Sweeney heroic as Royals take series from champs, go for sweep tomorrow!

Wow, what a game! RC was on hand to witness our first Royals victory in nearly a year, and it was one of the most exciting games we've seen. We took in the contest with RC's own Chris Ray and Kevin Agee, who drove up from Springfield for the afternoon.

Royals starter Denny Bautista struggled a bit with his control, but was otherwise dominant against the powerful Chicago lineup. In six innings, Bautista surrendered only one run on one hit, while walking five and striking out five. His first two pitches of the game were clocked at 99 mph, but everything thereafter was in the mid-90s, and his breaking balls buckled several White Sox batters. All told, this was a start Bautista can build off of, and we're excited about what he has to offer this season.

Offensively, the veterans on the ballclub stole the show. Trailing by one in the sixth inning, Reggie Sanders stepped to the plate with two men on and drove a two-run double into the left-center gap, scoring Mike Sweeney and Mark Grudzielanek. RC had a feeling something big was about to happen, so we took out our official camera and snapped this shot of the big hit.

The early returns on the Reggie Sanders signing are excellent.

Sanders' clutch double set up Bautista for the win, but unfortunately the Royals lost the lead in the eighth inning when Andrew Sisco got knocked around for a pair of runs. Elmer Dessens relieved Sisco, and he successfully limited the damage by coaxing an inning-ending double play off the bat of Joe Crede.

Down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Mark Grudzielanek led off with a single to center, and Sweeney, who continued to draw boos from Royals fans earlier in the game, strode to the plate. Sensing something big was about to happen again, RC whipped out our our trusty camera, and we were again rewarded when Sweeney deposited a 2-2 offering from Cliff Politte into the first row of the left field seats.

One of the uglier home run swings you'll ever see, but it counted all the same.

Ambiorix Burgos entered the game in the top of the ninth, and he spectacularly mowed through the Sox in order, recording two strikeouts and a harmless fly ball to center. In doing so, he picked up his first save of the 2006 season, and the Royals improved their record to 2-2. These last two victories have completely erased the bad taste from the first two games of the season, and the Royals will go for the sweep tomorrow. RC hadn't originally planned to attend the game, but the opportunity to witness a sweep of the defending champs is too good to pass up, so we'll be there with broom in hand.

  • In minor league action today, the Royals affiliates were quite busy. Omaha swept a doubleheader from Nashville, and Burlington dropped both of their games to the Clinton Lumber Kings. High Desert was shut out by Inland Empire, 9-0, and Wichita dropped their third in a row to the Tulsa Drillers. The noteworthy performances are listed below.

    - In what is beginning to sound like an extremely pleasant broken record, Alex Gordon went 3-for-5 with a double, which puts him at 7-for-16 through his first three professional games.

    - Unfortunately, Billy Butler, Mitch Maier, and Chris Lubanski combined to go 0-for-12, and Butler struck out twice. Donnie Murphy went 1-for-5 with a grand slam in the top of the ninth inning, but it was too little too late as the Wranglers lost their game, 7-4.

    - J.P. Howell turned in a stellar performance in his first start of the season for the Omaha Royals, tossing six shutout innings while striking out five and allowing only two hits and no walks. He picked up the win in the first game of Omaha's doubleheader.

    J.P. Howell had an excellent 2006 debut today.

    - Luis Cota didn't fare as well in his first start for High Desert. Cota got beat around by the Inland Empire 66ers, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits in just four innings pitched. He walked two and struck out one. RC Correspondent (and Mavs Broadcaster) Jon Rosen was at the game, and we'll be interested to hear from him how Cota's stuff looked.

  • Speaking of Jon, he sent us this report after Billy Buckner's excellent start on Thursday evening:

    "[Buckner] is throwing his knucklecurve more often - last year it was pretty much a strikeout pitch that he would bury in the dirt with two strikes and try to get the batter to go fishing. From what I saw yesterday, he's throwing that pitch in all counts, and is showng a better ability to throw it for strikes. Several Inland Empire batters repeatedly stepped into the bucket and froze up when he threw that pitch.

    "He was also locating his fastball well and was hitting the corners with greater frequency than last season. Nobody on the 66ers - and mind you, this was the hottest hitting team in the MWL last year - made solid contact on any Buckner offering, as they were lucky to scrape out an unearned run in the first inning courtesy of some wild throws across the infield."

    Thanks again for the report, Jon, and we all look forward to your insight throughout the season, right here on Royals Corner!

  • Royals erase early six-run deficit, stun Sox for first win of 2006

    John Buck led the Royals to victory with two key doubles.

