Tonight is Futures’ Night, which means Kansas City will get to take a peak at the future of the organization. With the team on a seven game roll, tonight is a great night to make it out to the stadium.
The Minor League Players of the Year will be on hand. We’re going to have one last fireworks spectacular here at the “old” Kauffman Stadium, it’s Buck Night and of course the Royals pit their surging brand of baseball against the first-place White Sox. Let’s go Around the Horn…
The past few years the team has given Royals fans a glimpse of what is to come and not just with September call-ups (though it’s been exciting seeing the successes of Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka’aihue and Devon Lowery this month). Futures’ Night is that chance. Names like Mike Moustakas, Dan Cortes, Derrick Robinson, and Mike Montgomery are just a few of the players we’ve mentioned in this space who will be here to meet the fans.
But these players got a taste of what it means to be a Kansas City Royal earlier today. Some of the front office accompanied the players as they helped out at Harvesters and then toured the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The future of the Club then made its way to Kauffman to take in the Royals batting practice earlier this afternoon. It is important that these young players understand about the community they hope to play in and their short tour was designed to do just that. It’s worked in the past.
Among some of the names you might recognize from the last few years, Mike Aviles has won Minor League Player of the Year for his respective team three times (2007 at Omaha, 2004 at Wilmington and 2003 at Surprise), including the title of 2007 Minor League Player of Year last season for the entire organization. In 2006, three players who’ve seen time in the Majors this season were given the award. Zack Greinke and Alex Gordon – two of the building blocks for the team – won Pitcher and Player of the Year at Wichita and Carlos Rosa, who had three strikeouts in three innings earlier this season, was the Burlington Pitcher of the Year.
Billy Butler joins Aviles as a two-time winner of the award. He also won at two different levels. At 18, he won the Idaho Falls Player of the Year and followed that performance with the honor at High Desert as a 19-year old.
Some of the lower-level award winners over the past couple of years are already starting to help the organization win. Luis Cota and Nick Van Stratten won the award for Burlington Pitcher of the Year (2005) and Arizona Player of the Year (2006), respectively. Both were key to the success of the Burlington Bees in their run to the Midwest League Championship.
The team has clicked. Through the streak, the starter has won every game. They’ve bashed 12 homers and run their season win total to 69, matching their 2007 win total. With one more victory, they can secure their first 70-win season since going 83-79 in 2003.
After their last loss, a week ago in Cleveland, the Royals were 19 games back and eight behind Detroit. While they haven’t shaved much off their deficit to the division-leading White Sox, they are just three behind the Tigers.
Manager Trey Hillman told the media today that the strong play will get a test tonight. Matching up against the White Sox, a team who is playing for the postseason, he said the Royals will see just how well they have been playing. He hopes that they can continue their run, but doesn’t want to diminish what the Royals did in Cleveland. The Indians have been strong for most of the second half and Hillman’s boys shut them down (with the exception of the eventual Cy Young winner Cliff Lee).
Hillman sees tonight as a chance to measure his team. He believes comparing his team to the rest of the division, his main competition, will give him an accurate read on where he sits. Chicago will bring a playoff atmosphere to the K and the Royals will need to stand up to the division leaders – “the pride of the division,” – if they want a shot at not finishing in last place, which is a goal the manager thinks shows something.
Alberto Callaspo has hit in 12 straight, a career high…David DeJesus picked up his 70th RBI yesterday. DeJesus and Jose Guillen (95 RBI) are the first pair of Royals to knock in 70 or more runs in a season since Emil Brown (86) and Mike Sweeney (83) did it in 2005…DeJesus currently has a .402 average with runners in scoring position and is trying to become just the third Royal to end a season with a .400 RISP mark. Sweeney (.402 in 2002) and George Brett (.469 in 1980) are the only others to do it…Mark Teahen had two hits in the fourth inning yesterday, which was the first time a Royal had done that since Tony Pena, Jr. did it in the second versus St. Louis on June 14, 2007…The 500th strikeout of Zack Greinke’s career was former Royal Raul Ibanez in the first inning yesterday.
