Tag Archive | "Training Games"

St. Louis Cardinals bring roller-coaster offense into 2013 season

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second in the National League in hitting last season, but they also had plenty of stretches when the lineup didn’t score more than two runs, even when the pitching staff threw a great game.

jake westbrook I70

And that trend has already continued into 2013.

The San Francisco Giants scored just one unearned run Friday off of Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook, who threw a very solid 6.2 innings and pitched well enough to earn a win, but the Cardinals couldn’t score any runs off of Giants starter Barry Zito and lost the game 1-0.

Yes, Zito is the same lefthanded pitcher who shut the Cardinals down in Game Five of the 2012 National League Championship Series, but the Cardinals have already shown signs of a team that will go through weeks when it struggles mightily to score a run, while other weeks it hits homers at an incredible rate.

In just the first four games of the season, the Cardinals scored 15 of their 17 runs in two games. They were held to two runs by Arizona Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy in the season opener, and then Zito and the Giants shut them out Friday.

This pattern is certain to cause frustration among fans who see starts such as Westbrook’s Friday outing wasted because the offense can’t score.

It’s also not a prototypical pattern of success. In fact, it was one of the biggest reasons the Giants beat the Cardinals in seven games in last year’s NLCS. No pitching staff is going to be able to carry an offense that scores one run in the final three games of that series.

The Cardinals actually scored 52 runs combined in their seven playoff wins last season, but they scored just five runs in their six losses.

And that one day hot, one day not syndrome carried into 2013. The Cardinals even showed inconsistency at the plate during the month of spring training games. They scored seven or more runs in nine of their 16 wins and scored three or fewer runs in 12 of their 15 losses.

Those numbers show the offense might be the most important factor for the Cardinals this season. Sure, the pitching staff has to pitch quality games more often than not, but the numbers say the Cardinals win-loss record is primarily defined by how well the offense hits.

When the Cardinals hit the ball well, they win. When they don’t, they lose.

That’s a pretty simple formula, but it’s also a scary one since the Cardinals have injury-prone hitters such as Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and David Freese as important pieces of their lineup.

Beltran is playing through a fractured toe and has had trouble moving in the first week, Craig nearly injured his knee again by sliding into a wall in Arizona and Freese started the season on the disabled list with a back injury.

Those issues have surely played a part in the offense’s early struggles, and none of those figure to be major problems for the Cardinals throughout the season. Freese’s return by, hopefully, Monday’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds will help, but the entire offense is going to have to be more consistent throughout the course of the season.

That means they’ll likely have to score more runs by playing small ball and moving a runner along the bases without getting a hit. Craig and Matt Holliday did a great job of manufacturing a run in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s 6-1 win over the Diamondbacks, which also happened to be the Cardinals only win of the season heading into play Saturday.

Centerfielder Jon Jay led off the inning with a double, Holliday then grounded out to second base to advance Jay to third and Craig followed with another groundout to score Jay.

The big homeruns and innings filled with bunches of runs might be fun to watch, just as a roller-coaster is fun to ride, but the steady, consistent innings that produce a run or two every day will more likely determine the Cardinals final record.

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Eric Hosmer to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic

Due to a strained right wrist and forearm from Team USA and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Eric Hosmer gets the opportunity to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.

World Baseball Classic

After getting permission from general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost, Hosmer joined team USA Wednesday night to play an exhibition game against the Colorado Rockies. Team USA begins WBC play against Mexico this Friday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ.

Hosmer joins fellow Royal Tim Collins on the USA team and is the ninth Royals player to take part in the World Baseball Classic. Other Royals players are reliever Kelvin Herrera, infielder Miguel Tejada and reliever Atahualpa Severino playing for the Dominican Republic, catcher Salvador Perez with Venezuela, pitcher Luis Mendoza with Mexico, infielder Irving Falu with Puerto Rico and Minor League outfielder Paulo Orlando with Brazil.

Now there might be some concerns about Hosmer being away from the Royals to play in the WBC, but to put into perspective, the WBC is like Spring Training: the games really don’t matter. Of course it’s an honor to represent your country in the WBC, but the games are the same as Spring Training games. And Hosmer will be the Royals first baseman this season, so it’s not like he’s competing for a job. He’ll get to play with different players and be managed by Team USA manager Joe Torre, which is a good thing. There’s the risk of injury, but that can happen in Spring Training games too. Overall, it’s a good experience for Hosmer and the other Royals players participating in the WBC. Oh yeah, Go Team USA!