    RC was in Columbia watching Nebraska's Joba Chamberlain struggle through the second inning against Mizzou when we received a troublesome phone call. On the other end was an agitated RC Correspondent, who told us that Jeremy Affeldt had already surrendered four runs in the first inning without recording an out. A brief bout of panic set in, as the thought of another lopsided loss after Wednesday's disaster was nearly too much to handle.

    Of course, as we now know, there was nothing to worry about. The White Sox opened the door with some uncharacteristic defensive miscues, and the Royals slammed through with a batch of timely hitting. When it was over, KC prevailed 11-7, and Royals Nation basked in the comfort of victory for the first time this season. It's certainly a nice feeling, and hopefully the Royals can let it ride with another win tomorrow.

    We haven't yet had the opportunity to watch anything other than highlights, but we definitely like what we saw from John Buck, whose two opposite field doubles keyed the Royals' victory. Angel Berroa continued to swing a hot stick, lacing a two-run double down the left field line, and both Mike Sweeney and Mark Grudzielanek collected their first hits of the season. The bullpen was solid over five innings while picking up Affeldt, who departed the game after the fourth inning.

    Elmer Dessens has been getting it done so far this year.

    It certainly wasn't a perfect win, as Affeldt's early struggles are somewhat alarming. Grudzielanek made what could have been a costly baserunning mistake by not tagging up from third on a Sweeney fly out down the right field line, but luck was on the Royals' side, as Doug Mientkiewicz's fielder's choice to first (coupled with Paul Konerko's poor throw to the plate) allowed him to score. And worst of all, David DeJesus had to leave the game with a strained hamstring after knocking an RBI double down the first base line. No word yet on the extent of his injury, but Buddy Bell said he'll definitely be out a couple days. Shane Costa will take his place in the meantime.

    On Saturday, the Royals send Denny Bautista to the hill to oppose Javier Vasquez, who owns a 2-0 career record vs. KC. RC will be at the game, and for some reason we have a good feeling about what we're going to see from Bautista. As always, we'll have a detailed report for you in the evening.

  • We've received some questions about RC's Daily Prospect Update, which is a free service we provide for our readers that sends daily updates to your inbox every morning tracking the progress of the Royals' top prospects in the minors. Since we're presently stationed at RC's Western Command in Kansas City, we don't have the capability to begin sending them out until we return to Headquarters next week. In the meantime, we'll do our best to keep you updated here on our main page.

    Royals affiliates had four games scheduled for Friday night, but High Desert's game vs. Inland Empire was postponed due to rain. Omaha and Burlington were both rained out on Thursday, and both won their first games of the season on Friday. Wichita again lost courtesy of a walkoff home run, the second time in two nights. The notable performances are below:

    - Alex Gordon continued his quest to make a joke out of the Texas League. The Royals' top prospect went 2-for-4 on the evening with three stolen bases, and he's now 4-for-11 through his first two professional games.

    - Billy Butler (1) and Mitch Maier (2) both homered and went 1-for-5. Butler struck out twice, and he was ejected from the game after his second K in the ninth inning. Butler also had an assist in the game, gunning down a runner at second base.

    - Donnie Murphy erased the bad taste in his mouth from yesterday's 1-for-7 by going 3-for-5 with a double.

    - Joel Peralta threw a scoreless ninth for Omaha, notching his first save of the season in Omaha's 5-3 win over Nashville.

    - Jeffrey Howell and Kiel Thibault both opened their 2006 campaigns by going 1-for-3, but Chris McConnell drew an 0-for-4. Matt Kniginyzky, a converted reliever, pitched brilliantly for the Bees, tossing six innings while allowing only one run, three hits, and no walks, striking out five.

  • As we mentioned above, RC got our first look tonight at Nebraska's Joba Chamberlain, who picked up the victory over Mizzou after tossing six innings. He surrendered three earned runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out two. We'll have a detailed report on him in the coming days (we promise), but our initial impression of him is that he's not really in the same league as some of the pitchers who are higher on our prospect list.

    Chamberlain gutted out a tough win vs. Missouri today.

    That's it for today. Be sure to check back with us tomorrow, as we report on Saturday's game, as well as the goings on in the minors.
  • Friday

    Minor leagues underway...Gordon homers in debut!

    It didn't take Alex Gordon long to hit his first professional home run.

    It was a bittersweet day for Royals affiliates. Rain forced the cancellation of Omaha's and Burlington's season openers, and the Wichita Wranglers, after jumping to an 8-3 lead, lost the game in 16 innings after surrendering five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning vs. Tulsa. High Desert was the only winner of the night, defeating the Inland Empire 66ers by a score of 6-2.

