Royals Authority

Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Robinson Tejeda

In this game:

- The Royals fell into a 8-0 hole after three innings.

- Scott Podsednik hit one into the upper deck.

- Jason Kendall drove one to the base of the wall in right-center.

- Yuniesky Betancourt walked.  Twice.

- After a Rangers pitcher walked back to back hitters, Willie Bloomquist took two cuts at pitches out of the zone and then looked at strike three right down the middle. (OK, that wasn’t crazy.)

- Dave Owen almost caused Mike Aviles’ hamstring to explode by doing a funky stop and go kind of thing as he was rounding third. (That wasn’t crazy either.)

- KILA MONSTER.

- Joakim Soria gave up back to back home runs for the first time since forever.

- Neftali Feliz is disgustingly filthy.

It was like some crazy heavyweight title fight.  I half expected the ghost of Howard Cosell to make an appearance.  It would have been appropriate.

Even though the Royals lost in just a horrific manner, that was the most fun I’ve had watching a game since last May.  (Remember when they came back against the Indians with four runs in the ninth?  Remember how they then lost 16 of their next 20?  Sorry.)

Personally, I think Trey was guilty of a little over management by not letting Good Robinson Tejeda finish the eighth.  It’s not second guessing… I brought it up in the ESPN Baseball Tonight chat the moment he pulled Tejeda.  It’s difficult to argue that bringing in Soria at any point is a bad move, but Tejeda had thrown only 14 pitches.  I’m not going to scream and carry on that Hillman cost the Royals the game – he didn’t – Soria made the pitches.  I’m just saying I don’t understand why he felt a need to bring his closer in at that particular moment.

We’ve been agitating all year that Hillman needs to use Soria more in key (or high leverage) situations.  Two outs in the eighth with a one run lead on the road certainly qualifies.  However, there was no danger at that point and time… No runners on, and you had a pitcher who was dealing.

Hillman gets second guessed in some quarters (which I suppose I’m doing now) but that’s because many of his moves are indefensible.  All managers come with a certain amount of goodwill and trust.  When that gets frittered away (like it has in Hillman’s case) even the right moves come under scrutiny.  It’s a large part of what makes Hillman a lame duck.

He went with his best pitcher and got burned.  It happens to managers all the time.  But when you’ve lost the trust of the fanbase, you’re going to catch heat no matter what.

What can you say anymore?

The bullpen stinks.  How’s that?  Oh, we’ve already said that…

The latest transgression was a doozy.

Zack Greinke, after a couple of wobbly starts, threw just a brilliant game.  Six hits through seven innings where he seemed to gain strength as the game progressed.

I thought the Mariners got their best swings at Greinke in the first.  That was when Ichiro led off with a deep fly to center and Franklin Gutierrez went the other way deep to right.  Both balls had warning track power, and fortunately both balls died in the gloves of the outfield.

The Mariners, like almost every other team this year, were laying Greinke’s slider.  They swung at that pitch just under 32% of the time.  He made up for that by getting swings 78% on both his curve (which just had some wicked break last night) and his change.  While I say the curve had wicked break, it was up in the zone enough that the Mariners were able to foul that pitch off (or pop it up.)  His money pitch was the change.  He threw it nine times, got two swinging strikes and only one batter put it in play all night.  And all of them were strikes.

Courtesy of Texas Leaguers, here’s how Greinke’s pitch selection looked last night:

You know what Greinke’s issue was last night?  Foul balls.  The Mariners fouled off 29 of his 119 pitches.  If just a handful of those pitches are put in play, his pitch count stays manageable and he is in the game in the eighth before he hands the ball to Soria in the ninth.

The Mariners aren’t a good offensive team at this point in the season.  They battled, though.  They didn’t always get good swings and were off balance most of the night, but they were difficult to put away.  I’m fairly certain that was the game plan.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Work the count by any means so you can get to the Royals bullpen.

So on to that bullpen…

It’s fairly clear at this point SABR Trey is just kind of an automatic kind of guy when it comes to his bullpen.  He desperately needs guys to have roles, so he can look at a chart in the dugout, apply the situation, and make the decision.  The problem is, he doesn’t have anyone to cover the “2-0 lead in the top of the eighth” situation.

The latest reliever who has garnered Trey’s affections is Josh Rupe.  He is the candidate for the simple fact he made three appearances in four days when he first joined the club and didn’t surrender a run.  I’ll admit, he did look good in those appearances.  However, you have to be leery of such decisions given the fact the Royals felt he wasn’t good enough to make the team out of spring training.