Tonight is the final Buck Night and Fireworks Friday. But tomorrow has plenty for the fans as well. Stocking caps and “Shirts Off Their Backs” Night will highlight the rest of the weekend’s promotions.
With the season coming to a close and Around the Horn running out of time, we here at ATH and the K want to again voice our deepest gratitude to you – the fan – for your support and for your patience with the renovation process. You will not be disappointed when we re-open on April 10, 2008 versus the Yankees.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Today’s lineup: Full post later. Don’t miss the last double play promotion: Buck Night and Fireworks…It’s also Futures Night, so all of the Minor League Players of the Year will be on hand to sign autographs and meet the fans.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Yesterday we gave you a piece of the conversation held at the Crosstown Station between General Manager Dayton Moore, manager Trey Hillman, and former players Al Fitzmorris and Willie Wilson. Today we’ll bring you the rest of what was said during the final State Farm Legends Luncheon. For more information on the luncheons please visit www.thebestofbuck.com. The Luncheons are in honor of Buck O’Neil and have supported the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (www.nlbm.com) for nine years.
Part one of the Luncheon recap yesterday focused heavily on Moore and building the Club’s minor league system. Wilson, as a one-time Royals farmhand, put in his two cents about how to build the club as well.
Today, Around the Horn wants to focus on what Hillman had to say about his first year as a manger. We’ll preface Hillman’s comments by saying that after the conversation between the four men on stage finished, the audience was allowed to ask questions. One woman asked both Hillman and Moore what their best and worst decisions were since joining the Royals. Moore told the crowd his greatest baseball decision to this point was the hiring of Trey Hillman to manage the Royals.
Moore fells so strongly that he has the right man he barely hesitated before responding. He sees in Hillman a desire and work ethic fit for the job. Two examples of that are Hillman’s seemingly tireless work while in spring training. Hillman would be on the back fields working with the minor league players long after the Major Leaguers had showered and left the complex. No one asked Hillman to do it, he just did.
In the same manner, he was at the Royals pre-draft workout hitting fungos to prospects who weren’t even in the organization yet. Moore said these are the types of things no other manager in the Majors is doing but they make the young players want to play for Hillman. If that kind of environment can be created, then a pride and desire to wear the Royal uniform will be created. Something Around the Horn wrote about yesterday in talking about strengthen the farm system.
Needless to say the fan was pleased and said she truly believes that Hillman and Moore are the best people in baseball today to take on the job of building a champion in Kansas City.
When Hillman took the job, the first thing he did – which was his answer for his best decision – was to start talking to players but also to start raising the expectations. Hillman said he was wearing out his cell phone while he was still in Japan talking to people in the organization from players to publicity folks to the baseball minds. He did say not to mention this fact to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his club last season in Japan. So keep that on the down-low.
The expectation of the 2008 Royals was to win the World Series. That was Hillman’s best decision. He told people before the season, “If you aren’t aiming for a championship, you can’t win one.” He also knew that 2008 was going to be a season where a lot of questions needed to be answered.
Since Moore’s arrival, the team needed to address some issues like adding a front-line starter and a slugger to the lineup. Moore has done both of those things with Gil Meche, who was considered a middle-tier free agent when he signed, and Jose Guillen, who has come with some controversy but is an impact to the lineup. These players believe in what’s going on in Kansas City and want to win, which is where Hillman is coming from. He wants to win.
This season hasn’t been the easiest. Hillman said probably one of his other decisions that could go either way was not to use Joakim Soria during the 12-game losing streak. Using the Royals All-Star may have won that game, but the what-ifs can go both ways. Hillman is content to know that Soria is healthy and still pitching at an extremely high level. Had he been used on short rest during the streak, who knows what may have happened.
For the first-year manager, Soria is a bright spot. He heard so much good about the closer during spring training but didn’t see it. Soria didn’t pitch like an All-Star in the spring. But he turned it on once the season started. Hillman said he was amazed that he had 39 (now 40) saves on a team that had less than 70 wins.
