric Hosmer"

I really like this Lorenzo Cain fellow

In a way, the 2013 performance of center fielder Lorenzo Cain is bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad he’s playing well, especially with the struggling Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the lineup. But if Cain stayed healthy last year, would he play as well in 2012 as he is now? It’s hard to say, but Cain played well before various leg injuries limited him to 61 games, ending up with a .266/.316/.419 line with 222 at-bats, 31 RBI, nine doubles, seven home runs, striking out 56 times, drawing 15 walks and stealing 10 bases.

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Cain knew a good 2013 performance would decide if he was the Royals center fielder of the future or another has-been. In the offseason, Cain worked on strengthening his legs to avoid the leg and hip injuries that plagued him last year. And so far, it’s paying off. He’s played 17 of 18 games with a .350/.420/.483 line, 60 at-bats, nine RBI, five doubles, a home run with 14 strikeouts, six walks and two stolen bases.

Against lefties, Cain has a .357/.500/.357 line with 14 at-bats, four RBI, two strikeouts and three walks. Against righties, Cain has a .348/.392/.522 line with 46 at-bats, five RBI, five doubles, a home run with 12 strikeouts and three walks. He’s hitting and scoring well against left and right handed pitching, though he’s faced more righties than lefties.

Among regular staring position players, Cain leads the team in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.420), on-base percentage with slugging (.904) and he’s got caught stealing three times. Actually, he leads the American League in being caught stealing, so his running game needs some work.

Cain has a .970 fielding percentage in center field, with the league fielding percentage being .990. His range factor per nine innings as a center fielder is 2.41, with the league range factor per nine innings is at 2.66. He’s only committed one error in 119.2 innings of play, so while his current defense is below league average, he’s far from a defensive liability in the field.

It’s unlikely Cain will keep up his high batting average and he won’t hit a lot of home runs. But so far, Cain is a good center fielder who can hit, get on base and play average defense. If he stays healthy (and there’s still a question if he can) and works on his running game, Cain will be a solid center fielder for the Royals. And at 27, he’s got the potential to improve. With the Royals offense being what it is, let’s hope he does improve.

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It’s only two games, but…

It’s only two games. It’s early in the season. It’s Chicago cold and damp compared to the hot, dry air of Arizona. Yes, there’s reasons to not worry about the Royals 0-2 start. But It’s the way they’ve lost those two games which cause concern, even this early in the season.

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Opening Day in Chicago. James Shields pitched well, striking out six and giving up eight hits and a home run over six innings, a performance worthy of an ace starter. But Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale was that much better, striking out seven, giving up seven hits over 7.2 scoreless innings, keeping a faltering Royals offense in check on the way to a 1-0 Chicago victory.

The hot Royals Spring Training offense cooled off with seven hits, all singles. They drew three walks and had nine strikeouts. There was a glimmer of hope in the Royals ninth, with Eric Hosmer at second with two outs. But the free-swinging Jeff Francoeur hacked at the first pitched offered, a weak groundout to the shortstop to end the game. It’s only one game and 2008 was the last time the Royals won on Opening Day. But the way they lost was troubling, because it was like the way they’ve lost before. But there’s always the next game.

Game two Royals starter Ervin Santana gave up a league leading 39 home runs last season. He has a habit of giving up home runs, but it was another cold day in Chicago, so the long ball shouldn’t be a factor for Santana.

In the second game, Santana pitched six innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs, striking out eight and issuing a walk. Not a bad outing. Oh, I forgot to mention three of the four earned runs were home runs. Maybe it wasn’t such a good outing.

White Sox starter Jake Peavy pitched six innings, giving up four hits, two runs, striking out six and didn’t walk anyone. The Sox bullpen kept the Royals scoreless, giving the Sox a 5-2 victory.

The Royals offense had five hits this time, one of them a double. But the team only walked once and struck out seven times, with a .182 team batting average. Once again, Francoeur was the last Royal to bat in the ninth, but this time he took a called strike before grounding out to the pitcher to end the game. At least Francoeur took a pitch before swinging.

There was a bright spot in both games. In four innings of work, the Royals bullpen struck out three and gave up two walks and a run. By the way, the run was a home run gave up by Luke Hochevar. At least he didn’t give up four or five runs like he usually does, so there’s the bright spot.

It’s only two games in early April. The weather will warm up and so will the Royals. But the same old pattern of losing by not walking, not scoring runs and having the pitching staff give up home runs will test an already frustrated fan base. It makes it too easy to say “It’s the same old Royals.” And last April’s 12 game losing streak is still fresh in fan’s minds. If the Royals win Thursday’s game and play well in Philadelphia, these first two games won’t matter. But if the 2013 Royals play like the 2012 Royals, it’s going to be a long season.

