The Major League Baseball Players Association’s Players Trust hosted a City Clinic today at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
Billy Butler, Lorenzo Cain and Aaron Crow joined Ripken Baseball in providing free instruction to youth baseball players. The Players Trust created the City Clinics program to help Major Leaguers promote the game of baseball to underserved children, ages 6-16, in select cities across the country. Sponsored by Majestic Athletics, this program has impacted more than 6,000 disadvantaged youth across the United States. For more information on the Players Trust, visit www.playerstrust.org
Ned Yost’s pregame meeting with the media centered most around plate discipline and his thoughts on his team’s approach at the plate. Yost said that while players have played their entire careers up to this point a certain way that doesn’t mean they stop trying to improve in all areas including discipline.
“I saw it with Prince Fielder when he went to the next level. I saw it with Barry Bonds. You know it’s like if you’re not going to throw a strike I’m not swinging the bat but when you do I’m going to do damage. It’s part of becoming a veteran hitter and a learning how to be a better hitter. The more disciplined you are the better off you’re going to be.”
Meanwhile the lack of run support continues for tonight’s starter, Danny Duffy. Despite the worst run support of any pitcher in baseball that has thrown at least 90.0 innings this year, Duffy continues to post solid numbers.
“Danny doesn’t worry about run support he just goes out and pitches,” Yost said. “It’s maturity I think. He’s learned how to harness his emotions to his benefit and he just goes out and does his job. Once you step onto the field that’s all you can do is do your job.”
The Royals made a trade on their off day, sending Danny Valencia to Toronto, which changes two positions on the roster. Ned Yost was asked about the addition catcher Erik Kratz, one of two players acquired in yesterday’s trade, and the recall of infielder Christian Colon, who was at Omaha.
Yost said that Colon provides middle infield depth, which the Royals have not had since Colon was optioned to Omaha on July 11. The former first-round pick can play second, short and third, while Valencia was primarily a third baseman who could play at short or second when the need occurred. Yost said that Kratz is a big guy who can hit with power.
Valencia had played third base against most lefties, which led to the next question: Will Mike Moustakas now play third on a full-time basis? Yost said that it’s a day-to-day situation. His focus is on winning today’s game. He reiterated that Colon is a sound, fundamental player who can defend at all three positions.
Yost said that Jason Vargas threw very well in today’s bullpen session as he progresses in returning from his appendectomy. Yost noted more command and life on Vargas’ pitches. When asked about the lefty returning to the rotation, Yost said that it depends on how he feels the next few days. If he continues to progress, his return could be sooner rather than later.
The Royals announced tonight that they have acquired minor league catcher Erik Kratz and right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks from the Toronto Blue Jays, in exchange for infielder Danny Valencia. Kratz will join the Royals in time for Tuesday night’s game against Minnesota, while Hendriks will be assigned to Triple-A Omaha. Infielder Christian Colon will be recalled from Omaha tomorrow, while to make room on the 40-man roster, catcher Brett Hayes has been designated for assignment.
Kratz, 34, has split time between Toronto and Buffalo (AAA) this season. He played in 34 games for the Jays in 2014, batting .198 with 3 doubles, 3 homers and 10 RBI. He has posted a .299 average and 10 doubles, 3 homers and 17 RBI in 27 games for the Bisons. He was traded to Toronto this offseason from the Phillies’ organization, where he spent three years. He’s been a Triple-A All-Star three times in his career (2009-11), being named the game’s Top Star at the 2009 contest in Portland, Ore., collecting a double and a homer in his two at-bats. In parts of five Major League seasons, Kratz has hit .216 with 21 homers, 63 RBI with Pittsburgh (2010), Philadelphia (2011-13) and Toronto (2014).
Hendriks, 25, was named the Top Star from the International League at the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 16, pitching 2.0 scoreless innings and recording four strikeouts. He’s made 16 starts for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, Buffalo, going 8-1 with a 2.33 ERA, recording 91 strikeouts in 108.1 innings, while holding opponents to a .231 batting average this season. The young righty has made three starts for Toronto in 2014, going 1-0 with a 6.08 ERA with eight strikeouts.
Hendriks was selected off waivers by three different teams this offseason, ending up with Toronto on February 21. He was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins as a non-drafted free agent out of Perth, Australia in 2007. He participated in the SiriusXM Radio Futures All-Star Games (2010, 2011) and pitched in 30 games for the Twins over a three-year period (2011-13).
Valencia, 29, was hitting .282 with 2 homers and 11 RBI in 36 games for the Royals this season.
Here are the Dish Network channel numbers for the Minnesota series:
Tuesday, July 29: Dish 441 or 412-29
Wednesday, July 30: Dish 442 or 412-30
Thursday, July 31: Dish 441 or 412-29
Billy Butler followed Friday’s pinch-hit homer with a go-ahead two-run blast in the fifth last night, capping KC’s comeback from a 5-0 deficit. The Royals have won five in a row overall. A win today would mark the first four-game sweep of the Indians at home and second overall, the other coming in 1973 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
The Royals’ lineup shuffle will continue tonight when the club takes on Cleveland in the third game of a four-game set. Nori Aoki will re-assume his customary place atop the order, with Lorenzo Cain sliding down from first to seventh. Billy Butler returns to the starting lineup, playing first and batting sixth.