Then again, SABR Trey changes his favorite set-up reliever like a 13 year old girl who can’t decide which Jonas Brother they like.  (Is that a relevant pop culture reference?  I ask because my knowledge of such things pretty much ended in 1995.  The first draft of this article had a Hanson reference.)

Rupe looks good to start, getting Adam Wilson to strike out.  Then Ichiro reaches on a bunt single.  We’re still OK, but Rupe gets freaked out by Ichiro on first. (His run is really inconsequential.  I mean, you don’t want him to score, but he’s not the tying or lead run.)  Predictably, focus is lost and Chone Figgins walks on four pitches.  In my mind, that was just unforgivable.  Figgins is LOST at the plate.  The man is in a horrific slump, hitting .183/.322/.239 in his first 21 games.  He’ll certainly take a walk though.

After Rupe loads the bases, SABR Trey decides to go to his bullpen.  I know we’ve had just a ton of debate about when to use Soria.  Apparently, I’ve taken some heat from a certain corner of the interweb for advocating his use in the seventh inning.  (I’m a realist.  That’s not going to happen.  The conclusion drawn from that article was incorrect, anyway.  Hillmanesque in the way it missed the mark.)

However, if there’s ever a time to use your closer, your best pitcher out of the bullpen, it’s with the bases loaded and one out after your Cy Young award winning pitcher throws his best start of the year.

Instead, we got Robinson Tejeda.

Worst loss of the year.

Without question, the most successful free agent signing of the Dayton Moore era was the five year/$55 million deal given out to Gil Meche.   That may sound like an odd statement given that Meche spent the last three months of the 2009 season fighting injuries and has an uncertain status surrounding him for the same reasons as we close in on Opening Day.

However, between his first Kansas City start on Opening Day of 2007 and that fateful 132 pitch shutout on June 16, 2009, Meche started 82 games for the Royals.   Over those starts, Gil threw 511 innings (averaging more than six innings per start), struck out 406 batters while walking 166 and posted a 3.74 earned run average.   During that stretch, the Royals were 39-43 (.475) in games Meche started and just 134-171 (.439) in games he did not start.  

Thirty-five times during that stretch of time, the Royals scored three runs or less.   Not once have we heard Gil Meche complain about lack of run support, despite knowing that over forty percent of the time his team gave him virtually none.   Meche has been a leader for the starting rotation and, perhaps lost in all the Greinke hoopla, he provided valuable stability at the top of the rotation while Greinke developed into a true ace.

I could make a case that if Gil never pitches again, this contract was still worth the money, but I firmly believe that if Gil posts just one more 200 inning season in the next two years there will be absolutely no debate as to the validity of Moore’s long-term commitment.

Therein, however, lies the problem.

To get Meche to Kansas City, Dayton Moore had to give Gil one more year than other teams were offering.   Teams were lined up to give him four years and a little over forty million dollars, but Moore ponied up that fifth year and got the deal done.    From that point forward, the ‘extra year’ has been Moore’s calling card in the free agent market.   He has used it with regularity and when, frankly, he did not need to.

After the 2007 season, Mike Sweeney was off the roster and his big contract thankfully off the books.  Moore was hellbent to sign a slugging outfielder or two.   He, like everyone else in the league, got blown out of the water by the Angels’ offer to Torii Hunter and the Royals dodged a bullet when Andruw Jones turned down their offer to sign with the Dodgers.   That left Jose Guillen as the ‘next best power bat available’.  

While the actual negotiations of a free agent deal are never really known, the widespread belief was that the competition for Guillen was limited.     Would the Royals have inked Guillen if they had offered just a one year deal?  Probably not, but two years might have gotten the deal done in an environment where the few offers out there were of the single year variety. 

Instead, Dayton Moore jumped in with more money per year and MORE YEARS.   If Allard Baird had made this signing, I could have chalked it up to an attempt to rectify losing Raul Ibanez in 2004 over offering two years instead of three.   In Moore’s case, the third year just seems like bad judgment. 

Forget 2008 and 2009, when Guillen was sometimes annoying, sometimes a distraction, often hurt and too commonly awful as a ballplayer.   The third year of this deal is what is killing the Royals.   Put it another way:  how much would having an extra $12 million and a roster spot mean to you right now?

On top of the Guillen signing came two curious multi-year deals the next off-season:  Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth.

Now, Bloomquist gets his share of criticism on Royals’ sites, including this one, but it really is not his fault that Trey Hillman kept putting his name in the lineup last year.   Nor is it Willie’s fault that Dayton Moore gave him two guaranteed years instead of one with an option.   Here is where you can offer the ‘you don’t know what the competition was for Bloomquist’ and ‘Willie does not sign with KC unless he gets a two year deal’.   To that, I say: ‘so what?’