Hillman was also impressed with Mike Aviles. He told Moore that Aviles would make an impact on this ball club during the spring. However, Hillman didn’t think the rookie would make this much of a difference to the 2008 team. Likewise with Ryan Shealy. During their demotion meetings, both players were somewhat upset but quickly turned around their feelings to a desire to work and get better.
Another question and answer was Zack Greinke. They wanted to see him stay healthy and stay consistent in the rotation for a full year. Greinke has matured and blossomed this season. Hillman said he’s become a pitcher and not just a thrower. One of the key’s for Greinke (who starts today) is to pitch around 91-92 mph and keep his 96-97 mph heater in his back pocket to break out every once in a while and baffle a hitter. Greinke has done that and so much more. He has become a student of the game.
Fitzmorris said that he and the pitchers on his teams were constantly talking to hitting coach Charlie Lau. They wanted to know how hitters thought about hitting. Hillman said this team is becoming students of the game in the same manner. He hopes that the inefficiency of the starters comes as a bit of a “slap in the face” and spurs them to work more. Look at what Kyle Davies accomplished two nights ago. That is a perfect example. Hillman said that if Davies can reproduce 75 percent of what he did on Tuesday he will be a solid performer. True, its one start and this late season surge is in September. But Hillman likes to live by a saying he got from Moore.
“Believe in what you see and not what you hear,” Hillman said.
For starters, congratulations to Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki. He received a warm ovation from the Kauffman crowd when he collected his 200th hit of the season last night. With the hit, Suzuki tied a Major League record and broke the American League record by recorded eight straight seasons with at least 200 hits. He broke Wade Boggs’ A.L. mark of seven (1983-89) and tied Wee Willie Keeler (1894-1901)…Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo have career high hitting streaks going at 14 games and 11 games, respectively…Ryan Shealy homered for the second straight night, the second time he’s accomplished the feat this season (third in his career)…The Royals are riding a season-high six-game winning streak and have 11 homers during the streak…Joakim Soria is one of three Royals pitchers to record a 40 save season and currently has the fourth best season in team history behind Jeff Montgomery’s 45 in 1993 and Dan Quisenberry’s 45 in 1983 and 44 in 1984.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Today’s lineup: It’s the last weekday-day game, which means its your last chance to skip work or school to see the Royals in powder blue this season.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Around the Horn got a treat today with the final State Farm Legends Luncheon of the season. General Manager Dayton Moore and manager Trey Hillman chatted with former Royals Al Fitzmorris and Willie Wilson for a few hours in downtown Kansas City and we got to listen.
For today, we’re going to give you a taste of what went on during the event.
If you haven’t been to one of these, we here at ATH strongly recommend them. Wilson and Fitzmorris serve as the host and talk to guests who are connected to Kansas City baseball or even players and coaches who represent the legacy of the Negro Leagues and Buck O’Neil. For more info, check out www.bestofbuck.com.
Today’s session started with a thank you to all those in attendance. Through nine years of Luncheons, over $100,000 have been raised for the Negro Leagues Museum. That’s a substantial sum for what started as an idea hatched in a conference room.
Once Wilson and Fitzmorris took the stage, they introduced Hillman and Moore. Wilson, who endorsed TeamSmile before the interview started, thanked Moore and his staff for bringing back the Royals Alumni. Wilson said he really enjoys being involved in the organization again and feels it will help re-instill the tradition of the franchise to the new players.
Wilson said it means a lot to him because he has a strong connection with the Royals. He worked his way through the system. So when he got to the bigs, he felt ownership over the team and pride in the uniform he wore. Similar to how he felt once he reached the Majors, Wilson said 60 percent of the Major League club needs to be grown through the farm system.
Moore agreed with him and spoke about being able to draft. He said that in the past, it wasn’t totally an issue of money being put into the draft, but instead the picks which did get the money didn’t pan out the way they should have. The philosophy has changed.
“You have to draft on ability and not signability,” Moore said.
Moore then talked about growing scouting everywhere and not just looking at the draft as a means of acquiring talent to be groomed. At this moment, the team is working on developing a foothold in the Eastern Rim – with area scouts and talent evaluators. The team is also ramping up efforts in Latin America and becoming more aggressive in the Dominican Republic, where the Royals already have a baseball academy.