Manager Ned Yost said it’s tough to establish continuity in the absence of key contributors.
“It’s more difficult when you’ve got one of your major guys out of the lineup,” he said. “Like when Alex [Gordon] missed time, and now Hoz is missing time, it’s more difficult.”
Yost said that Eric Hosmer continues to recover from right hand weakness and could potentially return as early as tomorrow.
“He’s feeling better. We’ll see tomorrow,” said Yost. “Half of me says, ‘Yeah.’ The other half of me says, ‘Just take advantage of tomorrow and the off day and be ready to go Tuesday.’ We’ll look at it and see. He’s feeling better. He wanted to try to test it today and swing and I said no. I want to get it over with and behind us.”
Hosmer had a career-long 16-game hitting streak snapped when he was forced to leave the game early on July 23 at Chicago. He is batting .410 (25-for-61) with two home runs and 10 RBI during the month of July.
By Kolby Paxton
The Royals won a 6-4 thriller on Friday night as Billy Butler delivered a two-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth. It was Billy’s second career pinch-hit home run and the 75th in Royals history. Also below: Omar Infante made a nice play on the final out of the game; Danny Duffy and Brett Hayes snuck up on Butler during postgame interview as Aaron Crow looked on; Crow received a Gatorade bath during his interview.
When Kansas City and Cleveland resume action this evening, one day after a wild 14-inning series-opening affair, the Royals will do so without the services of Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer.
With Hosmer ailing as the result of a right hand injury, it was Butler taking his place at first base for the majority of last night’s contest. Tonight, however, the Royals will turn to Raul Ibanez to man the bag and bat sixth, while Nori Aoki remains in Butler’s customary designated hitter role. According to manager Ned Yost, the decision to keep Butler out of the lineup in favor of Ibanez and Aoki was made with an eye toward improving upon the club’s offensive output.
“It’s the offense,” said Yost. “We’re looking for offense. I mean, we played 14 innings last night and got five or six hits. We’re looking for offense. We score some runs and we’ll win some games, and it’s been a struggle for Billy lately.”
In 20 games since June 28, Butler is 15-for-75 (.200) with 18 strikeouts and just two RBI.
“It’s puzzling for him,” said Yost. “It’s puzzling for everybody. Billy has been working his tail off trying to figure this thing out. He feels fine, he’s just not getting results. It’s something that he will continue to work through and, hopefully, get through.
“We’re at a point now where we’re running out of time. We’re past the 100-game mark. Offense needs to be a premium for us. We need to score some runs. We’ve given a number of guys some extended periods to work through some non-productivity, if you will. But it just gets to a point when you’ve got to do something a little bit different.”
One key offensive component that has been afforded opportunities to work through “non-productivity,” third baseman Mike Moustakas, has rewarded Yost’s patience. Moustakas has been one of the team’s most productive hitters this month, hitting .281 (16-for-57) with four home runs and 10 RBI since June 30.
“All along we felt like, at the end of the year, his numbers were going to be okay, especially his power numbers,” said Yost. “He did this last year. He really struggled until the middle of June, first of July, and then he played extremely well. We’re hoping, and we’re pretty convinced, that he’s going to do the same thing [this year].”
Yordano Ventura will be on the hill for Kansas City this evening as he looks to match an outstanding performance by Danny Duffy a night ago. Duffy was dominant through seven innings, allowing just two hits, and striking out seven.
“He’s just commanding the baseball,” said Yost. “He’s always been a fierce competitor, but he’s duplicating his mechanics which means he’s more consistent in the strike zone. His breaking ball has been very consistent. He’s had the ability to throw strikes with the fastball and get ahead in the count, manage his pitch count and go deeper into games. How, why, I don’t know. Young guys, it clicks for them. When Bruce got hurt, all of a sudden, something clicked for Danny.”
By Kolby Paxton
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer will miss another game because of a bruised right hand as Kansas City opens a four-game series with Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday. Hosmer, who was hit by a pitch in the opening inning by Jon Lester in the series finale on Sunday in Boston, started Wednesday’s afternoon affair against the White Sox but was removed because he lacked strength in his hand, according to manager Ned Yost. The situation remains day-to-day.
This weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., six people will have their names enshrined in the Hall of Fame, including Bobby Cox, who Yost worked under from 1991-2002 as the bullpen coach and then as the third base coach in Atlanta. Ned recalled Cox’s ability to remember everybody’s name, from the parking lot attendant to everyone he passed on the way to the clubhouse and eventually the field.
Yost acknowledged the talent Atlanta had during their run of 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 but said the players played so well for Bobby because of the respect they had for him.
Yost also said Cox’s ability to not hold a grudge helped him to be so successful as well. “Something would happen and Bobby would be over it just like that.”
Cox will be inducted this weekend with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre.