When I came to you last week in this column, the Royals were gearing up to play their first spring training game. Seven games and one week later, the Royals have still yet to lose. What does it mean? Well…nothing, but in spite of how little spring training wins and losses ultimately mean, I’d much prefer to win than lose. It’s the same reason why even though the one inning from James Shields is less than even a blip on the radar, I’m pleased it was a 1-2-3 inning instead of him laboring through it. As Royals fans, we take what we can get, so I’m going to enjoy seeing 6-0 next to my team’s name no matter how little it means at this point.
- The thing I look for most during spring training isn’t the numbers as much as the approach. As an example, if Eric Hosmer’s numbers from the first six weeks of the season had happened in spring training, I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit concerned. He had a good approach and was hitting the ball hard. By the same token, if he was hitting .350, but was blooping singles all over the place in the spring, it would have been a bit of a cause for concern. If you look at an inning from yesterday’s game, the Royals got infield hits, bloop hits and misplays that led to two runs. While that will happen sometimes, that’s not typically a precursor to success. Still, that’s been a pretty rare fluke inning for the Royals thus far, so all is good. Except for Hochevar.
- My cause that I’m going to be a champion for this spring is regarding Luke Hochevar. He simply can’t be a member of the rotation (and ultimately the team) if the Royals have hopes to contend. Okay, maybe that’s a little hyperbolic, but everybody involved in the fifth starter battle has succeeded early with the exception of Luke. And it isn’t like that’s a new development. I’m not telling you all anything you didn’t know, but the more I think about it, the more asinine it feels that Luke Hochevar is the favorite to start every fifth day for the Royals in 2013.
- The Royals won’t do this, but I still really believe the Royals need to be on the lookout for a young outfielder. I’m not rehashing the trade, but what the Royals lost when they traded Wil Myers was somebody ready to go in case of injury or in case of poor performance. Now, if Cain gets hurt, you have Dyson in center, which is perfectly fine, but not the greatest thing in the world. And if Francoeur can’t rebound, you’re probably looking at Dyson in center and Cain in right. While that might be the best outfield alignment based on the roster, it would be nice if there was a better option available. I’m not sure this is a top priority for Dayton Moore during the spring or maybe even early in the season, but the Royals lack a lot of depth in the outfield, and that was proven when Gordon and Cain were both out for a couple days early in the week.
- One thing that I’ve been very encouraged by is the control we’ve seen from the starters outside of Hochevar so far. We’ve seen action from Smith, Mendoza, Chen, Davis, Shields and Hochevar and they’ve pitched a combined 15.2 innings and allowed just four walks with three of them by Hochevar in his 1.2 innings during his start. I keep saying this, but I’ll say it again. It’s early, but the numbers are encouraging. We’ve yet to see Jeremy Guthrie or Ervin Santana, but hopefully we see a situation this whole season where success is built on success and the rotation pushes each other.
- I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually pretty excited for Salvador Perez to leave the team and play in the WBC. Well, I’m not entirely excited, but I do think it’ll be a great opportunity for the Royals to evaluate Brett Hayes and George Kottaras who are in probably the one position battle that wasn’t skewed in the minds of the Royals decision makers ahead of time. Personally, my favorite for the position is Kottaras because I like that he’s a left-handed batter, that he has some pop and that he’ll work a walk. I think I’d be a lot more concerned with defense if it wasn’t for the fact that Salvador Perez will likely catch a ton of games. If he goes down (please no), the Royals will likely to turn to Manuel Pina who is more skilled defensively than Kottaras. In the meantime, when Perez gets a day off, the Royals could have an offensive weapon in the lineup instead of a hole that Hayes would likely provide.
- This is another weird thing for me to say, but I’m a little disappointed I won’t get the chance to see Tejada when I’m down in Surprise because I really want to see if he looks as anemic with the bat as he’s sounded in the first week of spring. When the Royals brought Tejada in, it was fairly obvious that he was going to have to do a lot to lose the job. While we’re, of course, only a week into the spring, he is on the right track to doing just that. Nothing sounds like solid contact and he hasn’t been impressive in the field from what I’ve heard and from reports I’ve gotten from those who have seen him. He has time to turn it around, but his great leadership can only go so far. I’d love to see Irving Falu get an opportunity to stick with the big club. I know what he did last season was a fluke, but I do think he brings attributes to the table that others don’t. The Royals might see him as too similar to Elliot Johnson, though, so we’ll see what happens with that utility infielder role as the spring unfolds.
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