Tag Archive | "Omaha Royals"

This just in: The Royals starting rotation is bad

Starting pitching, good or bad, affects every part of a baseball game. Look no further than the two disastrous outings by starters Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo last Monday and Tuesday night. In two games with the Seattle Mariners, Sanchez and Verdugo gave up a combined 13 runs over three innings. Neither pitcher got out of the second inning and the Royals lost both games, 9-4 and 9-6. The Royals had enough of Sanchez, designating him for assignment Tuesday after a 1-6 record and 7.76 ERA. As for Verdugo, he’s on I-29 back to AAA Omaha.

So now the Royals starting rotation consists of Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Everett Teaford and Will Smith. This is why the Royals as of Wednesday were 38-51, 11.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox and the starting rotation had only four quality starts in their last 17 games.

And the Royals top three pitchers, Chen, Hochevar and Mendoza, haven’t pitched well lately. In their last three starts, the trio has given up a combined 34 earned runs in 51 innings. The Royals record in those games is 3-6.

Of the three, Mendoza is the only one with a sub 5.00 ERA at 4.32. He’s also gave up the least amount of runs with six in 21.1 innings. But the Royals lost two of the three games Mendoza started. Chen is a good pitcher, but in his last three starts before Wednesday’s game, he’s gave up a combined 18 runs in 13.2 innings. The Royals went 0-3 in those games. Hochevar is pitching a little better lately, giving up a combined 10 runs over 16 innings in his last three starts. The Royals went 2-1 in those games. But Hochevar has a 5.16 ERA and could be one start away from giving up another big inning.

So what about Everett Teaford and Will Smith? Teaford has bounced between Omaha and Kansas City, appearing in eight games, four of them as a starter. Of those four starts, the Royals won three of those games. In his last three starts, Teaford gave up a combined 10 runs in 16.1 innings, where the Royals went 2-1. His 2012 ERA is 4.98.

As for Will Smith, he’s spent most of 2012 in Omaha, with only three games with the Royals, all starts. In those three games, Smith gave up a combined 14 earned runs in 14 innings, with the Royals losing two of those three games. He has a 9.00 ERA.

And there’s not much help in the high minors either. The Royals top pitching prospect, Jake Odorizzi, is in Omaha and projects to be a number three starter. These days, a number three starter would be an improvement for the Royals starting rotation. It’s certain we’ll see Odorizzi this year, but he won’t be able to turn the Royals fortunes around by himself. And remember Mike Montgomery, who had a chance to make the starting rotation out of spring training? He’s in AA Northwest Arkansas, trying to figure things out.

And two of the better starters this season, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, had Tommy John surgery and won’t be back with the Royals until the middle of the 2013 season.

When the starting pitchers struggle, the whole team struggles. If a starter doesn’t have at least a quality start, that gasses the bullpen, who have to pitch more innings. If the starter gives up a lot of runs, it forces the offense to try and overcome the run deficit. And if a starter has a high pitch count per inning, the defense behind them are more likely to make defensive mistakes.

It’s simple. Teams with a good starting rotation are more likely to win games and make the playoffs than a team with a decent to bad starting rotation.

This year, the Royals have a good offense, good defense and the bullpen is holding its own. But the starting rotation, this year and in years past, is atrocious. And unless the Royals land a top tier pitcher via free agency or a trade, the Royals starting rotation will continue to be atrocious.

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Turn the seat warmers on

Coming off of an opening weekend trip at an even .500, the Kansas City Royals have not played up to par in the first homestand of the year.  It seems that the two biggest parts of baseball, hitting and pitching, have not been able to be in sync at Kauffman Stadium.  When they have scored runs the pitchers have given up more, and when the pitchers have given the team a great chance to win the hitters have not produced enough runs.  A cliche in this day in age of sports is that when the team is winning it is the players and when they are losing everyone wants to blame the coach.  While this is a falacy in many cases it is started to look like it is ocming to fruition in Kansas City.  Yes, some of the players are to be blamed with the lack of production but even when the Royals seem to be in a game that they could win, a decision or two have been made that shape the rest of the game towards the negative side of the box score.

While I do believe Royals manager, Ned Yost, is great for a young team and is good at getting the team to like him, as he has been known as a players manager, he seems to have trouble with the in-game management that is needed to be successful in the Major Leagues. In the first six games at Kauffman Stadium he has made some decisions with both the bullpen and pinch hitting/running late in games that have seemed to turn the tide of the game in the visitors favor.

