Tag Archive | "Ned Yost"

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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The Royals hang on in playoff hunt

When a team like the Royals are in a Wild Card chase, every game is like a playoff game. And when they play six games against two teams ahead of them in the division, it’s important to win those games. In last Friday’s game against the A. L. Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Royals didn’t play well and lost 6-3. They rebounded in Saturday’s game and won 1-0, evening the series. In Sunday’s series finale, the Royals were tied 2-2 through seven and a half innings. Manager Ned Yost made the decision to have Jeremy Guthrie pitch the bottom half of the eighth, who at the time kept the Royals in the game.  But it was a costly decision, with Guthrie giving up a home run to Alex Avila, handing the Royals a 3-2 loss. In a crucial series, the  Royals lost two out of three games to the Tigers. It was a series the Royals really needed to win, but they didn’t.

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Next up, the Cleveland Indians. With their two losses to Detroit, the Royals needed to sweep the Indians to move up in the Wild Card standings. And after their 7-1 victory Monday night, a sweep looked possible. Royals top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura was on the hill for Tuesday’s game and for six innings, Ventura kept the Indians to one run, striking out three and walking two before handing a 3-1 lead the the Royals reliable bullpen.

But the bullpen wasn’t reliable that night. A shaky outing from Kelvin Herrera tied the game at 3-3 and Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar each gave up a run, giving the Royals a 5-3 loss. In a 162 game season, one loss isn’t a big deal. But in a tight Wild Card race, a loss could mean missing the playoffs. Had the Royals won, they would be two games back of the second wild card spot with 11 games to go. Instead, they ended up 3.5 games back. It was a game the Royals needed to win, but they didn’t.

But if there’s a theme for the 2013 Royals, it’s resiliency. With their playoff chances on the line, the Royals came back Wednesday night with a 7-2 victory. While the win keeps their playoff hopes alive, the Royals still have three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card chase, and they’re 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. With ten games remaining and an 80-72 record, time and games are running out. But the next three games at Kauffman Stadium are against the struggling Texas Rangers, one of the Wild Card hopefuls. From there, the Royals finish the season on the road against the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.

With ten games to go and 8.5 games back of the Tigers, the only chance for the Royals to make the playoffs is a Wild Card berth. To do that, they need to win seven or eight games and have key losses from other teams in the Wild Card hunt to make the playoffs. It’s a long shot, but it’s up to the Royals to win their games and make it happen.

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I-70 Conversations: The Night Shift Host Nolan Woodford

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Nolan Woodford, the host of ‘The Night Shift’ on 610 Sports Radio took a few minutes out of his schedule to talk with me. We discussed The Royals, focusing on the Shields/Myers trade with the benefit of some hindsight, how he would rate their season in general, and answered some mid-season award questions.

Paul: At the halfway point of the season, how would you evaluate the year? And what letter grade would you give it?

Nolan: The season hasn’t been a total disappointment so far – this is the closest the Royals have come to contending in a decade.  They’ve done some outstanding things and have loads of potential, but the results have been average at best, thus far.  They’re right on pace to go 78-84, which is where I had them at the start of the year.  But with the talent on this team and the way the starting rotation has performed, being under .500 should be considered underachieving.  So I would give them a C.  It’s going to be enough to get most everyone through the year, but it’s not a grade you’re particularly proud of.  There are certainly going to be opportunities for the grade to go up in the second semester.

Paul: Would you consider the Royals hitting .500 this year a success?

Nolan: Kind of.  I think the team has to go at least .500 for Ned Yost to keep his job.  But I think they’re clearly the second most talented team in the AL Central behind Detroit, which means they play a lot of games against teams they’re better than.  So while going .500 for the second time in the 21st century wouldn’t be a failure, they need to finish with a winning record.

Paul: In light of the Shields for Myers trade, does that make .500 not enough? Since KC only has Shields for 2 years and Myers is a potential future star, does that change the perception of what the Royals should do this year and next year?

Nolan: They need to make the playoffs either this year or next year.  And they have enough talent they can do so, especially if Eric Hosmer continues to produce like he has in the last few weeks.  But you traded away 6 or 7 years of Wil Myers for 2 years of James Shields.  Surely, the Tampa Bay Rays expect Wil Myers to guide them to the playoffs in that time.  So Shields needs to do the same in Kansas City.  You don’t trade away the Minor League Player of the Year if you’re not trying to win now.

