Affeldt shines, but rain wins out...

For once, the folks at Rotoworld got it right, because the Royals truly cannot catch a break. Just about an hour into what looked to be the best game of their young season, the Kansas City skies opened up, bringing a consistent pouring rain that eventually forced the umpires to call the game before it became official. The game was rescheduled as part of a twi-night doubleheader on August 18.

Although seeing a 6-1 lead go by the wayside as if it never happened is a total bummer, a number of positives remain, things upon which the Royals can build starting tomorrow:

  • Jeremy Affeldt started the game for the Royals and was fantastic for the third time in about a week-and-a-half, tossing three innings of one-run ball with a walk and five strikeouts before the rain came. It was an abbreviated outing, but RC hasn't seen him throw like that as a starting pitcher in some time.

    Granted, Affeldt was outstanding in his last appearance which came against Cleveland last Sunday, but he fell behind a number of hitters in that game, leaving us desiring more first-pitch strikes. He did just that on Saturday, throwing two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, and tossing a first-pitch strike to 11 of the 13 Athletics he faced.

    Affeldt overpowered the Athletics from the first pitch on.

    However, not only did he pound the strike zone all night long, he did so with quality stuff, once again tantalizing Royals fans everywhere with a mix of a sinking 93-mph fastball, a Bugs Bunny curve, and a cutter that ate up Frank Thomas and Bobby Crosby. In other words, Affeldt was pitching mean and to his full ability, and looked quite similar to that nasty reliever we enjoyed watching back in 2003.

    That's a pleasantly-surprising development, as RC never could understand why a 6-foot-4, 225-lb. pitcher like Affeldt chose to "pace himself" when he started, dialing down that heater to the 87-88 mph range. If a pitcher has the ability to throw in the low-90s with control, he should do just that, and not worry so much about what's going to be left in the seventh inning.

    The Royals have to be absolutely thrilled with him, as his new-found aggression has led to a three-outing line befitting a top-of-the-rotation starter:
      IP     SO     BB     HR     ERA
    14.1 14 6 1 1.28
    Needless to say, Affeldt's turned some heads and is starting to change some minds here at RC, and we can't wait to see what he does in his next start on Thursday against the Twins.

  • The Royals' bats certainly aided Affeldt's confidence when they sent 11 men to the plate in a five-run first inning that included four walks and four hits. Three of those hits stayed in the park, as Reggie Sanders unloaded the bases with a no-doubt grand slam off a struggling Esteban Loaiza that put the Royals ahead 4-0.

    Reggie's bomb almost tagged the Dodge truck beyond the left field fence.

    RC was overjoyed not only because we knew that the ball was gone off the bat (it landed about 427 feet from home plate), but also because it very well could be the start of one of his patented hot streaks. Few hitters look as bad as Sanders does when his bat goes cold, but few look as good when he really heats up. He homered on Friday too, so American League pitchers would be well-advised to really focus when facing him for the next couple of weeks.

  • Sanders was only part of the fun, as the entire lineup seemed to be locked in on Loaiza, who pretty clearly isn't the same pitcher we saw with the White Sox in 2003. Kerry Robinson was placed in the leadoff spot after being called up from Triple-A Omaha (more on that in a moment), and, despite a terrible swing, responded with two singles, a run scored, and three RBI in three at-bats.

    Doug Mientkiewicz showed a very good eye at the plate, drawing two walks, while Mark Grudzielanek smoked an RBI double to left-center field off A's reliever Ron Flores. The Royals are starting to swing the bats a little bit better. Hopefully this time, they'll bring the thunder with them on their second road trip of the year.

  • Although we could see the writing on the wall once we learned of the severity of the hamstring injury to RC favorite Shane Costa, we were somehow still unpleasantly surprised when the Royals called up Robinson to take his spot on the 25-man roster. However, the Royals needed a capable (and we use that term very lightly) centerfielder to hold down the fort until David DeJesus returns to the lineup, so Robinson was chosen, leaving Aaron Guiel in Omaha.

    DDJ can't get back soon enough.

    We assumed that Guiel would be the one called up since he was already on the 40-man roster, but the Royals simply transferred reliever Steve Stemle from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list to make room for K-Rob. It's likely that Stemle had thrown his last pitch for the Royals anyway, so that's definitely not any kind of a loss.

    It's possible that the Joe Mays experiment may come to an end when DeJesus returns from his stint on the DL, albeit more likely when Costa does the same, which should be around the time Denny Bautista would be ready to take Mays' spot in the rotation. Either way, Mays' days in KC have to be numbered. With any luck, Robinson will play like only Kerry Robinson can, and his days will be numbered as well when Costa's fully healed.
  • Friday

    Mays...not good

    How much longer can this continue? The Joe Mays experiment was a decent risk, but RC has to believe that it's coming to an end. Mays today surrendered five more runs in 3.1 innings pitched, and he walked five while failing to strike out a single batter. Through the first month of the season, Mays has been the worst starter in baseball. Here are his stats through his first five starts:


    Folks, it's not looking good. It's never a good sign when a pitcher has allowed more runs than innings pitched. Is it time to replace him in the rotation, or should he get another start? RC would be willing to let him have one more shot, but as ineffective as he's been, we wouldn't mind if the Royals' just let him go right now and let Mike Wood take over his spot in the rotation. There is no question whatsoever that Wood would be a better option right now, so hopefully the Royals soon come to the conclusion that Mays doesn't put them in the position to win ballgames. The sooner the better.