To start off the homestand Yost changed up the lineup a lot by taking Alex Gordon out of the leadoff spot, a position that led him to a career year last season, putting Jeff Franceour in the two hole, a position that was baffling to most fans and maybe even Franchy himself, and leading off Jarrod Dyson whom had just been called up from AAA Omaha after the Royals placed Lorenzo Cain on the 15-Day Disable List.  Now, lets disect this decision first. One why would you mess with a guy who has seemed to have success at the leadoff position while he has had that role.  Gordon did and has started the year off on a slow note but why mess with the guys head even more.  If he is having struggles with the bat why move him around to a position in the order that he is not familiar with nor has been in for over a year and a half.  After that, why would you have Franceour in the two hole.  The two spot in the lineup is supposed to be the guy who has some speed and can handle the bat well to move the leadoff hitter over.  Francouer has shown throughout his career that he is a free swinging righty who may not be able to place a hit to the opposite field to move runners over.  Now to move runners over they have to be on base and Jarrod Dyson is still yet to prove that he can hit at this level so neither him leading off, and not getting on, nor batting Franceour right behind him, to move someone over that is not there.  This little experiment did not pay off for Yost and the Royals as he came to his senses and re-ordered the lineup for Sunday’s ballgame against the Cleveland Indians. I believe that Yost is looking to far into the righty vs. righty an lefty vs. lefty matchups.  Some hitters may have more success at the plate while facing an arm opposite of their side of the plate but by the time guys get to the Majors they have faced their share of both left and right handed pitching and should be able to swing the bat against an array of pitching arms.

The next thing that Yost has seemed to have trouble with is managing his bullpen.  Now I do not know if this is Yost making all of the decisions or if pitching coach, Dave Eiland, is making the calls but the way that the bullpen, that was supposed to be the strenght of this ball club, has been run.  In last Saturday’s game against the Indians, the Royals found themselves in a seven run hole that they eventually dug their way out of tying the game on an eighth inning homerun by Yuniesky Betancourt.  But it is not the way that the Royals came back that is suspect it is the way the pitching was handled.  After Jonathan Sanchez threw his stellar two plus innings, Tim Collins came in and was allowed to give up four more runs.  Now if your starter gives up five runs and then you bring in a pitcher and you see him give up four runs where does the line end.  Collins should never have been allowed to stay in as long as he did.  But that is still not the issue I have with Saturday’s game.  Kevlin Herrera pitched a scoreless sixth inning while only throwing 11 pitches.  Then he gets pulled for Jose Mijares who yes pitched a scoreless inning as well but Herrera had great stuff but was pulled because the left handed match ups that Mijares would have in the seventh were more favored.  In both the eighth and ninth innings of the game, Aaron Crow and Jonathan Broxton pitched scoreless innings while only throwing ten pitches each.  My problem with the fact that three of the Royals hardest throwing arms were only allowed to throw ten pitches a piece is because in the post game press conference Yost said that he wanted to save the arms for tomorrow.  One, this team needs to worry about winning the game at hand and not about tomorrow’s game, and two, the only reliever from Saturday to pitch on Sunday was Jose Mijares.  Now, none of the three, Herrera, Crow, or Broxton, needed to be saved for Sunday obviously because they did not pitch on Sunday.  Yet, they had so many arms saved in the bullpen from Saturday’s game that they needed back up outfielder Mitch Maier to pitch on Sunday.  That is just not smart baseball and it is not owning up to things that have been said.

All fans have heard over the course of Spring Training and the early part of the season is how this team is going to take it one game at a time and try to win every ball game, but when you have decisions like the examples being mentions made winning will become scarce for the 2012 Kansas City Royals.  Right now it seems to not being their time but it may be “Our Time” to start looking for a new skipper on the top step of the first base dugout.

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Poldberg Returning As Naturals’ Skipper In 2012

Poldberg returning as Naturals’ skipper in 2012
Former Natural Vance Wilson moves up a level to manage Wilmington

SPRINGDALE, AR - The Kansas City Royals announced that veteran skipper Brian Poldberg will be returning to Northwest Arkansas for a fifth consecutive season to manage the Naturals in 2012. The only manager the Naturals have ever known, Poldberg guided Northwest Arkansas to a 73-64 record in 2011, culminating in a second-half division championship and the Naturals’ fourth playoff appearance in as many seasons.

Poldberg’s coaches from last season, Pitching Coach Larry Carter and Hitting Coach Terry Bradshaw, also return intact to form, by far, the Texas League’s most experienced coaching staff and the same staff that brought Northwest Arkansas a Texas League Championship after the 2010 season.

In his 29 seasons with the Kansas City Royals organization, the 54-year old Poldberg has served as a minor league player, roving instructor, and minor league manager in addition to his tenure on the Major League staff, where he served as the third base coach under former Royals’ skipper Buddy Bell during the 2007 season, capping four consecutive seasons on the Royals’ Major League staff that saw him coach first base during the 2006 season and serve as the Royals’ bullpen coach during the 2004-05 seasons.

The Carter Lake, IA resident began his baseball career in 1980 as a catcher playing in the New York Yankees farm system. He went on to play six years in the minor leagues, reaching Triple-A with the Omaha Royals in 1985. He is a graduate of Emporia (Kan.) State University and owns a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Poldberg’s career minor league managerial record now stands at 764-755 (.503). With over 1500 games of minor-league managerial experience, including playoffs, Poldberg is not only the Texas League’s most tenured active skipper but one of the more experienced managers in all of the minor leagues. Under his guidance, the Naturals have won more games than any other team in the Texas League since the Naturals’ inaugural season in 2008.