    The Wranglers game was quite interesting, and RC listened to most of the first 13 innings. Early in the game, all four of the Royals' first rounders were off to a great start. The first time through the lineup, Mitch Maier hit a solo homer, Billy Butler smashed a single to center, Alex Gordon hit a double high off the center field wall, and Chris Lubanski lined a double to left. However, after putting up great composite numbers through nine innings, the Wranglers' offense fell flat. Below are the noteworthy performances from today's games:

    - Gordon's professional debut couldn't have gone a whole lot better. After his double to center in the first inning, he lined out to the left fielder and smashed a three-run home run to left field. Defensively, Gordon made two plays that prompted Wranglers' broadcaster Eric Anderson to comment that "he made some plays at third that would have made Brooks Robinson proud," and he added another defensive gem later in the game. On the night, Gordon finished 2-for-7 with three RBIs, a walk, and three strikeouts.

    - Butler after five at bats through nine innings was 4-for-5 with a double and three singles, but he went 0-for-3 in extra innings to finish the day 4-for-8. His flyout in the 15th inning was caught at the warning track.

    - Lubanski and Maier did little after their first at bats, although both made a number of fine plays in the outfield (although Maier did record an error as well). On the night the two combined to go 2-for-13 with eight strikeouts, five of which were accumulated by Maier.

    - Mark Redman got the start for Wichita on a rehab assignment, and he was sparkling over five innings. He surrendered three hits and an unearned run while walking one and striking out two. Word is that he'll get another start for Wichita on Tuesday night, and the Royals will then evaluate his readiness to return to the Major League club, which should be sometime around May 1.

    Mark Redman's first rehab start couldn't have been much better.

    - Angel Sanchez blasted a two-run homer to left field in the sixth inning, but on the night he was 1-for-7 with 2 Ks and a throwing error.

    - In High Desert, Billy Buckner got the start and picked up the win after tossing five innings while surrendering two runs (one earned). He allowed five hits and three walks, and he struck out four. The important thing is that he kept the ball down, coaxing eight ground outs and only two fly outs. If he can continue doing that, he won't have any problems pitching in the high air of the California League this season.

    That's it for tonight. On Friday RC heads to Columbia, MO, to see the Mizzou Tigers take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Joba Chamberlain takes the hill for the Huskers, opposing Missouri's Nathan Culp. We had hoped to see both Chamberlain and Max Scherzer, but the Tigers are going with the hot hand instead while Scherzer continues to bounce back from bicep tendinitis. On Saturday afternoon we're attending the Royals game, and we'll have a full report on both games upon our return.


    What in the hell was that?

    Well, Chapter One of the Joe Mays reclamation project didn't go quite as smoothly as hoped, as the Royals dropped a heartbreaker, 14-3. The game started with a Curtis Granderson missile off the pad on top of the right field fence, and it got worse from there. Mays surrendered rockets right and left, and with the exception of a three-inning scoreless stint, he was completely ineffective. His velocity wasn't bad, as he was throwing his fastball in the low 90s consistently, but Mays left far too many pitches up in the zone to be successful.

    Unfortunately, the Detroit barrage continued against a succession of Royals relievers after Mays left the game in the fifth. Steve Stemle and Mike Wood were simply terrible, and Jimmy Gobble, despite striking out two batters, got hit pretty hard as well. The only solid performances on the mound were put in by Luke Hudson, who tossed 1.2 perfect innings, and Andrew Sisco, who came in after Wood was ejected and promptly struck out the side with his mid-90s heat. Hudson surprised us a bit, as he mixed a 96 mph fastball with a knee-buckling upper-70s curveball. 810's Bob Fescoe said that a scout told him that Hudson had the best stuff of any pitcher he saw in Arizona, and he certainly lived up to that reputation today.

    At least Hudson looked good today.

    Defensively, the Royals looked an awful lot like the 2005 squad. Angel Berroa misplayed a routine ground ball for an error, Emil Brown looked lost in left field, and even Reggie Sanders couldn't haul in a line drive that looked as though it hit the pocket of his glove. There were a couple nice plays turned in by Mark Grudzielanek and Mark Teahen, but overall it was the type of team defensive performance that RC had hoped was behind them.

    And to make matters worse, the team looked completely lost at the plate against Jeremy Bonderman, who was in complete command of the game with his 99 mph fastball and dazzling breaking stuff. David DeJesus was the only player who consistently got good swings all day, but even he only had one hit to show for it (a scorching triple to right-center to lead off the game). Mike Sweeney again drew boos for failing to get him home from third with one out, and Grudzielanek didn't look anywhere close to making solid contact.