Paul: Who would you consider to be the team’s MVP and Cy Young this year?

Nolan: I think the MVP is Salvador Perez with Alex Gordon a close second.  Perez is a year or two away from being the perennial All-Star starter / Gold Glove winner for Catchers in the American League.  The Royals went 2-7 when Perez was out after the death of his grandmother.  He just brings too much both to the line-up as well as the pitching staff.  There’s a reason he is considered the one absolutely untradeable commodity the Royals have.  Gordon is a close second because he’s also an All-Star candidate, a tremendous leader, and one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.  As far as Cy Young goes, while James Shields and Ervin Santana have pitched at an All-Star level, I’d give it to Greg Holland.  He averages nearly 2 strikeouts an inning and after a shaky first couple of weeks has established himself as one of the most dominant closers in baseball.

Paul: Who would you consider to be the AL’s MVP and Cy Young?

Nolan: Chris Davis is having a hell of a year in Baltimore, but to be the man you’ve gotta beat the man.  And Miguel Cabrera is still the man right now.  I would’ve gone Clay Buchholz for Cy Young before he went on the DL, but right now I’d probably go with Hisashi Iwakuma in Seattle.  At 13-0, Max Scherzer is in the discussion, but record doesn’t really matter anymore with the Cy Young voters.

Paul: Who would you consider to be the NL’s MVP and Cy Young this year?

Nolan: It’s not as easy a choice for MVP in the NL, but at this point in the season I’d go with Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks.  Carlos Gonzalez is having another MVP caliber season in Colorado as well.  Hands down, I’d go Clayton Kershaw for Cy Young with Matt Harvey as runner up.

Paul: What are your thoughts on Jeff Francoeur departing? Does that make the Myers trade harder to swallow?

Nolan: Nothing against Francoeur personally, but his departure was long overdue.  I think you have four very good outfielders in Gordon, Cain, Lough, and Dyson all outplaying Francoeur both offensively and defensively.  The Myers trade will only be hard to swallow if James Shields leaves without guiding the Royals to at least an AL Central Title.  Jeff Francoeur’s release only helps improve their chances of winning one.

Paul: Do you think Brett will have an impact as hitting coach and help change the hitting for The Royals?

Nolan: Since George Brett took over as Hitting Coach (with Pedro Grifol) on May 30th, the Royals have the best record in the AL Central.  Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have both shown improvements, and their success may be the biggest key to the Royals having success in the second half.  Plus, I think just having the greatest Royal of all time in the dugout can do nothing but help a young team trying to guide a once great franchise to its first postseason in a generation.

Paul: You mentioned Yost, who was on the hot seat earlier this year. Now he seems to be a little safer as manager. What are your thoughts on him as a manager and on him keeping or losing his job?

Nolan: I think there’s probably a better manager out there for the job than Ned Yost.  Some of his managerial decisions are downright baffling – such as his insistence on batting a player with a .279 OBP in the 2-hole because he “thinks it’s a good fit”.  I remember – when the writing was on the wall for Trey Hillman – voicing my hope that the Royals could bring in Clint Hurdle, a former Royal who was serving as the Rangers’ Hitting Coach.  Now he’s managing the team that has the best record in the National League despite having Vin Mazzaro on its roster.  But no matter what, Ned’s going to be here until his contract is up at the end of the season.  I believe bringing in George Brett was done to help add a needed new voice without firing the manager and in turn putting Dayton Moore on the hot seat.  If the team finishes below .500, I think Ned gets let go regardless of who ends up on the hot seat next.  If they do better, then anything’s possible.

Thanks again to Nolan for doing the interview with me. And those in the Kansas City market, look out for his show ‘The Night Shift’, where you can hear more of his thoughts on The Royals, baseball and sports in general.

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New lineup has Royals streaking

The Royals are suddenly red hot, winners of seven of their last eight games.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals rounds first as he celebrates his game-winning single in the 10th inning during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 3-2. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Eric Hosmer

Kansas City just completed a six-game winning streak and a change in the lineup may have been a catalyst for the recent surge.

Frustrated by a lack of success on offense and in the standings, manager Ned Yost reportedly sought help from the Royals front office in putting together an optimal lineup. After crunching the numbers, it turned out that Salvador Perez, an excellent contact hitter, was the choice for the three-spot.