For his part, Carter, a 46-year old Corinth, TX resident, will be entering his 11th season as the pitching coach for the Royals’ Double-A team after spending six seasons with the Wichita Wranglers prior to the move to Springdale. The winner of the 2008 Texas League coach of the year award, named for former Tulsa Drillers’ Hitting Coach Mike Coolbaugh, 2012 will be Carter’s 15th season in the Royals’ organization.

Known for his ability to help young pitchers progress, Carter has been credited with instrumental contributions to the career development of former Royal Zack Greinke as well as some of the current group of Royals prospects that have been on the receiving end of his wisdom during their time in the Texas League.

Carter was originally selected in the 10th round of the 1986 June Free Agent Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played in the Cardinals system for 2 years before joining the San Francisco Giants organization and was named to the Texas League All-Star team in 1991. He appeared in six games at the Major League level with the 1992 Giants and was 1-5 with a 4.64 ERA.

Bradshaw will spend his fourth season tutoring Naturals’ hitters. He came to Northwest Arkansas after a five year stint as the Hitting Coach for Triple-A Omaha. The 42-year old Franklin, VA native previously spent four years as hitting coach for three of Kansas City’s Class-A affiliates: Wilmington (2002-2003), Burlington (2001) and Charleston (2000).

Bradshaw began his professional playing career after he was a 9th round draft pick by St. Louis in 1990 and spent eight years playing in the Cardinals system, including two brief stops at the Major League level during the 1995 and 1996 seasons. In 65 major league at-bats over 34 games, the outfielder hit .262. He was a member of the 1994 Arkansas Travelers, where he earned a spot on the league’s post-season All-Star team.

The Naturals will welcome in two new members of the field staff for 2012 in Athletic Trainer Masa Koyanagi and Strength and Conditioning Coach George Timke, who will take over the posts filled last season by Tony Medina and Joey Greany, respectively. Medina has been named as the Royals’ Latin America Medical Coordinator, while Greany will serve as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for Triple-A Omaha in 2012.

Koyanagi will be serving in his fifth season as a trainer in the Royals’ system. The Fukuoka, Japan native worked last season as the trainer for Advanced Class-A Wilmington. Prior to his time in the Royals’ organization, Koyanagi spent the 2007 season on the staff of the Tampa Bay Rays, where he served as an interpreter for former Major League infielder Akinori Iwamura. He also served as an Athletic Trainer in the Milwaukee Brewers organization for four seasons from 2003-2006. In 2006, he served as the trainer for the champion Japanese squad in the World Baseball Classic. He resides in Peoria, AZ with his wife and two daughters.

Timke is in his fourth season in the Royals’ organization as a minor league strength coach and served in the same role last season for Wilmington. He is a resident of Orange County, New York.

In a related announcement, the Royals announced that former Natural and Springdale resident Vance Wilson will move up a level this year to skipper the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Royals’ Advanced Class-A affiliate in the Carolina League. This will be Wilson’s second season managing in the minor leagues.

A veteran of eight big-league seasons, Wilson retired from his playing career in 2010 after attempting a comeback from a second Tommy John surgery and served last season as the manager for the Royals’ Class-A Kane County affiliate. Under Wilson’s tutelage, Kane County, a team which included former Razorback Brett Eibner, won a wild-card playoff spot and advanced to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs.

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. The 2012 home opener is Thursday, April 12th. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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The Future Has Arrived

The future has arrived in Kansas City as Eric Hosmer’s contract has been purchased from the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

The Royals will bring one of the highest touted prospects to the Major Leagues and, according to manager Ned Yost, they will waste no time getting the young man some action.

According to the manager, Hosmer will be the starting first baseman in the game on Friday against the Oakland Athletics and left hander Gio Gonzalez and wear number 35. Gonzalez has pitched well this year compiling three wins and two losses over six starts. The young hurler has averaged over six innings per start, given up three home runs and struck out 35 hitters against 16 walks.

Hosmer has been on fire so far this season at Omaha. With 98 at bats, he has three home runs and 15 runs batted in. Add in three stolen bases, 19 walks, 15 strikeouts, and five doubles and he was doing well enough to gain some attention. However, his .439 batting average, .525 on base percentage, .582 slugging percentage, and 1.107 OPS was enough to cause a rumble amongst most experts wondering when his time would come.

While Hosmer was forcing his way onto the scene, Kila Ka’aihue was providing the room the team needed. Kila will be sent down to Omaha to make room for Hosmer after Kila struggled through the first month of the season. The Hawaiian born Ka’aihue failed to live up to expectations and watched his average drop below the .200 mark to .195 and his power numbers have all but diminished. With two home runs, four doubles and six runs batted in, the team felt the need to give him some more time at the AAA level. Add to the power struggles his alarming strikeout rate and lack of walks (26 strikeouts to 12 walks) and it has become obvious that he could use the time in the minors to work on his patience at the plate.

To make room for Hosmer on the roster, catcher Jason Kendall was moved from the 15 day disabled list to the 60 day disabled list.

Most experts projected Hosmer to arrive in Kansas City by July, but it seems the future has arrived a bit sooner than everyone expected.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

The following is a press release from the Omaha Stormchasers concerning the pending move

Hosmer to Join Kansas City Royals Friday
First baseman was batting .439 in Pacific Coast League play for the Storm Chasers

OMAHA, Neb. — Top prospect Eric Hosmer will join the Kansas City Royals in time for Friday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, the Major League club announced Thursday. Kila Ka’aihue will be optioned to Triple-A Omaha, while catcher Jason Kendall will be transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Hosmer on the 40-man roster.

Hosmer, a 21-year-old first baseman, batted .439 (43-for-98) in 26 games for the Storm Chasers and was leading the Pacific Coast League in batting average, hits and on-base percentage at the time of his departure. The slugging first baseman was riding an eight-game hitting streak in which he was batting .613 (19-for-31) with two homers, six RBI and eight walks. His .613 batting average and .692 on-base percentage led all of professional baseball during that span.

The No. 3 pick of the 2008 first-year player draft, Hosmer is the first high school player from his class to reach the big-leagues. The left-handed swinger is expected to make his Major League debut against Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland Athletics, one of the toughest southpaws in the American League. During his time in Omaha, Hosmer batted .500 (16-for-32) with all three of his home runs against lefties.

Ka’aihue was batting .195 (16-for-82) with two home runs in 23 games this season for the Royals. He has a .285 batting average with 52 home runs in parts of three seasons in Omaha.

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Former World Series Winner Returns To The Royals

I woke up this morning with an upbeat feeling about the start the Royals had this season. They went 3-1 against a solid ball club. This is some evidence that the Royals front office knew what they were doing when they let go some of the veteran players that were already proven.

Then this morning I found out the Royals made another quality move, resigning Jeff Suppan to a minor league deal. This move gives the Royals yet another option to their quality pitching staff in Omaha, but also gives the Royals an option to bring up a veteran pitcher that has experienced both the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows as a major league pitcher.

Jim Breen from Bernie’s Crew had this to say about Suppan in the past:

Suppan benefited from a few solid seasons at the hands of Dave Duncan in St. Louis, but was never able to rediscover that magic in Milwaukee. At that time, it was the biggest contract in the history of the organization. When Suppan began to struggle, Brewers fans felt cheated and that Suppan was not delivering his side of the bargain — which is not exactly fair, as Suppan was never exactly a good pitcher.

He experienced moderate success while pitching for the Royals, with 3 consecutive 10-win seasons. However, his high point came when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. He ended up wining forty-four games in his three-year stint with the Cardinals (2004-2006), in addition to making nine post-season starts as well. He won the NLCS MVP award in 2006. He also pitched very well in the World Series that year.

Another thing going for Suppan coming back to the Royals is the familiarity he and current manager Ned Yost have with each other. (Yost was his manger while Suppan was in Milwaukee.) If the Royals need a pitcher called up during the course of this season, Jeff Suppan is more than likely going to be on Yost’s short list.

Once again, Breen had some thoughts on Suppan’s time in Kansas City:

For the Royals, very little risk exists on a minor league deal. He will always be known for being one of the “failed contracts” that came out of the 2006-2007 offseason. Forgiveness can come quickly in the game of baseball, but a fanbase that feels fleeced by a bad contract will not forgive easily. To Brewers fans, he will always be a disappointment, a pitcher that collected a huge paycheck, but never delivered.

That is too bad, as Suppan was a model citizen in the community and was actually a Roberto Clemente nominee for the Brewers — an award given to a player who emulates exemplary community engagement and community service. He was a great influence in the Brewers’ clubhouse and an all-around nice guy. That is almost always overshadowed by his underwhelming performance on the mound.

Even if he spends most of the year in Omaha, the Royals will see the dividends of bringing in a quality veteran to help the plethora of young pitchers the Royals having coming up through their farm system. Having a guy like Suppan is like adding another pitching coach to the staff but also having the benefit of having him play every four or five days.

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Royals Farm Report

PLAYER PROFILE

Anthony Seratelli

Anthony Seratelli

Shortstop

AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

27 years old

Bats: Switch

Throws: Right

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 205 lbs.

Contract purchased by the Royals from the Windy City ThunderBolts, Frontier League (Independent)

When you think of the 2010 Northwest Arkansas Naturals team, some special names pop out, including Royals top prospects Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, among others. But one of the many unsung heroes of the team this season has been switch-hitting shortstop Anthony Seratelli.

Although Seratelli is not a top-flight prospect, he’s held down the starting shortstop spot for most of the season, in the process getting 299 plate appearances for the Naturals while batting .254 and stealing 15 bases.

Seratelli is by no means a power hitter: he has hit only three home runs this season, and his slugging percentage is actually lower than his on-base percentage.

But it’s that on-base percentage that makes Seratelli special.

Over the course of 101 games for the Naturals, Seratelli has drawn 49 walks, driving his on-base percentage to .361.

On-base percentage is a statistic where the big-league Royals are sorely lacking.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a place for Seratelli in the larger organizational plans. He’s blocked from above by Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Aviles and a slew of others, and from below he’ll be competing with first-round draft choice Christian Colon.

But the versatile Seratelli could definitely become a Willie Bloomquist-type utilityman. And every good team needs one.

During the 2010 playoffs, Seratelli has found a whole new gear. Check out the “Position Player of the Week” below for more…

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP

AAA – Omaha Royals

Record to date: 81-63, third place in the PCL American North to finish the season

Coming up: Despite their 81-63 record, the O-Royals did not make the AAA playoffs.

AA – Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Record to date: 44-26 in the second half (first place), 86-54 overall to finish the season

In the playoffs: The Naturals took out Springfield in a best-of-five series to advance to the Texas League finals. They split the first two games with Midland at Springdale, Ark., and will finish the series on the road in Midland.

Transactions: Will Smith was assigned to Northwest Arkansas from the A+ Wilmington Blue Rocks

Coming up: The best-of-five series continued Friday night and Saturday, and Sunday is an as-needed date.

A+ – Wilmington Blue Rocks

Record to date: 36-32 in the second half (second place), 68-70 overall to finish the season

Transactions: Will Smith was promoted to the AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Coming up: The Blue Rocks missed out on the 2010 playoffs.

POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK – PLAYOFFS EDITION

Anthony Seratelli, Shortstop AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

During the 2010 playoffs: .389 avg., 5 home runs, 8 RBI

Not to double-dip here, but Seratelli has been lights-out during the playoffs. He’s clubbed five home runs (two more than he hit during all of the regular season), and his slugging percentage is 1.222.

Danny Duffy

PITCHER OF THE WEEK – PLAYOFFS EDITION

Danny Duffy, AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

During the 2010 playoffs: 1-0, 1.69 ERA, 15 K

Duffy, a formerly top prospect who had his troubles earlier this season, has bounced back in a big way for the 2010 Texas League playoffs. His 15 strikeouts lead the league during the playoffs, and Duffy was crucial in the series against Springfield.

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Royals Farm Report

PLAYER PROFILE

Paulo Orlando

Left fielder

AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

24 years old

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 185 lbs.

Signed by the White Sox in 2005 as an undrafted free agent

The Kansas City Royals, like many other teams in Major League Baseball, sometimes have success giving minor-league contracts to formerly great players or formerly promising prospects looking to resurrect their careers.

In 2005, the Royals did just that with a pitcher named Horacio Ramirez. A former hot prospect for the Atlanta Braves, Ramirez was slowed by shoulder problems. After serving a sting in Seattle, Ramirez was signed to a minor league contract by Kansas City.

Ramirez made some waves out of the bullpen for the Royals, and in August 2008 they did something that’s fairly unique to baseball trades: the flip.

It works just like “flipping” a house. You buy a run-down home for, say, $50,000, and you invest $20,000 in repairs and renovations. Then you sell the house for $100,000.

The Royals “flipped” Horacio Ramirez by trading him to the Chicago White Sox for a prospect. That prospect was this week’s Player Profile candidate, Paulo Orlando.

Orlando, a fleet-footed left fielder with some pop in his bat, has had a terrific year in AA-Northwest Arkansas, helping the Naturals to a stellar 86-54 overall record and a playoff berth. Along the way, Orlando clubbed 13 homers, posted a .305 average and .480 slugging percentage, and stole 25 bases. He was named a mid-season all-star and a post-season all star in the Texas League, and was a vital part of one of the best AA Royals teams of all time.

Orlando could definitely earn a promotion to AAA next season, depending on which players from this year’s Omaha squad make the big team, and within a few season he makes an interesting candidate for leadoff hitter in what promises to be a much-improved Royals lineup.

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP

AAA – Omaha Royals

Record to date: 81-63, third place in the PCL American North to finish the season

The past week: 4-1, winning the last three games of the season from Oklahoma City.

Transactions: Brian Bannister was sent to Kansas City at the conclusion of his rehab assignment; Luke Hochevar was also sent to Kansas City at the end of his rehab assignment; and Jarrod Dyson was promoted to Kansas City from Omaha.

Coming up: Despite their 81-63 record, the O-Royals did not make the AAA playoffs.

AA – Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Record to date: 44-26 in the second half (first place), 86-54 overall to finish the season

The past week: 4-1 to end the regular season, 0-1 in the first round of the playoffs

Transactions: No transactions.

Coming up: The Naturals continue to take on Springfield in an I-70 Baseball showdown.

A+ – Wilmington Blue Rocks

Record to date: 36-32 in the second half (second place), 68-70 overall to finish the season

The past week: 2-2 to end the year, winning two of three in the final series against Frederick

Transactions: Barry Bowden was demoted to Wilmington from AA-Northwest Arkansas.

