Tag Archive | "Grabs"

Cardinals Rotation In The Spotlight

The St. Louis Cardinals entered spring training with the fifth starter position in the rotation up for grabs.  It appears that the spotlight on that competition will shine bright over the next few days.

Trevor Rosenthal - photo from FoxSportsMidwest

Trevor Rosenthal – photo from FoxSportsMidwest

As the spring air was pierced by the sounds of pitchers and catchers warming up and early batting practice taking place, the Cardinals settled in for a competition for the final spot in the rotation.  The guys gearing up for that competition were Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly.

It did not take long for plans to change.  Veteran ace Chris Carpenter broke the news that he would not be able to compete this year and Lance Lynn was all but assured his spot as the number four starter.

Then there were three.

Miller appeared to be the favorite early on based on his performance last year, his off season work, and the perception that the top pitching prospect in the organization was ready to take the next step.  The trio of right handers have seen very little time to this point in the spring and, despite much speculation, the team has not been forthcoming with any news.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Rosenthal had proven that they could handle the pressure of the big leagues down the stretch and repeatedly in the post season last year.  Kelly specifically showed over and over again that he could pitch in the rotation after taking over for Jaime Garcia last season due to injury.

Rumors began swirling on Thursday morning, while the team was dealing with news about shortstop Rafael Furcal, that there had been progress in making a decision in the starter competition.  One report surfaced saying that the Cardinals held a meeting for their starting pitchers, a meeting that Rosenthal did not attend.

Possibly the most telling and interesting part of that case is that minor league starters were in the same meeting.  Signs are pointing to Rosenthal’s fate being decided and he may very well open the season in the bullpen for St. Louis.

Now there are two.

The two pitchers left in the competition will take their cases to the mound on Thursday and Friday with Kelly starting Thursday afternoon and Miller toeing the rubber on Friday.  While it would be surprising if these two starts formed the firm decision in the mind of the Cardinals management, it would seem that the spotlight is shining on the next few games to showcase the talent the Cardinals have available.

The decision could come as soon as this weekend.  It will most likely come sometime around March 15.  Ultimately, the decision is coming soon and it’s down to two young pitchers that have shown they can be successful at the major league level.

Soon, there will be one…

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

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Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

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

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Not So Quick – Cards Miller Cleared To Throw

St. Louis Cardinal fans and beat writers jumped quickly to the conclusion that Shelby Miller was “out of the competition” for a spot in the opening rotation due to reported shoulder stiffness on Wednesday.

Shelby Miller is showing up in shape to compete for the opening in the rotation.

News broke across the internet out of Jupiter, Florida on Wednesday that 22 year old Cardinal prospect Shelby Miller had sat out throwing drills on Wednesday with “shoulder tightness” according to the team.  Fans held their breath and pundits declared that the three way competition between Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly for the final rotation spot was now down to two.

It did not seem to matter that manager Mike Matheny downplayed the problem saying that the team was not concerned about it.  No matter that the tightness appeared overnight and the righty did not feel any pain when he was throwing on Tuesday.  Never mind that the pitcher himself said that he would be back by the end of the week.  A fanbase that is still reeling from the loss of Chris Carpenter was ready to hit the panic button.

Thursday morning came and the team announced that Miller had been cleared to throw.  While they would continue with a conservative path and not push the hurler into games this weekend, there are no restrictions on the young man at this point and they expect him to be in game action early next week.

The fifth spot in the rotation is still up for grabs and is still locked into a three-way battle between some very exciting, young arms.

Don’t count Shelby Miller out just yet.

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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
WadeDavis
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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Where Is The Fire?

Maybe I am alone on this, but one of the pieces missing in recent Kansas City Royals teams is the lack of fire. I am not talking about brawls, and throwing 98 mph fastball up and in occasionally. The fire that I think has been missing, is the fire that shows in the bottom of the 8th inning. Right after a batter fails to drive in the tying run with one out. The TV cameras tend to follow that guy in to the dugout as he strolls down the steps, grabs his cup of Gatorade from the cooler and takes his spot on the bench. He will just sit there and watch the game with no emotion at all, as if losing was accepted and expected. Does this bother anyone else? Does anyone else ever think about that?

That's passion!

What I want to see is that player that reacts immediately with frustration of not coming through for the team. He flies down the steps and slams his helmet in to the rack. He wants to win so badly and he had the chance to make it happen and did not. I am not saying he needs to throw the cooler around, or beat the sunflower seed boxes with a wild bat swing, but I look for him to be upset and show it. The baseball games in Major League Baseball are not easy to win. When you have the chance to make it happen, you need to do so. Or at least show some emotion upon failing to do so.
One promising thing about the Royals’ outlook for the next few years is that the ball clubs and players in the minor leagues have a history of winning and play the game and expect to win. Along with that is how bad it feels to lose. I will be watching very closely as these young men begin to show up in the majors and are put into situations with the game on the line. Let’s pay attention to how well they perform and perhaps notice even more, how they react when they don’t come through with that game tying hit. Even if they are not able to get that bunt down move the runners over when it is asked of them.

Zack Greinke is a great talent, a rare mix of great skill and very little emotion. At least his emotion is on the inside as we all know his insides were boiling pretty good. I am curious to see if this year of playing winning baseball allows him to find a comfort level, open up and display some outward emotion with teammates and fans. The love for Zack in Kansas City was pretty much one sided and I hope in his case he can relax and be comfortable in winning, comfortable with himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not expect the fire when there is no score in the 3rd inning with nobody on base. But when the game is on the line, you bet I want to see some emotion. Emotion like that has been missing at Kauffman Stadium. Of course also missing has been talent and a winning attitude. Winning is contagious, and certainly fans in Kansas City expect the players to give 100% in every opportunity. Believe me, fans will care when winning is a tradition in Kansas City again. And the fans will not have much tolerance for players that don’t have winning in there blood.

For the Royals, does attitude come before winning or does winning create the attitude? I think you believe first, and when you believe and expect to succeed, not doing so bothers you. We know as fans it has bothered us.

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When Butler Hits A Homer, He Hits It A Ton

Normally I do not chime in on the Royals side of the website much. I am a Cardinal fan, I fully admit to that. I have always followed the boys in blue very closely, however, and when a story pops up that grabs my attention, I enjoy being able to bring it out there to all of you.

I started following Billy Butler’s career around the time he arrived in the majors. I am not much of a prospect junkie like our writers Matt Kelsey and Justin Hulsey and I will leave the “future of the franchise” stuff to them. I will even admit to not paying a whole ton of attention to Mr. Butler until he grabbed an everyday role in 2009 and clubbed 21 home runs and 93 runs batted in. While his numbers grabbed my attention, his personality and beliefs captured my desire to learn more about him.

You see, in 2010, Billy Butler started a campaign called “Hit It A Ton”. For every home run Billy hits during the 2010 season, he will donate one ton of food to a local food pantry (Bishop Sullivan Center’s St. James Place). He has also successfully recruited five corporate sponsors to match that donation, bringing the total for each home run to six tons of food.

Butler is instrumental in his work with St. James Place, working in the food kitchen along with his wife as well as making the donations to the pantry itself. Due to Butler’s work in the community, his founding of the “Hit It A Ton” campaign, and his tireless work with St. James Place, he has been nominated as the Royals Representative for the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award.

Butler has connected for 15 home runs this season, sending 90 tons of food to St. James Place for their food pantry. He is also posting a career high .318 batting average and has almost raised his career batting average to the .300 plateau as it sits at .298.

Butler’s career should be an interesting one to watch for Royals fans. Hopefully through his work with local charities and his personality, he will become a player that more people from around the nation take notice of.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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