“We sit down every day and talk about it,” Yost said. “I get a lineup from the stat guys every day. I have never used it in its entirety but I use some of it. I consult with the coaches and we look at matchups and a few other things to construct our lineup.”

Yost tried out the new lineup, which also included moving Eric Hosmer into the second spot, and the Royals achieved immediate success.

After a June 4th loss to the Twins, in which Perez hit seventh, Yost decided it was time to make the switch.

Alex Gordon would lead off, followed by Hosmer and Perez. Alcides Escobar, who spent much of the season at the top of the lineup would be slotted in the ninth spot, providing the bottom of the order with more speed.

The Royals proceeded to win their next six. In his first game in the three-hole, Perez went 2-3 with two runs and an RBI, leading the Royals to a 4-1 win over Minnesota.

After eight games in the three-spot, Perez is hitting .367 with 11 hits, 1 HR and 7 RBI in 30 at-bats. He has at least one hit in each of those eight games.

Hosmer, meanwhile, has four multi-hit games over the past eight, with two hits on Wednesday including the game-winning single in the bottom of the tenth to beat the Tigers.

On May 25, Perez, dealing with the passing of his grandmother, was placed on the bereavement list. The talented catcher missed nine games and the Royals dropped seven of those nine.

Upon his return, Perez and the new-look lineup helped produce the longest win streak of the season for the Royals.

The offense, however, is not without its faults. There is still a glaring lack of power, ranking dead last in baseball in home runs.

While Perez and Hosmer may not be an answer in the power department (only 3 combined HR on the year), they both have been hitting for average and are clearly thriving in the reshuffled batting order.

How long Yost will stick with his new lineup may depend on whether the Royals stay hot but, so far, the results have been too good to mess with.

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Things are getting weird in Royals Nation

Remember when the Royals were 17-10 and near the top of the A. L. Central? It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? But now the team is in a free-fall and things are getting strange. No, I’m not talking about the lack of offense or the losing streak. That’s business as usual for the Royals. I’m talking about the wacky things happening off the field.

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Take Royals manager Ned Yost. Please. (Ta Dum! I’ll be here all week.) I believe the Royals woes are making him goofy. When questioned about the lousy play of third baseman Mike Moustakas, Yost quipped in a May 18 article in the Kansas City Star, “You know what? Maybe when we get home I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman. Obviously, third basemen who can hit for power, they must grow on trees.” Well, if there’s a third baseman tree somewhere, it’s not in Kansas City. When Yost said this, Moustakas was hitting .189. Now he’s hitting .178 and showing no signs of improving. Forget the third baseman tree, the Royals need to find a baseball offense tree.

When Yost made about the comment about the third base tree, the Royals were 20-19. But after a 1-9 skid and a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night, Yost was asked about how he holds players accountable. Yost replied, “What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them? Scream at them? What do you want? These kids, every day, we go through the process. We’re talking constantly about approach.” Yost continued, “Do we need to make changes? This can’t continue. Somewhere down the road, yeah, we’re going to have to make some changes.”

It’s a bad sign when a manager has to ask the media what to do about a woeful team. Of course it was a rhetorical question, but it’s pretty obvious if the Royals don’t start winning again and playing better baseball, firing Ned Yost is the likely change. Will it make a difference? Ask Tony Muser, Buddy Bell and Trey Hillman if it makes a difference. But I guess the Royals have to do something.

So what’s a manager of a struggling team to do? Hey, the Chiefs are next door and having a minicamp. Maybe Yost can go over there and get some advice from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. So Yost jogged over to the Chief’s offices to see what was going on. Well, maybe he should called coach Reid first because Yost was surrounded by Chiefs security when Yost dropped by and was not allowed in. Thankfully for Yost, security didn’t tazer or spank him for the unauthorized visit, despite the wishes of most fans.

And if that wasn’t enough, later in the day Major League Baseball had Yost take a random, routine drug test. Given his recent statements and behavior, maybe the drug test wasn’t that random. Just saying.

It’s not news the Royals aren’t hitting many home runs. As of Wednesday, the Royals have 28 home runs, just one shy of the last in the Majors Miami Marlins. But home runs aren’t that important. Don’t believe me? Just ask Royals hitting coach Jack Maloof.

In a Fox Sports article, Maloof said, “There is just no reward here (for us) to try and hit home runs, (at Kauffman Stadium). We try to stay down on the ball, be more line-drive oriented, and do more situational hitting at least through the first two or three rounds (at home) here. That’s why I’m not overly concerned because I think we’ll lead the league in fewest home runs again this year. We don’t have a 40-homer guy in the middle of the lineup.”

Never mind one of the reasons former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was fired and Maloof and Andre David were hired so the Royals would hit for more power and home runs.

But what about the opposing teams who come into Kauffman Stadium and have no problem hitting home runs? Maloof has an explanation: “Here’s the thing: Other teams come in here from Anaheim or wherever and they have their swing already down,” Maloof said. “This park doesn’t even enter into their minds when they hit here. They have their swings, the same swings, because it pays dividends for them at home.”

Uh, so it’s not a good idea to have the Royals try to hit for power and hit more home runs? Other teams have their swings down, but the Royals don’t? You know what the dividend is for a home run? You score at least one run. And if you score runs, you have a better chance to win. Sure, situational hitting and moving runners is important. But if the lineup isn’t hitting or has much power, situational hitting doesn’t matter. If the Royals are looking for a change, they might want to take a look at Jack Maloof. As for fellow batting coach Andre David, he’s keeping his mouth shut.

Oh yeah, after the game Tuesday night the Royals had to ride the bus to St. Louis because their plane had mechanical issues. There was no word if Yost spanked the plane or if Maloof was thrown under the bus.

It’s one thing to lose if you’re expected to lose like the Marlins or the Houston Astros. But with all the “improvements” the Royals made this year, the team should be playing better. But they’re not and it’s hard to say when they will. I haven’t given up on the Royals yet, but like Yost said, “This can’t continue.”

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Royals Weekly Rundown

After a strong start to 2013, the Kansas City Royals ended last week losing a three in a row to the injury plagued New York Yankees.  The Royals finished the week losing six of seven and find themselves two games behind the first place Indians with a record of 18-16.

In the first edition of Royals Weekend Rundown, let’s recap the week that was shall we?

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Best of the Week:  Alex Gordon

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer deserve some credit for getting the monkey off their backs and belting their first home runs of the season (Moustakas hit three this week).  This still doesn’t top Gordon’s monstrous week in which he slugged three homers, scored five runs, drove in eight, and hit .393.

Ned Yost made perhaps his best move as Royals skipper by moving Gordon to the three-hole to generate more run production.  Right now he’s hitting .400 with a 1.108 OPS in that spot.

While the production is over a small sample size, its a testament to Gordon’s growth as a ballplayer and the Royal’s patience the last few years.  Look at the numbers from the two halves of his career to date:

2007-2010:  .244 Avg. / 45 HR / 161 RBI / .320 OBP / .404 SLG

2011-2013:  .301 Avg. / 43 HR / 187 RBI / .365 OBP / .482 SLG

Gordon has gone from the brink of receiving the dreaded “bust” and demotion to making a name for himself as a cornerstone player for the club.  If he keeps this up for another two months, I would be shocked if he isn’t selected to his first All Star team.

Worst of the Week:  Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar

One could argue that this should go to the entire Royals offense except for the aforementioned Alex Gordon.  The team hit an abysmal .233 this week averaging around four runs per game.

While Escobar and Butler don’t deserve all the blame, they stand out because they hit first and fourth in the order respectively and hit a combined .105 (6-for-57) this week.  No need to worry, I expect both will bounce back soon in the next couple weeks against weaker pitching.

The Road Ahead:  Go West Young Men…

Monday night marks the first of a 10-game road West Coast road trip starting in Anaheim against the soul-searching Angels.  The Halos begin the series with a record of 14-23 and have at least found some rhythm on offense.  However, their pitching staff is still a mess.  Kansas City will face Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, and Barry Enright who are a combined 1-10 and could help the Royals heat up.  After the three game stint in Anaheim, the Royals head to Oakland for a three game set with the A’s.

Probable Pitchers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Monday at 9:05 CT:  Luis Mendoza (0-2, 6.38 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (0-6, 5.66 ERA)

Tuesday at 9:05 CT:  Jeremy Guthrie (5-0, 2.28 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (1-3, 4.26 ERA)

Wednesday at 9:05 CT:  Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA) vs. Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37 ERA)

Follow Adam Rozwadowski on Twitter @adam_roz

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Greg Holland and Wade Davis struggle early this season

What a difference a week makes. After starting 0-2, the Royals won their third game against the Chicago White Sox. Next, they took two of three from the Phillies and swept the Twins in three games. Now the Royals are 6-3 and first place in the A.L. Central. The offense is scoring runs, the defense only has one error and the starting rotation is pitching well, despite giving up a combined nine home runs.