Coming up: The Blue Rocks missed out on the 2010 playoffs.

POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Clint Robinson, first base, AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

.500 avg., 2 home runs, 6 RBIs

Robinson slapped an exclamation point onto the end of a fine season, finishing with a .335 overall batting average, 29 home runs and 98 RBIs.

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Everett Teaford, AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

1-0, 1.42 ERA, 6.1 innings pitched, 6 Ks

The Naturals’ ace ended the regular season with a strong showing in a win against Arkansas. In addition to his 14-3 record at Northwest Arkansas and a 2.23 ERA, over 99 innings pitched Teaford gave up only seven home runs and 32 walks vs. 113 strikeouts.

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The Omaha Challenge

The nondescript black bag held my camera, lenses, a tripod and a notebook. In that notebook was a list of names – baseball players I had never seen before from a team I knew little about. That is where my story begins.

This past Labor Day weekend, I headed to the local Oklahoma City Bricktown Ballpark for my first official photo assignment. I had been to ‘The Brick’ many times before – a beautiful ballpark located in the newly revitalized downtown Oklahoma City, but my previous ballpark experiences there had always been as a fan.

This time was different. I had a media pass and access to the press lounge. I could hop into photo wells alongside the dugouts to get those up-close bench shots shielded from public view. And when the players were stretching and tossing balls before the game, I had the freedom to walk right out onto the field. As a fan who has always been stuck behind the gate, the thrill of experiencing baseball from beyond that jail was hard to contain.

My camera and I are familiar with the first row of seats there at the ballpark, but the chance to roam and get the ‘good’ shots was the stuff my baseball dreams are made of. However this time I was not a fan. This time I had a responsibility. The fact that the team and players I was shooting were unfamiliar made my task easier though. No celebrity shock. No butterflies. These were just guys playing baseball. And for my rookie photography assignment, that setting was perfect.

Rule #1 No cheering from the press box or photo wells.

My editor (who is well aware that my love for baseball and my St. Louis Cardinals runs very deep) may have overdosed on antacids last weekend knowing I was on the loose at a ballpark with player access and roaming privileges, but I can honestly report I conducted myself with utmost professionalism while also having a lot of fun.

Holly McGowen, the ballpark’s wonderful PR director gave me a personal tour of the press area, including the broadcast booth, media lounge and field access points. Off the large central media lounge, there were several doorways – a home team press box, rooms for the television and radio broadcasters, and a private room directly above homeplate for the scouts. At the far end of the hallway in a smaller box for the visiting press, I tracked down Omaha broadcaster Mark Nassar. Mark was unbelievably helpful, passing along daily lineups and Omaha roster information and filling me in on which players were injured and the pitchers I could expect to see over the series.

The press lounge was surprisingly spacious and the free dinner buffet looked great – but I didn’t dawdle long enough to eat. Food could come later. I had a media pass burning a hole in my pocket

Rule #2: Do not dress like a fan.

My first experience in a photo well taught me a valuable lesson. Although I had carefully chosen inconspicuous clothes, avoiding bright colors and team logos, I was unaware that taking pictures would be such a dirty job. Camera wells may provide amazing visibility, but they are also the pit in which the ground crew stores tarps and field equipment after games. There is dirt – lots of it, and I learned quickly that my black pants hate red baseball dirt.

Rule #3: Maintain professional distance.

This rule was numero uno on my list during this rookie media voyage for several reasons. First, my underlying goal here was for this to be my first media pass, not my last. Second I have made great strides in convincing family and friends that I do not love baseball solely because ballplayers look great in those uniforms. Third, I wanted to experience baseball differently, to see the business side of it. But most importantly, my husband prefers I not drool on the ballplayers. So I set out with lofty resolve: I was a member of the press – not a fan, not a gal who loves baseball – just one of the guys.

For the first game, that goal was a breeze. This was not my team and these were not my players. The thought of cheering or being star-struck was far from my mind. I was watching pitch counts and field placements, keeping track of previous at bats and trying to time my shots just right.

However for the next game, that professional distance started to shrink. It was a laid back day game and the stands were sparse. I set up shop in the photo well on the Omaha side. As the players trickled into the dugout before the game, I checked my list of names for photo targets and caught some great shots. The atmosphere was relaxed and several of the guys joked around and posed for me. They were having fun and personalities were emerging. This game had the promise of great pictures!

As the innings passed, a couple of players would nod or smile as they passed my perch. (My editor would have been proud of me – I nodded professionally and kept my eye in the viewfinder.) But then, an Omaha player came over to the dugout fence and broke the barrier, asking “Can I get you anything? A water?”

It was hot and a ballplayer offered to get me a bottle of water. That answer was a no-brainer.