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Welcome To Kansas City Royals Baseball James Shields

The biggest move of the winter took center stage on Opening Day for the Kansas City Royals.  No longer a team that is rebuilding, David Glass and company took steps this off-season to become contenders.

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The top prospect in the organization was packaged away in order to get the one thing the Royals felt they needed more than anything else: a pitcher that could truly be an ace.  In addition, they got a pitcher who possesses the nickname to define his role with the club.  Welcome to 2013 Royals baseball, let us introduce “Big Game” James Shields.

Opening Day showed the fans exactly what they wanted to see.  Shields took the mound and pitched like the ace that he is.  He got in small bits of trouble, refused to be shook up about it, and fought out of the jams.  He struck out six batters without issuing a single free pass.  He battled, giving up eight hits and still managed to pitch six innings.  He showed Royals fans that he was exactly as advertised.

Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera furthered what fans already knew.  The rebuilt rotation would be supported by the strength of the team the last few years: the bullpen.  They were not perfect, but the were close enough.  Three strikeouts, one walk, and two innings later, the Royals pitching staff had put the team in a great position to win a baseball game.  With the exception of one poor pitch from their starter, the Royals were great.  All they needed was two runs to win the game.

That, on the other hand, proved to be difficult.  White Sox starter Chris Sale was Shields-like in his own right.  He scattered hits, kept guys off the bases, and stayed out of trouble.  He went deep into the game and then allowed his bullpen to close the door.  The Royals had their chances, but simply could not deliver.  Ultimately, it came down to the top of the ninth inning with the potential game-tying run sitting in scoring position at second base.  Eric Hosmer had drawn a walk and stole second, trying to ignite something to happen.

Jeff Francoeur grounded out weakly to the shortstop, unable to beat out a possible infield single and drawing the curtain on the first game of the season.

Do not fret, Royals fans, this offense will not sputter like this frequently.  If Shields continues to give up one run per outing, he will find himself winning a lot of games in Royals blue.

But for one day, at the beginning of the 2013 campaign, it sure felt a lot like deja vu.

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

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Are the Royals For Real This Year?

I believe the Royals will do well this year. I know, there’s been a few years when it seemed the Royals would do well and they fell flat (like 2004, 2009 and 2012). If there’s any team out there who crushes fan’s expectations and pulls the rug out from underneath their fans, it’s the Kansas City Royals.

Kauffman Stadium

But 2013 isn’t like the hopeful mirage of the 2012 season. Yes, there was optimism in 2012, but with the exception of the bullpen, the team wasn’t that good. Throw in the injuries, the dismal play of Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur, the inconsistent play of Mike Moustakas and the 12-game losing streak in April, it’s a surprise the Royals finished as well as they did.

But this year, things are different. The Royals overhauled the starting rotation by getting James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis and resigning Jeremy Guthrie. Last year’s Opening Day starter, Bruce Chen, is in the bullpen. So is Luke Hochevar. The bullpen is strong and should be stronger with the improved starting rotation pitching more innings. Except for the question marks of right fielder Jeff Francoeur and second baseman Chris Getz, the Royals have a competitive lineup, a lineup not relying on washed-up veterans like Juan Gonzalez or Jose Guillen (the jury is still out on Francoeur). And unlike the Injury Bug Attack of Two Aught Twelve which decimated a part of the team, this spring has almost been injury-free. And the Royals are Cactus League Champions, which doesn’t mean anything, but at least they played well.

And the team did things that made sense. Like moving Hochevar to the bullpen instead of forcing him to be a starter. Choosing Luis Mendoza over Chen as the fifth starter. Making Getz the starting second baseman (Johnny Giavotella didn’t play well enough to earn a spot). The Royals didn’t do anything this spring that made you go, “what were they thinking?” Well, Sluggerrr getting a lap dance at a 2005 bachelor party notwithstanding (Google it if you must, But I warn you it’s NSFW and a little, well, awkward).

But we are talking about the Royals. The Royals starters got roughed up in a few Spring Training games. Lately, lefty reliever Tim Collins hasn’t been pitching well. Eric Hosmer might be playing right field and Billy Butler might be at first base in Interleague games. Key players may suffer injuries. The momentum and winning in Spring Training may not continue into the regular season. The Royals might have another 12-game losing streak early in the season. Sure, all this happening is unlikely, but if any team can do it, the Royals can.