Scan the spring training notes of other ballclubs or read through a couple of pages of MLBTradeRumors and you can easily compile a pretty long list of ’Willie Bloomquists’ that are available or could be had for basically nothing.   Heck, the Royals have a better Bloomquist in Wilson Betemit than Willie himself.   Frankly, if Bloomquist was not around and Betemit not available would long-time farmhand Irving Falu be that much of a drop off?   Furthermore, if the Royals had not offered the second year to Bloomquist and he had signed elsewhere, would not Tug Hulett have done a competent job in his place last year?

Truth is, you can always find utility infielders….and middle relievers.   Which brings us to Kyle Farnsworth, who is going to collect a cool $4.5 million in this, THE SECOND, year of his contract.   The only way that amount and, more specifically, that second year makes sense is if Kyle throws 165 innings as the teams fifth starter this year and that will validate the contract only thanks to simple dumb luck.

Sure, Dayton Moore had no way of knowing that Juan Cruz would still be available for less money two months after he signed Farnsworth (I’m even going to give Dayton a pass on Cruz’s TWO YEAR deal as it sure seemed like a good one at the time) , but no one other than the Royals were knocking down Kyle’s door.   A one year flyer on Farnsworth to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle was worth a shot, but two years?   Considering that the Royals already had a ‘better Farnsworth’ in Robinson Tejeda already on their roster makes that contract seem even sillier.

We can go back in time and remember that last spring many thought the Royals had a real chance at contention.  Dayton Moore certainly did.   That said, were Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth so key to the Royals’ plan to make a run to the playoffs that they had to commit extra years to deals just to sign those two players?

I am not even going to mention the Yuniesky Betancourt trade or the signing of Brian Anderson (a poor man’s Mitch Maier) this off-season to replace Mitch Maier.   I am willing to let the two-year Jason Kendall deal play out and leave Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik out for now, too.   Let’s just look at Jose Guillen, Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth.

Between those three players and because of a superfluous year added to each of their contracts, the Royals had $18.2 million and three roster spots tied up before the first pitch was thrown this spring.  Ignore the money for now and focus on those three spots.

Without being tied to Guillen and Bloomquist, the Royals could break camp with Mike Aviles (admittedly not ready to play short full-time, but he could DH or play second) on their active roster.   They would have more time to evaluate Mitch Maier to see if that hot spring really is indicative of improved performance in the regular season or at last give Kila Kaaihue a shot.  

Without Farnsworth, the team could easily stash Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna in the bullpen.   Instead of keeping two out of Josh Rupe, John Parrish, Brad Thompson, Anthony Lerew and Blake Wood, they could keep three.  I don’t know if that makes the club any better, but it certainly makes them no worse – not to mention $4.5 million cheaper.    (Really don’t want to go with Robinson Tejeda as a starter if Meche can’t go?  Bet you can find someone better at starting than Farnsworth for that $4.5 mil)

Adding just one more year got the Royals a good starting pitcher who helped and hopefully will continue to help the team.   Sadly, the same strategy has tied Kansas City to three players that it simply does not need in 2010.   The next time you hear anyone from the Royals comment on lack of payroll flexibility we should all remember that they only have themselves to blame.

Kyle Davies finally had a decent spring outing on Saturday and, in a weird way, somewhat clarified the bullpen situation for the Royals. Bob Dutton, who is always on the case, touches on this subject as well in his Sunday article in the Kansas City Star.

When you read the club’s comments on Davies, you can clearly see how desperately the Royals want Kyle to have the fifth starter spot. He has teased the Royals for two years: sprinkling a good start, sometimes even a good month, in amongst a collection of pretty painful outings. After three basically awful appearances to start the spring, Davies came up with a nice one on Saturday and is suddenly the ‘clear frontrunner’ for the job.

We can discuss this calamity another day (my personal over/under on the number of pitchers who will occupy the 5th starter spot this season is 4), for now though we are talking bullpen.

Given the Royals’ predisposition to lean towards Davies, the fact that he is out of options and my own personal horror of seeing a player with Kyle’s control problems and propensity to mentally implode come out of the bullpen, let’s assume that he will be given the fifth starter role to start the season.

That pushes Robinson Tejeda, who is also out of options, into the pen as well as Kyle Farnsworth, who is too expensive to just drop. The Royals have to keep Tejeda, if only because Davies will eventually pitch his way out of the rotation, and because Robinson goes through stretches where he is pretty dominant. As for Farnsworth, the idea of ‘Bradeen Loopering him’ is intriguing, plus someone has to pitch in blowouts.

