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The Royal Treatment for KC in ’09?

4/7/09
The Royal Treatment for KC in ’09?
Paul Chick

Could the Royals be this year’s Rays? The AL Central is wide open and sentiment continues to grow for the Kansas City Royals.

After 12 years managing in the Yankees minor league system and 5 seasons managing in Japan, Trey Hillman enters his 2nd year with the Royals. Can he be patient or will we see phone throwing, twisting in the wind tantrums ala Hal McRae? Now that was classic!

Mark Teahen had a solid spring including a stint with Team Canada in the WBC…he’ll start at 2B this year, his 4th position in as many seasons. KC will look for more production from former first round pick (2nd overall) 3B Alex Gordon who has totaled 31 homers in his first 2 big league seasons. Mike Aviles enters his first full major league season as the everyday shortstop for the Royals. Aviles batted .325 in 102 games in ’08 and also spent time at the WBC appearing in 5 games with Team Puerto Rico. At 1B is Mike Jacobs who brings a big left-handed bat from the Marlins. He pounded 32 homers for Florida last season and the Royals look for him to anchor the middle of their lineup. KC will start the season with 3 catchers. Miguel Olivo will be the starter. Olivo averaged 125 games, 16 HR, 59 RBI in 2006-07 with Florida. He played in 84 games last year with KC (.255, 12 HR, 41 RBI). He’s also the second cousin of former Sox C Tony Pena.

Coco Crisp brings Gold Glove caliber defense to the Kansas City outfield and a winning veteran presence. He’ll also add a legitimate stolen base threat at the top of the order. David DeJesus patrols left field. He enters his 6th full MLB season as a .287 career hitter (all with KC) and the Royals hope he’ll add to his career high 12 HR from a year ago. Jose Guillen starts his 2nd season as the Kansas City RF. The Royals are his NINTH MLB team after breaking in with the Pirates in 1997. The 32-year-old Guillen batted .264 with 20 HR and 97 RBI in 2008. If he doesn’t wear out his welcome in KC the Royals should expect more of the same from Guillen in 2009. Willie Bloomquist signed a 2-year deal in January after 6 seasons in Seattle. Bloomquist will add nice depth to the Royals outfield (and infield)…a solid defensive player with good speed…he has played every position but catcher.

On the mound Gil Meche makes his 3rd consecutive Opening Day start for the Royals. He has never missed a start for KC since being acquired as a free agent from the Mariners. Meche has pitched over 200 innings in each of his 2 seasons in KC. Following Meche in the rotation is 25 year old right-hander Zack Greinke. Greinke comes off a 13 win (202.1 IP, 3.47 ERA) season in 2008…Another 25 year old righty and 3rd starter is Kyle Davies. Already entering his 6th big league season (first 3 with Atlanta), Davies needs to improve upon his 26-35, 5.63 ERA career record. Claim to fame in his young career? Davies served up career HR# 500 to Alex Rodriguez. Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez round out the KC rotation. Ponson was just signed to a minor league contract on March 17 after 2 impressive outings for Team Netherlands in the WBC. Now he’s scheduled to pitch the home opener at the newly renovated ($250 million worth) Kauffman Stadium Friday night against the Yankees. The Royals are his 7th major league team (he’s had 2 separate stints each with Baltimore and NYY) after being shown the door in Texas in mid-season last year. Has anyone seen Ponson (spell check suggests Poison…hmm?) and Bartolo Colon in the same room? Lefty Horacio Ramirez returns to a starting role after spending 2008 in the bullpens in Chicago (White Sox) and Kansas City pitching just 37.1 innings. Prior to 2008, Ramirez was a 5-year starter including a 12 win season in 2003 and 11 wins in 2005, both in Atlanta.
Luke Hochevar, the #1 overall pick in June 2006 draft, was sent to Triple-A Omaha at the end of spring training. Hochevar made 22 starts for the big club in ’08 going 6-12 (5.51 ERA) before a rib cage injury ended his season on August 20. He pitched well this spring and the Royals would like to see him become more consistent before he gets the ball again in KC.

Joakim Soria returns as the Royals closer. He dominated a year ago saving 42 games with a 1.60 ERA. Setting things up for Soria will be Kyle Farnsworth. The Wichita native has averaged 66 appearances the past 3 seasons and should help stabilize the KC pen. Helping from the left side is Ron Mahay. He appeared in 57 games a year ago for KC going 5-0 with a 3.48 ERA.

The Royals have a nice mix of youth and veterans. The starting pitching continues to be the area of concern in Kansas City. Look for the Royals to approach the .500 mark (75-80 wins). Not enough to challenge for a division title but a more competitive team than we’re used to seeing.

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