But not this year. I believe the Royals will play much better this season. Winning the World Series? Not likely. Winning the American League Pennant? There’s a slim chance. Winning the American League Central? Only if the Detroit Tigers suffer a rash of injuries and their offense, defense and pitching falter. A Wild Card Berth? With good teams in the A.L. East and A.L. West, it’s unlikely. Finishing above .500? I believe an 87-75 record and a second place finish in the A.L. Central behind Detroit is a realistic possibility.

I hope so anyway. I am a Royals fan, after all.

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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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Team USA Survives, Advances In March Madness

“That was the closest 9-4 ballgame I’ve ever seen,” said USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler, just minutes after I ran into him behind the USA dugout, following the United States’ critical, do-or-die victory over Canada this afternoon at Chase Field in Phoenix.

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He couldn’t have summed it up much better. It absolutely was a nailbiter. It always is, when Team USA and Canada meet on the diamond (as described in my book Miracle on Grass, when Canada shocked Team USA in the very first game of the 1999 Pan Ams, 7-6 in extra innings).

Only when Team USA’s Eric Hosmer ripped a bases-clearing double in the top of the ninth, with Team USA ahead 6-4, did anyone in the USA dugout feel comfortable.

The Americans were literally six outs from being ELIMINATED from this World Baseball Classic. They trailed Canada 3-2, going to the 8th inning. Yes, it would have been a natural disaster had Team USA lost this game. MLB was counting on them for higher TV ratings and higher ticket revenues for the next round in Miami, and possibly the finals in San Francisco.

When Canada’s Michael Saunders launched a 2-run homer in the second inning of USA starter Derek Holland, we were already off to a bad start. But the Americans battled back and tied it 2-2 in the 4th. Canada went back ahead 3-2 on a base hit by Adam Loewen, and it stayed that way until the critical 8th. That’s when Orioles star Adam Jones came up with the biggest hit of the event so far for Team USA, drilling a one out, two-run double into the left-center gap off Canadian reliever Jim Henderson. It gave Team USA a 4-3 lead.

But, just as they always do (see my column here that I wrote prior to the WBC starting): Canada fought right back, and had cut the lead to 5-4, with the bases loaded and two outs. Joe Torre went to relief pitcher Steve Cishek, to face Canadian pinch hitter Tim Smith. In what was the game’s most critical moment, Cishek got Smith to ground out to second base, securing the 5-4 lead.
The Americans then blew it open with four runs in the 9th, and all of the Canadian fans began to gather their things and walk out up the aisles and out of the stadium, as soon as Hosmer’s double cleared the bases. Craig Kimbrel came on to secure the final three outs, for Team USA.

It was a rousing way for Pool D to come to an end, and this will be remembered for the raucous fight between the two teams that failed to advance: Mexico & Canada, along with the surprising Italian team, that beat both of those squads to join the Americans in Miami.

Incredibly, Team USA came ever so close to being knocked out of the event and finishing in last place in the pool. Instead, they won Pool D outright and will meet the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy later this week in Florida.

I’m excited that they have advanced, but – if they wait as long as they did here in Phoenix to put their game faces on – I’m afraid they might not make it to the finals in San Francisco. The DR is my favorite to win the next round, and it will be up to the other three teams to decide which one grabs the second flight to California. Should be fun to watch. I will blog again during the second round. That’s all from here in Phoenix.

Here are some photos from today’s action between Team USA & Canada (use the navigation arrows to view all seven images):

<b>Anthems</b>

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National Anthems before the game.
Follow David on Twitter @miracleongrass.

David Fanucchi is the author of “Miracle on Grass” – How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a shocking upset over Cuba, capturing the only Olympic gold medal in USA Baseball history. He was the official Team USA Press Officer for both the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team and the 2006 USA World Baseball Classic Team. More information about Fanucchi and Miracle on Grass can be found on his website at www.davidfanucchi.com. Follow him on Twitter @miracleongrass.  

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Naturals Hall of Fame Debuts This Season

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SPRINGDALE, AR – The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are proud to announce the creation of the Naturals Hall of Fame. Four former notable Naturals will appear on the first ballot.  Fans, prominent community members and local media members will be voting and collaborating to determine the first member of the Naturals Hall of Fame.

“We want to recognize individuals for their accomplishments and contributions to not only the Naturals but the baseball community,” said General Manager, Eric Edelstein.

The Naturals used the following criteria used to determine eligible candidates for the Hall of Fame:

  • Players who have appeared with the club only on rehab assignments are not eligible.
  • Player or coach must not be an active member of the team.
  • Individuals who have not coached or played for the Naturals are eligible for nomination/inclusion by “veterans selection” committee beginning with the second year inductee class.