Also given a courtesy look at the number five spot was Rule 5 draftee Edgar Osuna. He has not been spectacular this spring, but he has not been horrible, either. Considering his Rule 5 status, the fact that he is only twenty-two and left-handed, Osuna is an almost certain lock to make the team. All things being equal, it certainly makes more sense to keep a young lefty who might help you in the future as opposed to an aging righty (or lefty) who might help you a little now.

While on the subject of virtual locks, we can add Ramon Colon to that list. Whether it is organization hype, spring training skewed optimism or really the result of finally being healthy, Colon is on the verge of locking down a primary set-up role. He is throwing harder than last season and has a new and improved slider that has thus far eluded spring training bats. Those of you longing for ‘good character guys’ won’t enjoy it, but I could really care less as long as he gets people out while simultaneously staying out of jail.

So, at this point, here is the bullpen:

  • Closer: Joakim Soria
  • Setup 1: Ramon Colon
  • Setup 2:
  • Middle 1: Robinson Tejeda
  • Middle 2:
  • Middle/Long: Kyle Farnsworth
  • Long: Edgar Osuna

Barring a trade and there have been rumors of such, Juan Cruz gets one of the two remaining spots. In Cruz and Farnsworth, the Royals are obligated to pay over six million this year, which is another topic for another day. For the purposes of this discussion, all that means is both their names will be on the 25 man roster come April 5th.

As for the trade rumors, I would be delighted if the Royals could move Cruz for a minor league position player, even if it meant picking up all of his salary. The money’s gone, let’s get someone that might help the team down the road or, at least, be around down the road. Given that Dayton Moore and David Glass do not seem to think that way, I doubt a deal gets done as the Royals will be looking for payroll relief more than anything else.

Frankly, despite his dismal 2009, has a far better track record out of the pen than anyone else on the roster not named Soria, so keeping him around is no big deal.The best case might be having Cruz excel as a setup man in the first half of the season and flipping him for a prospect in July.

The brings us down to one final opening in the bullpen with the following realistic contenders:

  • Blake Wood- The former third round pick is kind of the sexy choice for this last spot right now and has had an excellent spring to date. Wood throws hard and there has long been rumblings of his eventual destination being the back of the bullpen, despite having started 68 of 73 minor league games. That said, Wood has never pitched above AA and has struggled at that level more than succeeded. While there is certainly some allure to having Wood break camp with the Royals, the wiser course of action would be to give him a couple of months in AAA to get some more seasoning as a reliever.
  • Dusty Hughes- With 606 minor league innings under his belt, there is little left for Dusty Hughes to prove in the minors. Last year, the southpaw got a September look with the Royals: doing okay, but missing time with an injury, too. In AAA last year, Hughes held left-handed hitters to just a .208 average, but over his career Dusty has not had such a dramatic lefty/righty split. Trey Hillman has professed a need for a lefty specialist in the pen, which is laughable considering he had one in Jimmy Gobble two years ago and not a clue as to how to use him properly.
  • John Parrish- Another lefty, Parrish is 32 years old with a 174 major league games under his belt and three season ending injuries over the last eight years. He can post some strikeout numbers (7.3K/9 over his career), but also struggles with control (6.1BB/9). Another pitcher who has had a nice spring, the Royals are a little concerned about Parrish’s ability to pitch on back to back days.
  • Josh Rupe- The 27 year old right hander posted a 6.67 ERA in AAA for the Rangers last year, although it is noteworthy that his FIP was just 4.12. When he is keeping the ball down and inducing ground balls, as he did when Josh was a legitimate prospect back in 2004-2005, Rupe can be pretty effective. When he is not, opponents beat him up. Prior to a tough outing this weekend, Rupe had been lights out in spring. Like Parrish, he is another guy with a skepticism inducing K/BB career ratio of just 1.17. Unlike Parrish, this pitcher is not a strikeout artist by any means.
  • Brad Thompson- Resume wise, this 28 year old right hander brings the most to the table with 185 career major league appearances that include 32 starts with the Cardinals. Thompson averages just over four strikeouts per nine innings, but counters that by allowing only two walks per nine innings and inducing twice as many ground balls as fly balls. You have to like his versatility and experience, but you wonder how much Thompson will suffer going from the NL to the AL and pitching in front of the Royals’ infield defense as opposed to that of the Cardinals.