    The only bright spots offensively, if you can even call them that on a day like this, were impressive home runs by Brown and Shane Costa. Costa's dinger was a screaming line drive into the lower fountain in deep right-center, and Brown's two-run shot banged high off the sign above the 385 ft. mark in left. Both, of course, were too little too late, but at least it was nice to see Costa carrying his spring training swing into the season.

    Shane Costa launched a home run off of Jamie Walker in the ninth.

    All told, it was a very disappointing day at the stadium, and it ran RC's record at Royals games over the last two seasons to a depressing 1-13 (not counting spring training). Of course, it's important to remember that there are 160 games remaining in the season, so the incessantly negative squaking on the message boards and talk radio after just two games is ridiculously premature.

    There is one other bright spot we feel necessary to report on. RC after the first inning defeated RC correspondent Chris Ray in the 810 AM pitch-off on the Jumbotron. Ray tried to psyche out RC before the contest by telling us that he knew he was going to lose. When that didn't work, Ray resorted to cheating by punching RC's golden pitching arm. But alas, his shenanigans were unsuccessful, as RC's fastball registered 62 mph on the shamefully inept radar gun at the Little K, while Ray could muster only a pitiful 61. This was a tremendous victory for RC, and it's one that promises to eat away at the deep recesses of Ray's tiny black heart. We certainly won't let him forget it anytime soon.


    Renovations there will be!

    As you may have noticed, RC over the past couple months has remained silent on the ballot initiatives that Jackson County residents voted on today. We've always thought it somewhat tacky for non-KC residents to take a public position on taxes they would rarely have to pay, and it seemed best to leave discussion of such polarizing issues to more appropriate forums prior to the election.

    Now that the results are in, we must say that RC couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. Not only did Jackson County residents approve a $250 million facelift for one of baseball's most beautiful stadiums, but they also rejected the rolling roof scheme. In our eyes, the Royals were the big winner today, as the wheels have been set in motion to build a revenue-generating machine. Today's vote not only enhances the Royals' long-term ability to compete, but it also ensured that they'll stay in KC for at least 25 more years by locking them into the new lease they recently signed.

    RC has been to most of baseball's new downtown stadiums, and while they certainly offer some benefits that the Truman Sports Complex does not, Kauffman Stadium is so beautiful and perfect that talk of abandoning it always seemed silly. As with any election, there were devious tactics and shenanigans deployed by both sides, but for us, the main question always boiled down to our love of Kauffman Stadium. Jackson County today ensured that it will be a long time before we have to hear such nonsense again, so kudos to them! RC sends Kevin Kietzman and Bob Fescoe and the rest of the seething crew at 810 our condolences.

  • Sorry about the lack of a report from Opening Day. It was a long day for RC, and we didn't even take our camera to the game. The Royals played a pretty solid game, and we liked what we saw from Scott Elarton, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Mark Grudzielanek. Ambiorix Burgos looked dominant out of the pen, and David DeJesus had the type of solid at bats we expect to see from him all season.

    We weren't thrilled when we heard boos raining down upon Mike Sweeney after he tapped out to the pitcher with a man on third base, but after checking with the Elias Sports Bureau, we learned that Sweeney was in fact the first $11 million player in baseball history to do so with a man on third base and less than two outs. Kansas City certainly taught him a lesson on Monday, and it's one we hope he doesn't forget anytime soon.

    Damn you, Mike Sweeney!

    We're sure that he'll never do that again after realizing how much Opening Day fans (or as Sweeney accurately calls them, "Chiefs fans") don't appreciate him not coming through 100 percent of the time. Boy, does he have egg on his face...

  • RC will be at Wednesday's Royals game as the boys in blue attempt to exact revenge against Jemrey Bodnemran (he'll never notice that we spelled his name incorrectly, teehee). We'll be toting our camera as Joe Mays takes the hill, and we plan to have a full report for you tomorrow evening. Also, our draft update promises to be a little slow in the making this week, but we should have something for you in the next couple days. To spoil the suspense, we don't anticipate any real movement on our list, as North Carolina's Andrew Miller continued to display the dominance that has thus far put him heads and shoulders above the rest of the '06 draft class.
  • Sunday

    Sunday notes: Roster settled, RC sees Max Scherzer

    When RC last set foot on the University of Kansas campus seven years ago, we left with a hangover, a black eye, and someone else's shoes. Saturday afternoon's baseball game between Mizzou and KU set the stage for our triumphant return, and although RC's alma mater ultimately lost, we got a good look at pitching prospect Max Scherzer.