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Shelby Miller To Test Arm

The first week of spring training games always brings a mix of excitement and trepidation as pitchers take to the mound for the first time in a game atmosphere against real opponents. So far the St. Louis Cardinals have been able to experience the excitement, but more trepidation awaits Saturday.

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

The Cardinals got to see their pitchers who came to spring training with the most health concerns, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, throw in game situations, and neither had any problems.

Wainwright threw 2.2 innings Monday against the Houston Astros, who got four hits off of the Cardinals’ right-handed ace, but he did not give up a run and struck out four.

Sure, Wainwright didn’t come into spring training with any major health concerns, but he is still just two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, and it is always crucial to get that first start out of the way without any problems.

Garcia pitched two innings in a start Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox. He gave up three hits but no runs and had two strikeouts.

His outing was a bigger concern because it was the first time he had pitched in a game since facing the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series last year when he had to come out after two innings because of shoulder discomfort, and that was after he missed much of the second half of the regular season with the same problem.

But Garcia looked sharp Tuesday and reported no lingering issues with his shoulder.

That would be a huge relief for the Cardinals because Garcia is a key piece of the starting rotation, especially now that Chris Carpenter won’t be around. Carpenter’s injury effectively moves Garcia or Jake Westbrook up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

So, with Wainwright and Garcia off to good starts, the Cardinals move on to their next question mark on the pitching staff: Shelby Miller.

Miller is scheduled to start Saturday against the Nationals after he missed several days with soreness in his right shoulder. That could certainly be a major concern if something truly is messed up in the rookie’s shoulder, but most signs point to his soreness as just a normal part of working back into game shape after the offseason.

The Cardinals will find out for sure in just a few days when Miller takes the mound. So far the team has had all of its injury questions answered the way they would prefer. Wainwright looked sharp, Garcia pitched well and the rest of the pitching staff hasn’t reported any injury problems, which is more important at this time of the year than how they perform on the mound.

This will also be the first in a series of important outings for Miller, regardless of his health. He is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation with Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, in what figures to be one of the most hotly contested battles of the spring.

Kelly has yet to enter a game, but Rosenthal started the Cardinals spring opener Saturday against the Miami Marlins, and things didn’t go so well. He gave up four runs on five hits and two walks without recording a strikeout.

Granted, the results in the first start of the spring aren’t very important, and he didn’t have any abnormal discomfort after the game. Rosenthal will get his shot to make the rotation. And if he doesn’t, the Cardinals will have his 100 mph fastball as an effective weapon out of the bullpen.

So the Cardinals can relax a bit now that the pitchers recovering for old injuries have surpassed the first hurdle of spring, but Miller will have to get through Saturday’s game without any issues before they can fully exhale.

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The Sights Of Spring: Royals And Rangers

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


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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the sights of Spring and stay tuned…

<b>Adam Moore</b>

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Royals catcher Adam Moore takes a swing

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars and copyright i70baseball

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

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Time Capsule: Cardinals Videos From The 1980s

Spring Training games are in full effect with all 30 teams,  including the St. Louis Cardinals, took to the field to start getting ready for the season.  Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has opened the vaults and given the world access to video clips that were previously locked away.

The Cardinals were a powerhouse team in the National League in the 1980’s.  Three appearances in the World Series, including winning the championship in 1982, as well as some key moments throughout the decade had many people watching the team very closely.

Today, i70baseball brings you nine classic moments from the Cardinals in the 1980’s, courtesy of Major League Baseball.

Use the navigation controls below to take a look at each of the videos.  Leave us some comments and tell us the moments you most remember from the 1980’s in St. Louis.

<b>Bruce Sutter Closes Out 1982 World Series</b>

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

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St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Games Mean Little But Should Be Fun

The day pitchers and catchers report is always a special day in the baseball community. It marks the symbolic end to the offseason, but another special day approaches this weekend to mark another step toward the birth of another baseball season.

Cardinals Spring Baseball

The St. Louis Cardinals will open their exhibition schedule at 12:05 p.m. Saturday against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida.  That will officially mark the beginning of spring training that more fans can follow, rather than breathlessly waiting on reports of how a second baseman looked while fielding ground balls or how a pitcher looked during a bullpen session.

Admittedly, spring training games aren’t a huge step up from regular spring training workouts. Pitchers will each throw just a few innings and batters who will eventually fill the regular-season lineup will take only one or two at bats, if at all. This year’s Cardinals roster is relatively set for Opening Day, but these will still be baseball games that will gloriously fill the afternoons throughout the rest of February and March.