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But the anchor of the bullpen, Greg Holland, isn’t pitching well. In four games over three innings, Holland faced 20 batters and threw 82 pitches, 43 of them strikes. He gave up five hits, four runs, six walks and five strikeouts. Last Saturday, he blew a save against the Phillies by walking three and giving up a walk-off double. Last Tuesday night against the Twins, Holland threw 27 pitches and faced six batters in the rain before getting his second save.

Royals manager Ned Yost hasn’t gave up on Holland and it’s not time to panic yet, despite Holland’s trouble finding the strike zone. Early last year, an injured rib cage affected his performance. After Holland recovered, he posted a 2.08 ERA and became the Royals closer after the Royals shipped Jonathan Broxton to the Reds. If Holland continues to struggle, Yost has a good backup closer in Kelvin Herrera, who’s fared well this season.

Wade Davis isn’t struggling like Holland, but his first two starts haven’t been stellar. In last Friday’s game against Philadelphia, Davis only pitched four innings, throwing 76 pitches, facing 19 batters and giving up nine hits, and four runs, two of those home runs. He also struck out two and didn’t walk anybody. The Royals ended up winning the game 13-4, so his performance didn’t hurt the team. For his second start, Davis pitched five innings, throwing 96 pitches, giving up four hits and three walks. But he struck out six and held the Twins scoreless, getting the win.

Davis needs to adjust to the starting rotation after pitching out of the bullpen with the Tampa Bay Rays last year. His next couple of starts will show if Davis becomes an effective starter or is better suited as a reliever.

After the 0-2 start, it’s good to see the Royals playing well and leading the A.L. Central. And Holland and Davis’ issues are minor. But the Royals have tough upcoming series against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, followed by the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. It’s not getting easier for the Royals and the team’s success may depend on the performance of Holland and Davis.

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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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The Royals Send Luke Hochevar To The Bullpen

It’s been a bumpy and inconsistent ride for Luke Hochevar, the former 2006 No. 1 overall draft pick. Except for a few bullpen outings early in his career, Hochevar was a starter for the Royals since 2008. With the team’s upgrades to the starting rotation, Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza were in competition for the fifth starting spot. But after two spring starts, the Royals made the decision to move Hochevar to the bullpen.

Luke  Hochevar

It wasn’t like Hochevar made a case for being the fifth starter. In two spring starts, Hochevar pitched eight innings and gave up six earned runs, six walks, two home runs and eight strikeouts with a 6.75 ERA. It’s only two starts, but it’s clear Hochevar’s spring struggles influenced the Royals to move him to the bullpen.

Royals Manager Ned Yost put a positive spin on the move, saying it gives Hochevar a chance to help the Royals win every day instead of every five days. But the last few years, Hochevar hasn’t given the Royals many chances to win every five days as a starter.

The Royals see Hochevar as a late-inning setup man, joining Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow for closer Greg Holland. The team believes having Hochevar pitch one or two innings and getting acclimated to the bullpen during Spring Training will improve his consistency on the mound.

But will moving Hochevar to the bullpen make a difference? The frustrating thing about Hochevar’s meltdowns was they didn’t always happen after pitching a few innings. One start, he might melt down in the first inning. Another start, he might fall apart after three or four innings. Or in another start, he might pitch seven or eight masterful innings, getting the win. When Hochevar took the mound, you didn’t know which Hochevar would show up.

Hochevar has some advantages. He’s durable, and when he’s on, he’s almost unhittable. And having Hochevar face fewer batters and being “on call” to pitch every day might sharpen his mental focus and improve his consistency.

The team made the logical decision and moved Hochevar to the bullpen. The Royals weren’t going to release Hochevar and it’s unlikely he would go to AAA Omaha. And he doesn’t have much trade value, at least for now. The team has nothing to lose by doing this and it could be a move that resurrects his career. Or it could be Hochevar’s last gasp in a so far inconsistent, disappointing Major League career. For the good of the team and Hochevar, I hope this works out.

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