Roster-wise, there is no problem with any of these guys. Hughes and Wood are both on the 40 man roster and both have options. While Parrish, Rupe and Thompson are non-roster invitees, the Royals have a 40 man spot in their pocket as all they have to do is put Jeff Bianchi on the 60 day disabled list to free up a spot.

Of course, there are some other guys floating around camp with an outside shot, too. Notably Anthony Lerew and Gaby Hernandez, each of whom is out of options. I get the sense, however, that the real competition is between the five we detailed above.

As is often the case, the last spot in the bullpen is traditionally the last spot secured when a team breaks camp. I do not envision the Royals doing much to even thin the competition before the first week of April, so we have a couple more weeks to analyze this battle a little further.

While some may find this spot mostly irrelevant the battle mostly boring, I might remind you that Jamey Wright was probably the ‘last guy in’ in 2009 and ended up effecting the outcomes of a lot of games during the regular season.

Tuesday’s buzzword: Command.

As in lack of.

That would apply to Robinson Tejeda and Kyle Davies. Both couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat to borrow a phrase from Crash Davis.

Tejeda faced 12 batter, walked three, and allowed four hits, including a moon shot to Jack Cust. He also didn’t record a ground out, retiring three A’s on fly outs, two via the strikeout and one on a pickoff at first.

Although we don’t want to go down the road of freaking out over two spring innings, weve been through this before with Tejeda. When he’s on, he’s really, really good. When he’s not You get games like we had on Tuesday. This is exactly the kind of start we will get from Tejeda on occasion during the regular season if he makes the rotation. It’s extremely dangerous to hand the ball to such an erratic pitcher in the first inning.

And would it have killed him to entice just one A’s batter to hit the ball on the ground? On a gusty day, why not try and give yourself a sliver of a chance of succeeding.

Davies was just as rotten. He faced 16 batters and allowed seven to reach – five hits and two walks. He struck out a pair and got five ground ball outs. And he kept the ball in the park – no small feat with the wind blowing out to right at 30 mph. Although the elements did seem to come into play on a couple of fly balls that turned into doubles.

It is slightly insane to get bent over a handful of innings in the Cactus League. Sure. But in this case we’re not talking about Zack Greinke or Gil Meche working on a new pitch or tinkering with their delivery. This isn’t a couple of veterans getting in game shape. We’re talking about two pitchers who are competing for a spot in the rotation. Big difference. These guys have to throw. They don’t have the luxury of working on a new pitch or whatever. They’re pitching for life in the majors.

Not that I’m expecting greatness – or even mediocrity – from either Davies or Tejeda in the rotation. But I’d at least see them do something worthwhile given they’re fighting for a job.

Davies insists It’s not about his stuff. It’s his command that’s killing him. Money quote from Davies:

“It was all about consistency and command for me, that’s all it is. It’s never been about stuff. If I had Greinke’s command, I’d have his stats.”

Holy cow, was he serious? A couple of things are wrong with this statement. First, Davies doesn’t have Greinke’s stuff, so there’s no point in worrying about how Greinke’s command is better. And second, if I had Greinke’s stuff and command, I’d be pitching for the Royals instead of sitting in my basement, writing about them. (Although I probably wouldn’t be pitching for the Royals. I’d hire Boras as my agent and we’d be kicking some serious ass. No hometown discount here.)

Davies had better see the trainer. Delusion is apparently contagious in the Royals camp.

Today’s Hillmanism:

This is inspired by a friend of mine who has taken a large measure of delight emailing me daily pearls of wisdom from the Royals manager. Needless to say, it hardly ever makes sense.Hillman2010

Like this gem on Aaron Crow’s first outing:

“I’m glad he did what I thought he would do, but I thought he would do what he did. That make sense?”

Today is a bonus. You got an example of a Hillmanism and you get today’s on Davies and his lack of command…

“(Davies has) got great stuff, he typically holds his stuff very well. But it’s a matter of being more consistent in the strike zone. Kyle’s really competitive — it doesn’t have anything to do with his competitiveness or have anything to do with stamina or stuff.

Davies is competitive, but it doesn’t have anything to do with competitiveness. Got it?

We have been waiting all winter for the Royals’ to take the field, and yesterday they did. Given the 13-3 pasting they received at the hands of the Texas Rangers, maybe we were too hasty to be wishing for the off-season to end. After taking an early 1-0, lead the Royals ended up losing the ‘major league’ portion of this game 6-2. From the sixth inning on, the teams were generally AAA and AA players, but the results were no better; with the Royals falling 7-1 in that portion of the contest.

Now, some will make the case that the results of any spring training game are irrelevant. I am not so sure about that, but I am reasonably confident that the outcome of the first spring training game is certainly not very important. Given that last spring it became fashionable in the Royals’ blogosphere to discount any mention of spring training results or statistics (I wrote a column last spring on Greinke and Meche’s poor spring training numbers, which basically concluded that those numbers did not mean much of anything, AND WAS SKEWERED FOR EVEN DISCUSSING IT) I am somewhat hesitant to even bring up individual performances from yesterday, but here are some observations anyway.

The Process had a shining moment to start the game as Scott Podsednik singled, stole second and took third on the throw. Jason Kendall then hit a ground ball to drive him in.

I have reconciled myself to the fact that Podsednik is going to be the Royals’ lead-off hitter this year. We can throw stats and facts at the issue, but I have yet to see a lineup come out of the musings of Hillman/Moore that does not begin with Scotty Pods. I have also come to accept that Jason Kendall is going to be the everyday catcher. As one of my business partners pointed out ‘Did you really want to watch Olivo swing and miss breaking pitches by FEET for another summer?’. However, I will not accept Podsednik AND Kendall at the top of the Royals’ batting order.

Jason was a heckuva a guy to have at the top of your order….six years ago, but now he has no power and his on-base ability is below average. I also don’t buy into this ‘he can handle the bat’ crap that we often associate with number two hitters – it simply does not come into play anymore at the two spot than anywhere else in the lineup.

Podsednik might have a fine year and regularly use his speed to steal second, but save for the two or three times per year that the catcher throws the ball into the outfield on a Podsednik steal attempt, he is going to be on second base, not third, as he was yesterday. Under that scenario, Jason Kendall might be the least likely member of the lineup to be able to consistently drive him in from second and that includes Yuniesky Betancourt.

I have a sick feeling that the primary memory that Trey Hillman will emerge from spring training with is that first inning run yesterday. Now, you can say that ‘there goes Royals Authority being all negative, again’, and maybe you are right. Call me on Opening Day when Kendall is the second hitter up.

Alex Gordon doubled.

In my mind, the one player who will benefit most from a good spring training is Alex Gordon. After an injury plagued, demotion riddled season in 2009, Gordon needs to get that swagger (however unfounded it may have been in 2007 and 2008) back. I was discouraged as he once more pulled the ball on the ground to the first basemen his first time up, but encouraged by the double. Spring training stats may not matter, but feeling good out of spring training would be huge for Alex.

No Royals pitcher did himself any favors yesterday.

Kyle Davies was not very good, neither was Robinson Tejeda, but the guys who really hurt themselves (even if it is just spring training game number one) were Anthony Lerew and Matt Herges.

Lerew was kind of a sleeper pick for the number five starter spot, but I did like what I saw late last year when he hung in well against Boston and New York in back to back starts. That said, Anthony figures to get just a few chances to show what he can do in the crowded battle for the final starting spot. Yesterday, he gave up five hits in two innings to a lineup of basically AAA hitters.

Forty year old lefty Matt Herges might well have given up the inside track to one of the two open bullpen spots yesterday. Pitching in the ninth inning, Herges was horrendous: giving up three hits, a walk and four runs (albeit one of the unearned). Given that the other lefties are Dusty Hughes and Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna, Herges still has a chance, but that was an awful outing.

Mitch Maier, Kila Ka’aihue……

A little visit here to the ‘beat the dead horse’ section. Both players singled yesterday and simply reminded me that signing Brian Anderson (and maybe one of Podsednik or Ankiel) and last year’s trade for Mike Jacobs were completely unnecessary. Yes, that’s right, I AM basing that on two spring training at-bats in the first game of the pre-season. Sometimes I am just that cynical.

Now, onto bigger and better things.

A guy named Greinke pitches this afternoon and on Saturday we will see Gil Meche and Aaron Crow go back to back. Who isn’t looking forward to that? I guess, after all, I really am glad the Royals are back on the diamond.

Yesterday, Clark posted his over/under scenarios for the regular season. Today, I present some questions I have as camp gets set to open. We ll find out some answers almost immediately and others will take a bit longer to sort out.

Hey, the good news is, baseball is in the air. About damn time. On with the questions.

Are Gil Meche and Brian Bannister healthy and ready to make 32 starts for the Royals?

Although both pitchers were felled by Trey Hillman’s Starting Pitcher Chainsaw Massacre, Meche’s troubles began in his first spring training start last year when he reported a stiff back following a one inning outing. If both are healthy and Meche returns to the form he flashed in his first two seasons with the Royals and Bannister can continue to refine his cutter he developed last year, this team has the foundation of a quality starting rotation. As many have pointed out, the CHONE projections have the Royals rotation ranked as the 6th best in baseball.