Some fanatics will surely try to analyze these early games and try to draw conclusions about how a pitcher such as Shelby Miller will perform this season based on a two-inning performance in the first week of March. That outing won’t mean anything in the grand scheme of a season, but hey, it gives fans something to talk about that isn’t contract negotiations or performance-enhancing drugs.

Fans also get a bonus this year because the games will start about a week earlier than normal because the World Baseball Classic will take place during the first half of March, and teams needed some extra time with their players who would be gone for a couple of weeks because of the tournament.

The Cardinals will lose catcher Yadier Molina, rightfielder Carlos Beltran and reliever Mitchell Boggs to the World Baseball Classic, but those three already have defined roles that would only change if they got hurt, which is a whole other issue that comes with the World Baseball Classic.

Otherwise, minor leaguers will fill the field for much of the spring games, but this year fans will likely recognize several of the names in those box scores.

Outfielder Oscar Taveras is one of the Cardinals most highly touted prospects. He hit .321 with 23 homeruns and 94 RBIs with the AA-affiliate Springfield Cardinals last year, and MLB Network recently ranked him as the third-best prospect in all of baseball. In fact, the Cardinals had six players make MLB Network’s list of the top 100 prospects.

Miller came in at 25th, and he will be a strong contender for the fifth spot in the Cardinals starting rotation this year. Trevor Rosenthal ranked 43rd, and he figures to be an important part of the Cardinals pitching staff in 2013.

The other three Cardinals players on the list are unlikely to make the team, but the spring training games should give fans a chance to see second baseman Kolten Wong, as well as pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, for the first time.

Folks have talked about those prospects for more than a year, and this year’s exhibition schedule should allow fans their first chance to see how excited they should be about the Cardinals No. 1-ranked minor league system.

Miller, Rosenthal and Joe Kelly will compete for the fifth and final rotation spot, and Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter will battle for the second base job. Otherwise, not much of what takes place during the 32-game schedule will have much of an effect on the Cardinals’ 2013 season.

And that’s OK. The Cardinals will be playing actual baseball games.

While temperatures in St. Louis remain in the 30s and 40s, that is good enough for now.

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UCB Roundtable: The Designated Hitter and Perpetual Interleague Play

February brings Spring Training, baseball games, and baseball discussions back into the forefront of our minds.  Meanwhile, every February the United Cardinal Bloggers host their first roundtable discussions of the year.

The premise is simple, one writer asks a question and the other writers from around the UCB get a chance to answer with their thoughts about the St. Louis Cardinals.  This continues from day to day for three weeks and concludes with a question from the man himself, Daniel Shoptaw.  You can follow along over at the official UCB site by clicking here.

This year, i70baseball was tapped on the shoulder to open the discussions up.  The question I posed to the group centered around the changes in baseball this year:

This year, Major League Baseball will engage in perpetual interleague play.  For the first time, interleague games will be played throughout the season, taking away the ability to adjust rosters based off of new requirements.  No longer can the Cardinals send a pitcher out for the week to pick up an extra bat.

With players like Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal, the DH has been used often in the past as a way to get a veteran an extra “day off” without losing his production in the lineup.  Some players are uncomfortable with the routine of a DH, sitting and effectively pinch hitting three of four times a game, and would prefer to be more involved.

So the question is this:

Will perpetual interleague play help or harm the Cardinals this season?  Why do you feel the way you do?

The answers are displayed in the slide show below, with the author’s site logo being displayed with their answer.  Please take the time to look through all of the answers and visit the various author’s websites to read through the various voices of the UCB.

<b>Aaron Miles Fastball</b>

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Christine - Aaron Miles Fastball

My opinion is it’s not really going to affect them much either way. As Dathan said, it’s not just the Cardinals facing this in a vacuum – every other team is as well, so every other manager is going to have the challenge of balancing his lineup differently. To me that’s the key: how Mike Matheny is going to handle it. It’s more of a responsibility for him to find the right piece to plug into the DH spot on the right day for it to not be a problem. The pieces are there – it’s what he does with them that will make the difference. Supposedly weak bench or not, I certainly haven’t heard or read any of the “experts” saying the Cardinals will be weak offensively, so having to use a DH at other times beyond the previous set interleague games shouldn’t make a difference.