To grow the system even more, programs are in place for the Fall Instructional League that will allow players who workout during the day and attend classes at night at Glendale (AZ) Community College. They will learn about leadership, character and responsibility on and off the field. Moore said this is something no other team is doing.
Wilson said home-grown players have an attachment to the “Blue and White,” a bond they’ve formed with the team since entering the organization and then continued as they flourished inside of it. Moore seconded his thoughts, saying “Players have to feel strongly about putting on the Royal uniform.”
These programs are making the Royals the toast of the league. In some respects, the Major League club may not be the strongest competition, but scouts are raving about the work going on in the Minor Leagues and at the scouting level. But there is still a lot of heavy lifting to be done.
For example, he threw out a few names the Detroit Tigers picked up over the last offseason. To acquire Edgar Renteria, the Royals would have had to give up Luke Hochevar and Dan Cortes. To get Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera they might have had to fork over Hochevar, Cortes, Derrick Robinson and maybe even Danny Duffy. Those trades would have decimated a thin minor league system. Moore said beyond those few, there was a large gap to get to the next tier of talent in the system.
“Before we build a great farm system, it will be very difficult to impact the Major League team,” Moore said.
The Royals are 10-5 this month, eclipsing their 2007 September win total with 11 games left in the season…When Brandon Duckworth struck out Wladimir Balentien to end the sixth inning; the 2008 pitching staff become the Royals strikeout kings. They passed the 1990 staff which had 1,006 punch outs with Duckworth’s K and ended the night with 1,010 for the season. That number is sure to skyrocket with Gil Meche and Zack Greinke likely to get at least two starts still (both are in the American League’s top 10 for K’s this season)…As a team, the K.C. offense produced a cycle in the fifth inning last night. It was the first time since June 14, 2007 that the Royals have singled, doubled, tripled and homered in one inning.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Last night was an example of how the Royals want to win ballgames. Strong starting pitching, followed by a shut down bullpen and then an offense which will get the job done. To look at how that happened last night, let’s go Around the Horn…
He’s had two other eight strikeout efforts and he’s had two other eight inning games (one complete game). He’s also held opponents scoreless before. But Kyle Davies had never brought all of those elements together in one outing before last night.
The other impressive number about Davies’ four-hitter? Zero walks. He didn’t walk anyone, something he has not done this season. In fact he’s only recorded two other walkless starts, both of which were less than six innings.
Davies retired the first 12 batters he faced until Jose Lopez singled to lead off the fifth inning. Davies also combated another problem he’s had this season. He kept his pitch count low. He threw 98 pitches during his eight innings of work.
Manager Trey Hillman called Davies performance the best he’s seen.
Maybe more impressively, he has nine multi-hit games during his current hitting streak, including a 2-for-4 night last night with a double and a run scored.
Guillen is hitting .418, banging seven doubles and two homers with 12 RBI during his 13-game streak. He’s also scored six runs. With his recent surge, he has repositioned himself for a shot at 100 RBI and if he stays hot, he’ll have a chance to eclipse his career high of 104 (set in 2003). His 2003 season is his only 100-plus RBI season, though he reached 99 last year in Seattle.
The slugger leads the Royals in hits (147), doubles (40), homers (20), RBI (93), total bases (249) and multi-hit games (44).
One strikeout is all the Club needs to tie its single-season record. The 1990 pitching staff fanned 1,006 batters compared to this season’s 1,005, which is the sixth-highest total in the American League this season…Alberto Callaspo also has a career-high hitting streak going at nine games…Ryan Shealy has reached base in seven of his eight games and is hitting .387…Mike Aviles has scored nine runs during his seven-game hitting streak and is one of five Royals with over 60 runs this season…David DeJesus snapped a 127-game errorless streak with his throwing error in the sixth…Mark Teahen is hitting .338 since August 27 with nine extra base hits…From Trey Hillman’s pregame press conference: “Nothing is more powerful to the atmosphere than winning,” Hillman said in response to the environment in the Royals clubhouse before today’s game (the lights were dimmed, music was pumping and some players were dancing)…Also: “Pitching is as contagious as hitting,” Hillman said voicing his hopes for Brandon Duckworth’s start tonight following last night’s four-hit shutout.