Take those projections with a grain of salt. Zack Greinke has the highest projected WAR among all pitchers and CHONE is making the assumption that both Meche and Bannister are healthy and at the top of their game. Certainly, the potential is there, but let s not get carried away just yet.

Where will Alberto Callaspo play?

Did you see the Star’s rundown of the 40 man roster on Sunday. Nothing huge, just little capsules on each player along with a one-liner about how they fit on the team. For Chris Getz, the line read, Second base is his job to lose.

Really?

I know Callaspo leaves a lot to be desired with his glove, but this is a team in desperate need for offense, which is something Callaspo provides. If Getz is the starting second baseman, will the Royals slide Callaspo over to DH? I’d be fine with that, but then what happens with Jose Guillen? Honestly, I could care less about what happens with Guillen, but do we really want to hear the inevitable stories about how he’s pissed off? Oh well, this is his last season here, so he may as well go out with some fireworks.

Speaking of Guillen, is there any chance the Royals will get some production out of him in 2010?

I’ve heard various reports about his health and fitness this winter. It’s ranged from good to bad to horrible, so how he’s doing health-wise is anyone s guess.

My hope is, he reports to camp fat and hurt and the Royals decide to immediately end the Guillen era and give him his unconditional release. Hey, we’re out $12 million for 2010 anyway.

Has anyone heard if the Royals found someone to play the part of Sluggerrrr? Maybe the Royals can get their money s worth by having Guillen don the costume. That would be great, but can you imagine the liability when he s performing at a birthday party, drops a handful of f-bombs and then tears his groin while shooting hot dogs?

Is Billy Butler still motivated?

The knock on Butler prior to last season was he lacked a certain amount of maturity that would push him to realize his potential. All he did to dispel that notion was to work all winter on his defense and report to camp in excellent shape.

My question then, did he do something similar this off season? Sometimes, success creates a comfort level and some athletes aren’t able (or willing) to push themselves to maintain that success.

I m not saying Butler is a candidate for regression. There s no evidence he decided to take the winter off and rest on his laurels. I m just saying I hope he’s still working just as hard as he worked last year. I just get the feeling he could have a monster year if he put in the proper work this winter.

Who will set-up Soria?

The Dayton Moore era has been marked with bullpen uncertainty almost since day one. Sometimes, it all works out like it did in 2008. Other times not so much, like last year. Juan Cruz will be looking to bounce back but with Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda auditioning for a starting role, there aren t many known commodities currently residing in the back of the bullpen.

(Hopefully the Royals understand Farnsworth isn’t an option to be a set-up man. I fear when it becomes apparent he can t start, the Royals will undoubtedly try him in this role once again.)

Will Alex Gordon be ready for the season?

Last year was supposed to be his breakout year, but now like his free agency, it s been delayed a season.

With newly acquired third baseman Josh Fields in the fold, is it possible the Royals picked him up to apply some pressure to Gordon? The parallels between the two are interesting in that both were highly touted prospects coming out of college and have yet to come close to that potential in the majors. Fields represents a true alternative should Gordon once again falter (through injury or poor performance.) That s something the Royals have never really had at third. Certainly, Teahen could have been that but during his last three years with the team, his services were needed at other positions. This year, Fields doesn’t really fit anywhere on this team.

I think it would be super cool if they threw the third base job wide open. Fields versus Gordon, may the best man win. It’s not like your going to piss Gordon off more than you already have. Besides, competition is healthy. That alone would make spring training infinitely more interesting.

There you go. A few questions for you to ponder as the equipment trucks and players roll into Surprise to get ready for the season.

This morning, I am going to run through a quick exercise in constructing the Royals’ twenty-five man roster for the coming season. My guess is that almost everyone who reads any Royals’ blog has already done this in one form or another, but I have serious doubts that the Royals’ front office has.

Okay, sure, we know that is total sarcasm, but seriously I think the Royals have a firm idea on the 40 man roster, but only a vague ‘things will work themselves out’ idea as to the 25 they will break camp with. You can make an argument that this is the perfect way to go into spring training and I would generally agree, but I do wonder if a ‘small budget’ club like the Royals can assemble and pay for 30+ guys to compete for their 25 spots?