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

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‘Our Time’, for real this time

I know it is hard to believe, but the Kansas City Royals have actually been a very competitive team for the last month and a half. Since starting 3-14 they’ve gone 19-15, against a much tougher stretch of competition than they’re preparing to face. Even at that pace they’d finish the season with 84 victories at the end of the year. In theory, if they do continue playing the same level of baseball, they’ll win many more than 84 games. Why? Take a look at the winning percentages for the Royals past and future opponents:

Last 34 games (19-15 stretch):  .521

Rest of June: .457

That’s a huge difference in quality of opponent. Even after another disastrous start by Luke Hochevar against the worst offense in the American League, the Royals still find themselves in prime position to climb back to .500 by the end of June. Their next 10 games are against teams with losing records, before they face the fading Cardinals on back-to-back weekends. The opponent in between those weekend match ups is none other than the Houston Astros, picked by many to be the worst team in baseball in 2012. In fact, the only formidable opponents the Royals face in June are the Tampa Bay Rays, and they get three against the hapless Twins right after that. All told that leaves 25 games remaining in June, with 22 against teams you could argue the Royals are equal with or better than. Now of course, that only puts the club at .500, does that really even matter?

Yes, when you consider…

–          Salvador Perez is playing in extended spring training games and expected to be back with the club in the next month

–          Jonathan Sanchez is dominating at AAA, looking like his DL stint may have actually helped

–          Wil Myers continues to force the Royals hand, and could be playing center field in Kansas City by the beginning of July

–          Their July schedule is not much tougher as their July opponents currently have a .466 winning percentage

The only good thing about all of the Royals injuries is that they will have a mid season injection of talent without having to trade any of their best prospects. Perez makes this team considerably better, so does Sanchez if he can harness 2010. Does this team look like a contender with those two? Not even close, unless Eric Hosmer wakes up and Wil Myers comes up and mashes. That is the thing about this club, as young as they are, for many of them we are just waiting for the light bulb to switch on. Hosmer could put together a June that almost completely erases April and May. In fact against the teams he is about to face, I would almost be more surprised if he didn’t.

Okay, I’ll pause the hyperbole and get back to math. If the Royals win at a .558 clip against opponents with a .521 winning %, they should in theory play .625 (17-10) ball based on the winning % of their June opponents and .619 (16-9) in July. That would put the Royals at 55-48 on August 1. From August 1st through the end of the year, the Royals play 29 games against the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox. At the very least they would control their own destiny; they may even be in the driver’s seat.

As Royals fans we’ve been promised a competitive team “in the future” since before the Allard Baird era, and for the most part, the club has failed to deliver. In my opinion, that future starts right now…in June…it’s our time.

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MLB.TV Now Available on Xbox 360

NEW YORK, MARCH 27, 2012 – MLB Advanced Media, L.P., the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball, today announced that MLB.TV is available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360. MLB.TV, the Internet’s most prolific live streaming video subscription offering, is marking its 10th year of service and in the past two years has delivered over 500 million live video streams.

Beginning today, MLB.TV Premium subscribers will have access to all available Spring Training games and every out-of-market regular season game on Xbox 360* as well as portability support to use their accounts across a variety of mobile and connected platforms. In addition, MLB.TV Premium subscribers get the award-winning MLB.com At Bat 12 mobile application for free on iPhone, iPad and Android.

“The launch of MLB.TV on Xbox 360 is an exciting development for baseball fans and symbolic of our commitment to deliver live games through Internet-connected distribution points,” said Kenny Gersh, Senior Vice President, Business Development, MLBAM. “Combining the technology powers of MLB.TV and Xbox will give fans even more options for watching live baseball games in high definition.”

“The future of sports entertainment will be more personal, interactive, and engaging,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Chief Marketing Officer, Xbox. “With unique features like a split-screen mode that lets you watch two games at once, and voice-control on Xbox 360 that lets you pause, rewind, or fast forward with the sound of your voice, the MLB.TV app for Xbox is a giant leap into the future.”

With MLB.TV on Xbox 360, subscribers will get a dynamic live viewing experience for every out-of-market regular season game. Among the features available at launch include:

  • Live Games, Recaps, and Archived Games – Watch every live regular season out-of-market game, or catch it later from the game archives, which will include 2011 games as well as 2012. Short-form game recaps, a complete review of the game in less than 5 minutes, also are available to all Xbox LIVE Gold Members, as well as a free Game of the Day.
  • My Teams – Designate favorite teams and put them front and center, making the live games, archives and recaps for selected favorite teams appear front-and-center for immediate access.
  • Every game in HD – MLB.TV delivers every game in beautiful streaming HD, and most games give every fan the option of the Home or Away feed.
  • Mini Guide – The Mini Guide gives you a quick preview of all of today’s games right at the bottom of the screen, and makes it easier than ever to switch between games. 
  • Split Screen – Allows fans to watch two games at once. Watch live games on both screens or a live game on one while you catch up with a game recap or archive game on the other. Both screens can be controlled independently, pausing and rewinding each separately.
  • Gesture Control and Voice Control with Kinect for Xbox 360 – Focus on the action instead of looking for the remote. Navigate through the Content Guide, skip to the next inning, or play, pause, and rewind that double play…all with the wave of a hand or the sound of a voice with Kinect for Xbox 360.