How can you beat the deal we got going here tonight? $3 tickets and a long-sleeve tee upon entering.
Plenty of other great promotions are left this week and there are just six home games including tonight’s ballgame. You should come out and join the fun.
Also: The Royals will be announcing their 2009 home schedule (no game times) tomorrow at noon. Keep an eye out for that!
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Good pitching, bolstered by an offense that scored 13 runs yesterday and eight in each of their games on Saturday, led the Royals to the series win. To take a look at the weekend’s success, let’s go Around the Horn…
Ryan Shealy and Mark Teahen feasted like kings on Indians’ pitching over the weekend. The two combined to go 14-for-29 (.483). They scored four and three runs, respectively, and knocked in 12. As a force, the twosome hit five homers, each of them notching a two-homer game.
Shealy’s first round-tripper came during Teahen’s multi-homer game Saturday night. The Royals first baseman collected four hits in five at-bats during that game, setting a new career high. He followed that performance with a multi-homer game yesterday while knocking in five, tying career highs for homers in a game and RBI in a game. Shealy is hurting the ball, going 7-for-10 over the weekend, and he has four homers and nine RBI in just seven games this season.
Teahen had a five-hit day with two homers and three RBI on Saturday. He’s hitting .311 and has a .590 slugging percentage with nine extra base hits, including four homers in 15 games, since August 29.
The Burlington Bees finished their season on Saturday without playing a final game. When their games on Friday and Saturday were canceled due to rain, league officials awarded the Midwest League Championship to the Bees, who were unbeaten in the playoffs. They ended their championship run at 6-0, sweeping all three opponents and outscoring them, 38-12.
The Bees secured their first and the Royals organization’s first championship since 1999. The last titles in the Royals system were won by Wichita and Wilmington. For Burlington, it’s their first league title since 1999, when they were a White Sox affiliate (they became a Royals affiliate in 2001).
Some of the key names in Burlington’s 6-0 run were Johnny Giavotella (.375 with two homers and eight RBI in the playoffs), Nick Van Stratten (.292 with two doubles, a triple and six RBI in the playoffs), Jamar Walton (.333 with a double, two homers and five RBI in the playoffs) and Mike Moustakas (.227 with two doubles, a homer and five RBI in the playoffs). That group of four batted in 24 of the team’s runs.
The Royals collected 39 hits in their final three games in Cleveland and has hit .342 as a club, including a .446 clip with runners in scoring position, over their last five games…Jose Guillen carries a career-high 12-game hitting streak into tonight’s game (21-for-51, .412)…Joakim Soria sits at 37 saves this season, which is third in the American League and passed Jeff Montgomery’s 1998 total for sixth-best in franchise history…Soria’s 54 career saves are tied for fourth in team history with Roberto Hernandez’s total from 2001-2002…Today is Luke Hochevar’s 25th birthday…Thursday’s day game versus Seattle is going to be on TV, as a make-up for the May 3rd postponement in Cleveland.
This week is huge for the fans. Around the Horn can barely remember all of the promotions going on. First and foremost is retro-pricing, which starts tonight and runs through Thursday’s 1:10 Mariners game. It’s 1973 again and you can get an upper deck seat for just $3 and parking for only $5 brought to you by The Parking Spot.
Tomorrow is the final T-Shirt Tuesday, with a blue long-sleeve tee offered to the first 20,000 through the gates. Wednesday is Ink College night and our Halfway to St. Paddy’s Day celebration. Friday is Buck Night, Fireworks Friday, The Royals Coat Drive and Futures’ Night (come out and see two of those Champion Burlington Bees as well as the other Minor League Players of the Year). Saturday is stocking cap night brought to you by FSN-KC and “Shirts off Their Backs” Night. And Sunday, the final home game of the season, is the last Sprint Fun Run and Bob Evans Friends & Family Day.
Now, that is a long list and a heck of a week for the fans here at the K. It’s our way of saying “Thank you” to the fans.
Today’s Official Game Notes.