When that ballplayer-turned-waterboy returned from the clubhouse, he stayed at the fence to chat when the rest of the team took the field. (He was a pitcher, not pitching that day.) In the course of the conversation, I casually mentioned my primary objective from the Royals content editor was getting photos of Mike Moustakas.

Then I joked that Moustakas was making my job difficult by constantly wearing a towel over his head in the dugout. My new pitcher friend was up to the challenge and assured me he could remedy that situation.

Sure enough. When the inning ended, Moustakas was on the dugout steps, striking a pose for me without his towel or his sunglasses. Bingo!

Rule #3 amended: Professional distance is over-rated.

Resistance was futile. That was the day I became a fan of the Omaha Royals. It was bound to happen: learning players and their personalities is my downfall. The dugout shots were fun, and I now had a personal connection with the team. During that afternoon game, those players became more than just names on my target list. I got a dusty high-five from Mike Moustakas and a “see you tomorrow” from my pitcher buddy. How could I not cheer for such a fun group of guys?!

I was sure that for the following game Rule #1 would be very challenging.

On that final day with my rookie media pass, I strolled onto the field before the game – on a mission from my editor to ask Mike Moustakas if i70baseball could contact him later for an interview. When I approached Mike, he smiled, introduced himself (again), shook my hand and when I asked him about the interview he said “sure!” (Success!)

The day continued to be productive, and I did manage (with difficulty) to uphold Rule #1. On a kind tip from a photographer from Baseball America, I found several other prime locations from which to take my pictures. I moved around the ballpark, managing to stay in the shade and capture some incredible shots. The setting was very different as the ballpark was packed for “Kids Run The Bases” day and my pitcher friend was in the bullpen. I watched the final innings of the game, leaning on the rail directly down the fenceline from players in the Royals dugout, expertly maintaining the expression of a casual observer, but inwardly cheering the Royals to their 9-1 victory.

And for you Royals fans, I have to say that your AAA guys get a glowing report card. The team behaved respectably on the field and in the dugout. The boys made every effort to sign autographs for all the children while engaging them in fun conversation. Team spirit was alive and well and big egos were checked at the door and fans were treated with respect. Not to mention, the Royals won 3 out of 4 against a talented playoff-bound Redhawks team.

The Scoop:

As an impartial third-party observer during the Omaha/OKC series this weekend, the following are my impressions of the Omaha Royals. No stats or background data to cloud my opinions.

Mike Moustakas – I knew going into this assignment that Moustakas was the big AAA Royals prospect. At first glance he does not have that look about him, but after watching him hit as well as making this one unbelievable leaping catch at third base, I revised that impression. Plus he posed for a picture – and he introduced himself as Mike (twice)! I must admit, I really like this guy!

Irving Falu – Incredibly, Falu seemed to ALWAYS be on the bases. I promised no stats, but I checked and Falu had a really good game on Saturday with 3 hits in 4 plate appearances. No wonder all my pictures of Omaha baserunners that day seemed to have #12 on their jersey! Serious guy. Focused. Good ballplayer!

Cody Clark – The other Royals catcher was called up to the big club prior to this series start, so I was not expecting much from what I assumed to be the Royals backup catcher. However Mr. Clark did a bang-up job behind the plate and he smashed a three run homer in the top of the 9th inning on Sunday.

Jordan Parraz – Jordan did a fantastic job with the kids in the stands. I could not tell who was having more fun with autographs – him or the children. He was another player with great success at the plate plus a home run that ended with great dugout shots!

Honorable mentions go to Jarrod Dyson, Marc Maddox and Kurt Mertins who all played with fire and were fun to watch, as well as my pitcher buddy Brian Anderson who will tell you himself that he thinks he is one handsome fella!

My rookie voyage with photo credentials was certainly a dream come true, and next weekend I get another chance… or should I say I get a new challenge.

The Memphis Redbirds – my team – will meet the Oklahoma City Redhawks in the best-of-5 American Conference Championship playoffs. Games 3 through 5 will be played in Oklahoma City starting on Friday.

Following Rule #1 next weekend may be the hardest thing I ever do.

Erika Lynn writes about the St. Louis Cardinals for i70baseball.com and BaseballDigest.com. You can find her blogging at Cardinal Diamond Diaries or on Twitter at username @Erika4stlcards.

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Royals Farm Report

PLAYER PROFILE
George C. “Buddy” Baumann
Pitcher
A+ Wilmington Blue Rocks
23 years old
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 175 lbs.
Drafted by the Royals in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB Draft


One of the best pitchers in the lower minor leagues for the Royals this year has been Buddy Baumann, a diminutive lefty with a strong arm.

Drafted by the Royals last year, Baumann had mainly pitched out of relief for Wilmington, but earlier this season he was promoted to the rotation. The 23-year-old responded magnificently, and his stats on the year show a 2.32 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 89.1 innings, while giving up only two home runs.

In addition to his pro ball success, Baumann also has a trophy case full of honors from a terrific college career. Here we have another local boy in the system, hailing from Billings, Mo., and attending Missouri State University. For the Missouri State Bears, he was named Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year and was a second-team All-America player. He was also a finalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award.