    Scherzer, RC's third-ranked draft prospect, was pitching for the first time in three weeks, having missed the previous two weekends with bicep tendinitis. The Tigers' coaching staff was very careful with him, imposing a strict 70-pitch limit. As it were, Scherzer tired after four innings and only 54 pitches, and he was lifted for a reliever to start the fifth inning. In his four innings, Scherzer allowed a run on five hits and two walks while striking out two.

    Stuff-wise, Scherzer was pretty erratic, although we suppose that's to be expected after a long layoff. He did hit 99 mph a couple times in the first inning, but by the fourth inning, his fastball velocity was down to the 93 mph range. He worked in a few nice-looking changeups at 82-84 mph, and his breaking balls ranged from 85-89 mph. The command really wasn't there, but it wouldn't be fair to judge him in his first outing back.

    We plan to get another look at him next weekend, as the Tigers host the Nebraska Cornhuskers. We'll write up a detailed report about Scherzer after that game, and we'll provide you with some exclusive video of both him and Nebraska's Joba Chamberlain. In the meantime, you can check out some more Scherzer photos by clicking here, here, here, and here.

  • Well, the Royals' roster has been finalized, and once again, RC missed badly with our projections for the final two spots. We had figured that Joel Peralta and Steve Andrade were locks for the club, but of course, they weren't. The final two spots went to Luke Hudson and Steve Stemle, much to our suprise.

    In Peralta's case, his demotion to Omaha isn't really a big deal. He's still in his option years, so the Royals can freely move him up and down without exposing him to waivers. Though he didn't make the club out of spring training, he'll be back up soon enough, and RC figures we'll all see a whole lot of Peralta during the course of the season.

    Peralta's demotion surprised us, but he'll be back at some point.

    We were a bit more surprised by Andrade's failure to make the club. Though he only arrived in Royals camp less than a week ago, his status as a Rule 5 draftee meant that the Royals would lose him if he didn't make the 25-man roster. Apparently the Royals found Andrade's presence in the organization less valuable than whatever Stemle brings to the table.

    Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with the Royals' reasoning. Oh, this move set off another round of vicious Baird bashing, such as the rant in our right sidebar by our friends at Rotoworld. But we guarantee that the person who wrote that has never seen Andrade pitch. RC certainly hasn't.

    How could the Royals cut loose a pitcher with such stellar minor league numbers? It's simple -- they weren't confident in his ability to replicate those numbers at the Major League level. This could have been the result of any number of factors, but most likely it was because the Royals didn't think his stuff was good or consistent enough to get Major League hitters out. And clearly, the number of organizations though which Andrade has passed since December is a testament to the fact that the Royals aren't alone in that opinion.

    It's nothing new for a pitcher -- particularly a relief pitcher -- to dominate in the minors with stuff that isn't Major League caliber. Remember Chris DeMaria? The Royals picked up DeMaria in the minor league portion of the 2004 Rule 5 draft, and in 2005, DeMaria continued to dominate the minor leagues. On stats alone, DeMaria looked like a complete stud. However, as we later learned, DeMaria got by in the minors by relying on an above-average changeup, and little else. One-pitch pitchers don't succeed in the Majors, and DeMaria, now in the Brewers' organization, isn't likely to be an exception.

    Chris DeMaria's minor league numbers were every bit as good as Andrade's, but we don't bemoan his departure.

    We don't know if Andrade is a similar case. Our guess is that there's something about his stuff or delivery that gives organizations a reason to believe his minor league success won't translate to Major League success. Ultimately, he may prove the Royals, the Padres, the Devil Rays, the Blue Jays, and the Angels all wrong, but judging from the number of actual baseball people (rather than Rotoworld geeks) who have passed after actually seeing him pitch, our bet is that he probably won't.

    RC certainly isn't wild about seeing Stemle and Hudson on the roster, but we're willing to give both a chance. One will likely be gone when Mike MacDougal returns, and Peralta is only a short phone call away if the other falters. Also, it's important to remember that we're talking about the 24th and 25th men on the ballclub -- regardless of what unfolds, it's not likely to have any real impact on the success or failure of this team.

    That's it for today. RC is presently stationed at Western Command in Kansas City (RCWCOM), and we're all set to attend tomorrow's home opener. We've got tickets for three Royals games this week, and we don't have to return to Eastern Command until Sunday night. We're not sure how much content we'll be able to provide for you this week, but we'll do our best. Keep checking back frequently for updates.