After much consideration and various rounds of discussion the Naturals have announced the candidates for the first inductee to the Naturals Hall of Fame. The inaugural ballot for the Naturals Hall of Fame includes: Mike Moustakas, Kila Ka’aihue, Eric Hosmer, and Clint Robinson.

A member of the Naturals during the 2010 championship season, Mike Moustakas batted .347 in 66 games and hit 25 doubles, 21 home runs and drove in 76 runs. Moustakas was named the 2010 Texas League Player of the Year.

Kila Ka’aihue batted .314 with 11 doubles, 26 home runs and 79 RBI in 91 games with the Naturals during their inaugural season in 2008. Ka’aihue was named the 2008 Texas League Player of the Year.

Eric Hosmer joined the Naturals late in the 2010 season and was a key part of the title run. In 50 games with the Naturals, Hosmer batted .313 with 14 doubles and 13 home runs. Hosmer hit six home runs and had 12 RBI for the Naturals during the Texas League Playoffs.

Clint Robinson won the Triple Crown in 2010, leading the Texas League in batting average (.335), home runs (29) and RBI (98). Robinson became the first player since 1999 to win the Triple Crown and only the third player in Texas League history.

The Northwest Arkansas community will get their first chance to vote starting at FanFest on Saturday, March 2 at Arvest Ballpark. Fans will also be able to vote online at nwanaturals.com. The fan votes will be tallied and will be counted as one vote.  The fan vote will be added with the votes of the Naturals Hall of Fame Committee.  The Naturals with the most votes will be declared the winner and will be the first inductee to the Naturals Hall of Fame.

The Natural with the most votes will be announced on Opening Day, Thursday, April 4 and will be inducted into the Naturals Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 17. The first 2,000 fans through the gates at Arvest Ballpark on August 17 will receive a replica plaque of the Naturals player voted into the Naturals Hall of fame. 

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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Early Patience Is Encouraging For Hosmer

The Kansas City Royals are poised to turn a corner in 2013.  Eric Hosmer and his return to form would be a big part of that.

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars - copyright i70baseball

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars – copyright i70baseball

In a dismal sophomore year for Eric Hosmer, there was an encouraging statistic that jumps out.  His power numbers took a big dip but he started to show patience at the plate and was able to increase his walks dramatically.  During his rookie campaign, Hosmer drew 34 walks and increased that number to 56 during the 2012 season.  Early on in Spring Training, he is showing good pitch selection once again.

It is hard to make much of Spring stats.  It is even harder to try to find something substantial about the stats this early.  The one thing that jumped out of the recent box scores to me was Hosmer drawing two walks and then drilling an RBI triple on Tuesday.

The two walks brings his Spring total to three, in eleven plate appearances.  His average is still low and, other than the triple, there are no extra base hits on his early record.  Still, he is driving in runs early, striking out less, and driving a higher on base percentage.  If he can translate that into his game come time for the regular season, the Royals and their fans will be very happy.

Hosmer’s power numbers will increase as his plate selection gets better.  Many fans are frustrated with the under performance from Hosmer last season and rightfully so.  The team is poised with a strong pitching staff to alter their makeup and show a willingness to win this season.  To get there, Hosmer will need to be a big part of it.

Patience will be the key to his season.

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

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The Sights Of Spring: Royals And Rangers

Spring Training opened this past weekend with a few games between the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.

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Finding positives and negatives from Spring games is hard because players may be working on a specific skill set that cause the stat lines to blur.  When a hitter is trying to go the opposite way with every swing, he may go 0-for-4 at the plate.  When a pitcher is working on a new pitch and determining if he can throw it effectively, he may walk quite a few hitters in the process.

What, then, can you take away from Spring Training games, especially early in the year?

Well, baseball is back.  The sights and sounds of the game are filling the air and the teams will be back to their home stadiums before too long.

Here at i70baseball, we are excited to be back into the swing of things.  This site holds credentials with Major League Baseball and, in order to bring our readers the benefits of these credentials, we sent a photographer to the Royals and Rangers opener on Friday.  The below slide show has a sampling of the great pictures that photographer Charles Sollars took that day.

Inside you will find pictures of Jeff Francoeur, Salvador Perez, Billy Butler, Alexi Ogando, Eric Hosmer, Miguel Tejada, Nelson Cruz, and Ned Yost.

Enjoy the sights of Spring and stay tuned…

<b>Adam Moore</b>

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Royals catcher Adam Moore takes a swing

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars and copyright i70baseball

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

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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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