Baumann also shined while playing in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, where he was an All-Star pitcher for the Brewster Whitecaps.

The future looks bright for Baumann, who has, at the very least, secured a spot in the Wilmington rotation next year, if not a promotion to Double A. He could be a prospect to watch in the coming years – although don’t expect him to make an impact on the big league team anytime soon.

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP
AAA – Omaha Royals

Brian Bannister

Record to date: 73-60, third place in the PCL American North
The past week: 4-4
Transactions: Gil Meche started a rehab assignment in Omaha; and Brian Bannister began a rehab assignment.
Coming up: The O-Royals are hosting Iowa this weekend and start off next week hosting Round Rock before traveling to Oklahoma City to finish the year.

AA – Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Record to date: 36-23 in the second half (first place), 78-51 overall
The past week: 5-3
Transactions: No transactions.
Coming up: The Naturals travel to Tulsa this weekend, then come home to host Arkansas and Tulsa to end the regular season.

A+ – Wilmington Blue Rocks
Record to date: 31-27 in the second half (second place), 63-65 overall
The past week: 4-3, winning two in a row from Potomac
Transactions: James Thompson was activated from the temporarily inactive list; and Harold Mozingo was placed on the seven-day disabled list.
Coming up: After the Blue Rocks finish at Lynchburg this weekend, they end the season with a four-game series at home against Myrtle Beach and a three-game set in Wilmington against Frederick.

POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Salvador Perez, catcher, A+ Wilmington Blue Rocks
.300 AVG, 2 home runs, 5 RBI
20-year-old Perez had a two-home run, 5-RBI game on Aug. 22 against Lynchburg. He is batting .272 on the year.

PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Luiz Mendoza, AAA Omaha Royals
1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6 IP
Mendoza looked strong in a quality-start win on Monday against Memphis. For the season, he’s 10-8 with a 4.10 ERA.

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Royals Farm Report

PLAYER PROFILE

Anthony Lerew

Anthony Lerew, during a callup to the Majors earlier this season

Pitcher

AAA-Omaha Royals

27 years old

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 225 lbs.

Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 11th round of the 2001 MLB Draft

Last week we featured a Royals pitcher with the best name in baseball (Rowdy Hardy). This week, let’s talk about the pitcher with the game’s best mutton chops.

Anthony Lerew has spent a little time in The Show this year with mixed results: a 1-4 record, mile-high 8.54 ERA, but moments of brilliance sprinkled in. However, in the Minor Leagues this year, Lerew is 7-3 with a 3.01 ERA. Of late, he’s been particularly dominant, going eight innings in each of his last two starts and allowing only one earned run during that stretch. He also posted 13 strikeouts versus just three walks, and his efforts earned him a pair of wins.

Lerew might be the most interesting pitcher in the minor league system right now. Despite his spotty success in the big leagues this season (and over four Major League seasons between Atlanta and Kansas City), Lerew deserves and probably will receive a shot at the Royals’ rotation next year. That would be a huge step forward for his career, but a slot in the big league bullpen is not beyond the realm of possibility.

The fear with Lerew, though, is that he falls into that category of “AAAA” players – the guys who dominate in the minor leagues, but just aren’t good enough to cross the wide chasm between AAA and the majors.

Royals fans have seen that happen too many times.

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP

AAA – Omaha Royals

Record to date: 70-56, second place in the PCL American North

The past week: 5-2, winning three out of four at Sacramento

Transactions: Another light week. Jai Miller was promoted to Kansas City; and Brian Anderson was sent all the way from A- Burlington to Omaha.

Coming up: In an I-70 Baseball flavored matchup, the O-Royals host the Memphis Redbirds this weekend before Iowa comes to town for a rare five-game series.

AA – Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Record to date: 31-21 in the second half (first place), 73-49 overall

The past week: 2-4, dropping a pair against Midland

Transactions: Josh Fields was received on a major league rehabilitation assignment.

Coming up: The Naturals host Midland, then travel to Springfield for a four-game set before going to Tulsa next weekend.

A+ – Wilmington Blue Rocks

Record to date: 28-24 in the second half (second place), 60-62 overall

The past week: 4-2, with a rainout against Salem

Transactions: James Thompson was activated from the temporarily inactive list; and Harold Mozingo was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Coming up: The Rocks finish up with Lynchburg at home this weekend, then travel to Potomac for three games and to Lynchburg next weekend.

POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Clint Robinson

Clint Robinson, first baseman, AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

.411 average the past week, 5 home runs in past 10 games

Clint Robinson has been arguably the best hitter in the Royals’ minor league system this year, and recently he’s been keeping his hot streak alive.

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Luis Mendoza, AAA-Omaha Royals

2-0, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts

Mendoza picked up a pair of wins last week, defeating Sacramento on the road and then Fresno in an eight-inning, no-earned runs gem. Mendoza is 9-8 on the season for the O-Royals with a 4.23 ERA.

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