Royals general manager Dayton Moore and his entire staff have had a busy few weeks, all culminating in a press conference today at Kauffman Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Moore and surprise attendee Royals manager Ned Yost sat down at the desk in front of local media to talk about a few subjects on today’s agenda.
The first topic was the announcement that the club and Yost had agreed to a two-year contract, keeping the manager in Kansas City through at least 2012.
Yost was asked how this situation in Kansas City compared to his time in Milwaukee, when he took over a club coming off a 106-loss season in 2002. The KC skipper said that while Milwaukee had a lot of very good prospects (Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks among them), they were at lower levels of the system than the bulk of the top prospects the Royals have currently. He also mentioned that Milwaukee was unbalanced when it came to prospects, as they loaded up on power hitters and lacked in front-line pitchers. He sees a great mix of both pitchers (and power pitchers at that) and position prospects on the Royals farm.
Yost mentioned that he knew during spring training, as he took a look around the Royals’ complex in Surprise, that this is where he wanted to be long term. He mentioned that building relationships are the key ingredient to building championship ballclubs and putting the pieces together to build a champion is one of the most fun things in life to do. He plans to accomplish that here in Kansas City and to do it together with the people in the front office he’s built very strong relationships with thus far.
Moore was asked why he thought Yost was the right man to lead this club forward both in the short and long term. He responded that Yost’s leadership abilities are off the charts and his experience both in Atlanta and Milwaukee building a winner was a very important component. Moore did admit quite candidly that he had done his due diligence looking around at other managerial candidates, but he believes he found the right guy here. The communication between Moore and Yost, an extremely key component to building a winner, works very well.
The second topic was the big trade that sent outfielder Rick Ankiel and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Gregor Blanco and pitchers Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins. From all indications, the deal was finalized and approved by the commissioner’s office very close to the 3 p.m. CT deadline. Both Blanco and Chavez will join the Royals soon while Collins, a fireballing left-handed reliever, will report to Triple-A Omaha.
The 26-year-old Blanco was hitting .310 in limited time with the Braves this season and made his debut in 2008, posting a good rookie campaign with Atlanta in which he finished with a .366 on-base percentage. Royals GM Dayton Moore compared the speedy outfielder to Mitch Maier, in that he can play all three outfield positions well and can handle the bat. He likes the fact that the club controls Blanco for four more seasons so the team will have a chance to evaluate him as they move forward.
Chavez is 26. He is a right-handed reliever with a very good arm who has been inconsistent for the past three seasons in the big leagues with the Pirates and Braves. Chavez was traded this offseason for former Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura and then for All-Star closer Rafael Soriano. The California native will join the Royals bullpen.
Finally, 20-year-old left-hander Tim Collins has had a whirlwind month of July. He was first a key part of the July 14 trade that sent shortstop Alex Gonzalez to Atlanta and shortstop Yunel Escobar to Toronto. Small in stature at 5-foot-7, the southpaw has a well above-average fastball and an overhand curve that he has employed to post a 2.29 ERA and 87 strikeouts in just 51.0 innings at the Double-A level in 2010. Moore compared Collins to closer Billy Wagner, who currently has 409 saves in the Majors. The Royals GM told the media that his scouts have indicated to him Collins has a chance to be a contributor in the big league bullpen as early as next season.
Saturday is the annual Salute to the Negro Leagues celebration. Gates A and E (the Outfield Experience) will open at 3:00 p.m. prior to the 6:10 game. All gates will open at 4:30. A pregame party in the Outfield Experience will feature $1 hot dogs and Pepsi products, with proceeds going to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Fans can visit with former Negro Leagues players during an autograph session from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Both the Royals and Orioles will don Negro Leagues uniforms. KC will don the home uniforms of the 1949 Monarchs while the O’s will honor the Baltimore Elite Giants. The first 20,000 fans will receive this replica Monarchs cap courtesy of Pepsi.
Aviles to see time at third
Mike Aviles took groundballs at third base in an early workout today. Ned Yost would like to give third baseman Wilson Betemit a day off here and there as Betemit has had hamstring and legs problems in the past. Yost said that Betemit does not have an injury now, but that this is a preventative measure. The use of Aviles at third base will also open up more time for Chris Getz at second base, who the club wants to get a longer look at. Aviles could play at third as early as tomorrow. He is doing well as he progresses in his recovery from “Tommy John” surgery.
Luke to the mound?
Luke Hochevar continues to throw on flat ground and has worked his way up to tosses of 75 feet. He could be throwing off the mound in the next 10 days.
A reporter asked about Zack Greinke and his struggles in his last start against Minnesota. Yost talked about his coaching experience in Atlanta with ace pitchers Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. The three would have days where they would dominate, days where they would be ok and days where they would get hit hard. Yost said that no one is immune and there is no explanation for it. The best pitchers minimize the number of times that they are hit hard. He expects Zack to be fine.