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Meet the newest Royals, Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois

With catchers Salvador Perez and Manny Pina being out for 2-3 months with knee injuries, the Kansas City Royals made a trade Tuesday, acquiring catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois from the Houston Astros for minor league left-hander Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later. To make room for the newest Royals, the team put Perez and Pina on the 60-day disabled list.

Ever since Perez’s injury, the Royals expressed interest to acquire a catcher outside the organization. There were rumors the Royals invited Ivan Rodriguez to camp, but it ended up being just rumors. Instead, the Royals went the trade route, getting Quintero.

The 32 year-old Quintero is a nine-year major league veteran, playing for the San Deigo Padres from 2003-2004 and with the Houston Astros from 2005-2011. He’s been a career backup catcher, appearing in 379 games. Quintero appeared in 88 games in 2010, the most he’s played in a season.

Quintero’s career line is .234/.268/.321, so the Royals didn’t get him for his hitting. They got him for catching and throwing ability and his major league experience. For now, Quintero expects to play two to four days a week, splitting playing time with Brayan Pena.

It was clear the Royals didn’t see Max Ramirez as a solution, despite his good spring offensive numbers. In fact, Ramirez only started a handful of spring training games as a catcher, so the Royals didn’t have much faith in his catching abilities. Cody Clark doesn’t have major league catching experience and it’s likely the Royals believe Clark would be a better fit for AAA Omaha, where they also need catching help.

There is one concern and hopefully it’s a minor one. This spring, Quintero was out with a bulging disk in his back but returned to action over the weekend. At least it’s not his knee.

As for Bourgeois, the 30 year-old outfielder has four years in the majors, playing for the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Astros. Bourgeois played 192 major league games in his career with a .262/.307/.324 line with 431 plate appearances and 22 RBIs. His speed and versatility are his main assets, with 46 career stolen bases, with 31 of those in 2011. Bourgeois also hits well against left-handers, with a .328 batting average compared to .205 against right-handers.

Bourgeois is not a everyday player, so Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur have little to worry about. But with his versatility of playing all outfield positions and some second base, players like Mitch Meier and Jarrod Dyson have some competition for the reserve outfielder job. Who knows, maybe Manager Ned Yost might have Bourgeois in the second base mix between Johnny Giavotella, Chris Getz and Yuni Betancourt. It is spring training after all.

Probably not. The Royals see Bourgeois as a right-handed reserve outfielder who’s a cross between Meier and Dyson. The odd man out in this situation could be Dyson, who bats from the left side but doesn’t have the versatility of a Bourgeois.

Both Bourgeois and Dyson have options remaining, so it’s likely one of them makes the Opening Day roster and the other one goes to Omaha. If Bourgeois goes to Omaha, he would serve as outfield depth in case someone get injured. If Dyson goes to Omaha, he would get more playing time, perhaps improving his chances of developing into an everyday outfielder. If either player makes the Royals roster, it will be as a reserve outfielder.

The Astros get Chapman, a 24 year-old left-handed relief pitcher who played two seasons with A+ Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas. His career ERA is high at 5.06, and he gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings. But his strikeouts per nine innings is 12.4, so Chapman gets a lot of strikeouts. Chapman projects to be a reliever if he makes it to the majors. And that could be soon, since he’s with the Astros.

The other player the Astros get is our old friend player to be named later. It’s uncertain who it is, but according to Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, this player was a big reason the Astros did the trade. Don’t worry, Royals fans, it’s doubtful the PTBNL are either outfielders Bubba Starling, Wil Myers or pitcher Jake Odorizzi. It better not be, if Dayton Moore wants to keep his job. And if Royals fans want to keep their sanity.

Quintero and Bourgeois are not long-term solutions for the Royals. Quintero was acquired to fill the gap of Perez and Pina being gone for half the season and Bourgeois was acquired to provide outfield depth and perhaps give Dyson and Meier some competition as a reserve outfielder. For now, they fill some holes, if nothing else.

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