The catching position is pretty simple: Jason Kendall starts, Brayan Pena watches. The hope is that Kendall is an upgrade defensively and in handling the pitchers, while not just destroying you at the plate. If he can get on base at even a .340 clip, throw runners out and get along with Greinke and Meche, he might be tolerable. In Pena, the Royals have a switch-hitter who might log some time at DH. I wish the team had given Pena two months of everyday duty last year to find out if he really is THAT bad behind the plate, but that ship has sailed. Manny Pina, acquired from Texas last year, is the next in line, but his bat is not ready for the bigs (and may never be). He is, should everything go to hell, probably the best defensive catcher in the organization. At any rate, it’s Kendall and Pean: that’s two.

The corner infield positions are pretty clear: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. What happens after that is a mystery. The Royals acquired Josh Fields as part of the Mark Teahen trade, making rumblings about Fields playing a corner outfield spot, but that has gone by the wayside with the signings of Podsednik and Ankiel. Out of options, Fields will be on the 25 man roster come April, likely as the backup third baseman and part-time designated hitter. That’s three more guys, for a total of five.

We will jump out to the outfield at this point. I shudder to think how the team is going to actually arrange David DeJesus, Rick Ankeil and Scott Podsednik defensively, but we all know that those will be the three outfielders and that they will play everyday. The signing of Ankiel brought out the semi-public announcement that Jose Guillen would be the club’s primary designated hitter – something Jose probably has not yet heard and won’t like when he does. While the ‘just cut him’ plan of action is certainly appealing and maybe even logical, it is hard to see the Royals doing so. There’s four players, four veterans mind you, that will be on the team in April, bringing us to a total of nine on our roster.

Okay, middle infield will be…deep breathe…Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and somebody else. Of course, the Teahen trade also brought Chris Getz over and the expectation is that he will be an upgrade defensively at second over Alberto Callaspo. However, with Guillen moving to DH (not to mention Fields), playing Getz at second leaves few places for Callaspo to play. As much as I hate watching Alberto field, I do love watching him hit. The other glaring problem is that keeping Betancourt, Getz and Callaspo leaves no room for Willie Bloomquist. We all know that’s not going to happen (besides, Willie is the only one who can play short). The wild card in this equation is Mike Aviles. My guess is that Aviles will not be ready at the start of the season and will open the year on the disabled list.

We will assume that the Royals will open the year with a 12 man pitching staff or move to that sooner rather than later. Although he has options left, it is hard for me to believe Dayton Moore traded Mark Teahen for a bench player and a guy who is going to play in Omaha. That leaves Getz on the roster, with Callaspo and Bloomquist who, for all his faults, can fill the role of both fourth outfielder and utility infielder. With Betancourt, that makes four for a total of thirteen.

That means Brian Anderson, all $700,000 of him, is in AAA and Mitch Maier, out of options, might be somewhere else come April. The schedule might allow the team to open with eleven pitchers, so it could be Mitch and the organization a couple of weeks to sort out what to do, but by the end of April, barring a trade or simply cutting bait with Guillen, Mitch will be off the Royals’ big league roster.

Now, onto the pitching staff. The starting rotation right now will be Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Hochevar and either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda. There are rumblings about the Royals fishing for a veteran, which would likely be the end of Davies and push Tejeda back to the pen. Right now, though, my money is on Tejeda as the number five starter. At any rate, that’s five guys, so we are up to eighteen total, now.

The bullpen will have Joakim Soria and Juan Cruz at the backend, with Kyle Farnsworth available for blow-out work (what a fine use of funds, by the way). Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna is all but guaranteed a spot, which fills four of the seven spots.

I would be pretty amazed if veteran journeyman Matt Herges does not get a spot. Just a hunch, but I think he will trade it that number 77 for a real baseball number by April. I am also hoping beyond all hope that the Royals give and Carlos Rosa earns a spot in the bullpen this year. Rosa, performing as I hope he might, is the guy who makes what Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth do irrelevant.

That leaves one final spot (assuming Tejeda is the fifth starter) up for grabs between Ramon Colon, Victor Marte, Dusty Hughes and all the non-roster invitees. Throw Herges into this mix if you want and say this group is fighting for two roster spots. It doesn’t much matter how it ends up, but that’s seven relievers, twelve pitchers and a 25 man roster.

Now, in reading all this, how likely do you think it is that all of Chris Getz, Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo break camp with the Royals? You could throw David DeJesus into that mix as well as he is likely the most tradable of all the Royals’ position players. Barring trades or another free agent signing, I would put pretty good money on the 25 players outlined above.

Part of me is pretty certain Dayton Moore has two more moves on his agenda that will make the real 25 man roster different from the above. All of me is hoping that is the case.