With the news of Scott Podsednik’s trade to the Dodgers not even a day old, Yost faced several questions regarding the impact the move will have on the team. First, Yost pointed out that the loss of Podsednik creates the opportunity for Alex Gordon to further develop on a day-to-day basis as an outfielder. Yost also added that the change allots more playing time to Mitch Maier. Furthermore, Yost sees the move as a positive exchange for two quality players, catcher Lucas May and pitcher Elisaul Pimentel, whom he views as adding depth to the organization. Yost believes creating depth is very important and will be key to not missing a beat in critical situations, such as when Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar were placed on the disabled list and the quality pitchers necessary to fill the void simply were not there. The manager also noted the downside of the trade, however, saying that the team lost a .300 hitter and a spark on the bases, as well as a real pro and classy individual. In the end, Yost sees the trade as a move made in the best interest of the organization because it is crucial to increase the talent base at the minor league level and to allow home grown players (such as Gordon) more time to develop at the Major League level.
Without Podsednik in the order, the lineup will look a bit different from now on. Willie Bloomquist will bat leadoff in tonight’s game, but Yost said the spot will vary from day-to-day. Yost believes the Royals no longer have a prototypical leadoff hitter, but he doesn’t see this as a major problem, adding that Bloomquist, Maier, and Jason Kendall are all capable of hitting in the one spot.
The recent vacancy of Podsednik’s roster position also created changes in the bullpen, with right-hander Greg Holland being called up from Triple-A Omaha. Yost said he opted for a pitcher in this situation because the bullpen has been in a flux and he doesn’t want to overuse guys. He thinks Holland will be able to split some time and showcase his 94-97 mph fastball, though he admitted Holland need to improve his command that he has struggled with at times in the minors.
Here’s what the manager had to say before Wednesday’s game:
On Victor Marte…
Having just sent Marte to AAA Omaha, Yost said the pitcher needs to work on his command. Yost does like Marte’s durability, however, which allows him to pitch consecutive days. The KC manager also mentioned Marte has good stuff, but just doesn’t change speeds enough yet.
On Wilson Betemit…
Yost thinks Betemit has done a nice job at third base, but also said first base is probably the player’s best position.
On the depth of a team…
According to Yost, championship teams essentially have two pitching staffs, which he claimed is what the Royals are working towards and is the team’s goal.
On preventing injuries…
Yost said there is no way to eliminate or limit injuries. However, he did say that he tries to use common sense and keep an eye on players before they break down. He said it’s important to know which players are prone to injuries and to give guys a day off when needed. Yost also pointed out that the club focuses a lot on hydration.
On Kyle Farnsworth…
To put it shortly, Farnsworth is feeling better and is ready to go today after exiting last night’s contest with a hamstring cramp.
Kansas City hosts Minnesota at 1:10. The Royals optioned pitcher Victor Marte to Omaha today and recalled pitcher Bryan Bullington.
Here is your KC lineup: (Podsednik – LF), (Bloomquist – RF), (Butler – 1B), (Guillen – DH), (Betemit – 3B), (Aviles – 2B), (Ankiel – CF), (Pena – C), (Betancourt – SS), (Bannister – P)
Just a day after Gil Meche allowed seven runs on eight hits in his second rehab start, Yost announced that it is very likely the pitcher will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery in the near future. Yost said though the exact cause is unclear, Meche is still experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder, which leaves Meche and the Royals with their final option: surgery. Simply speculating, Yost imagines the doctors will have to go in and clean up the problem area with a scope, though he added that it could also be a repair job. According to Yost, Meche is feeling a little down because he worked very hard and did everything he could to get back this year, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. When asked what kind of an impact this loss will have on the team, Yost replied that it’s always a blow when a team loses a guy like Meche who is capable of winning ballgames, but the Royals will just have to move on.
Yost also provided a brief update on pitcher Luke Hochevar, saying he threw two sessions of 25 from 60 feet in his second outing since being placed on the disabled list. Yost added that right now Hochevar is in the strengthening mode and has no set return date, though the manager expects it will be fairly soon and he is on schedule.
Jason Kendall overcame a grotesque ankle dislocation in 1999 to become just the fifth catcher in history to work 2,000 games behind the plate. The list is as follows: Ivan Rodriguez, 2,351 (and counting); Carlton Fisk, 2,226; Bob Boone, 2,225; Gary Carter, 2,056; and Jason with 2,000 and counting.
Jason and his son Kuyper had their picture taken last night with the five cakes that were presented to Jason – one featuring each of the catchers with 2,000 games caught. Kudos to Jason for persevering to reach this milestone!
Royals Charities and Fox Sports Kansas City present the first Broadcast Auction tonight. This is your opportunity to bid on eight experience items, including a Groundskeeping Experience and a chance to throw out a first pitch. The online portion of the auction is going on now at royals.com. Tune into the pregame show tonight (6:30 p.m.) for more details!
Here’s the lineup for the 7:10 start vs. Minnesota:
(Podsednik – LF), (Kendall – C), (Butler – 1B), (Guillen – DH), (Ankiel – CF), (Betemit – 3B), (Gordon – RF), (Betancourt – SS), (Getz – 2B), (Chen – P)