  • There was some more bad news on Friday, as Shane Costa pulled up lame on a double to right center. Costa was removed from the game and replaced with Esteban German, and the word is that he's likely to be put on the 15-day DL, as early as tomorrow.

    So who replaces him? There are clearly two options. Kerry Robinson had an excellent spring training, and he currently leads all O-Royals with a batting average of .367 through 20 games. Robinson is a slap hitter, and he has no power to speak of. He's not presently on the 40-man roster, so he remains somewhat of a longshot to get the call.

    The other option is Aaron Guiel, who is on the 40-man roster, so the Royals wouldn't have to clear any space for him. However, Guiel has been mired in a slump of late, which has seen his batting average drop to .200. Nevertheless, he still leads the O-Royals with six homers, and he's maintained a SLG pct. of .523.

    To RC, the choice is pretty simple. Guiel offers the most to the big club, and his promotion won't demand reshuffling, so he should get the call. We've never been a big fan of Robinson, and we'd rather have Guiel's power in the lineup than Robinson's speed.

    It's time to see Guiel again.

    It will be interesting to see what the Royals ultimately do, but if Guiel is recalled, we don't think the Royals will lose a whole lot in terms of production.

    Editor's Note (4/29): Well, there's been no official announcement yet, but RC noticed that Kerry Robinson has been added to the active roster. Ughhh. Shane and David, please get back soon.
  • Redman roughed up as Royals lose finale, series...

    Mark Redman was completely ineffective today.

    The last time Mark Redman took the mound, RC was impressed by the movement on his pitches, and his ability to locate his entire repertoire. Redman limited the Indians to just five hits and three runs over six innings, and we were looking forward to his next start.

    Today was the precise opposite of that. Redman was able to work out of trouble in the first, thanks to an inning-ending double play, but the second frame was a disaster that handed Twins ace Johan Santana all the cushion he'd need. Redman's pitches were flat -- his curveball completely disappeared -- and he kept John Buck busy by bouncing what seemed like half of his pitches to the plate. Five hits and five runs later, his game was over, marking Redman's shortest outing since September 2002.

    Mike Wood entered the game and pitched admirably again, logging four innings while surrendering two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk. A succession of relievers followed Wood to finish the game, and the Royals were lucky to escape without having to get deeper into the pen, saving key guys like Elmer Dessens, Andrew Sisco, and Ambiorix Burgos. Give Woody another assist, because with Redman's short outing, the bullpen enters this weekend's three game set with Oakland in relatively good shape. Hopefully Joe Mays doesn't run into early trouble tomorrow, however, or that may no longer be the case.

    Wood got his ERA down to 3.78 with four more solid innings on Thursday.

    This weekend, the Royals draw Dan Haren, Esteban Loiaza, and Joe Blanton, so the offense, which struggled today, will have some work to do. All three pitchers have pitched poorly this season, so hopefully those struggles will continue through the weekend. The Royals counter with Mays, Jeremy Affeldt, and Scott Elarton.

  • Good news from Omaha. Justin Huber, who was out of the lineup on Tuesday with a dislocated pinky, returned to action tonight. In his first at bat back, he lined a pitch right back to the pitcher, and on the night he was 0-for-3 with two more walks.

    Another homer for Gordon.

    And since we're talking about the minor leagues, Alex Gordon tonight went 3-for-4 with his fifth home run of the season, raising his batting average to .341. That guy just can't get here soon enough! As always, the rest of the news from around the minors will go out shortly in our Daily Prospect Update.
  • Thursday

    Less fat Elvys excellent in return...

    Take that, Rotoworld!

    When RC saw Runelvys Hernandez in Spring Training, we were amazed at how big he'd become. When he took the mound at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, it wasn't hard for us to see that he had lost significant weight over the last two months, and he shocked us further by tossing an excellent ballgame.

    Elvys required just 82 pitches through seven two-hit innings, and every one of his pitches had great movement. His two-seamer and slider were diving, his changeup was dancing, and he was still throwing his four-seamer 91 mph in the seventh inning. In fact, this might have been the best we've seen him since the 2003 season, and we're actually looking forward to his next start.

    The only mistake Elvys made all evening was a pitch he left up to Justin Morneau, who deposited it over the right-center field wall. It would have been a two-run homer if not for the excellent diving catch by Doug Mientkiewicz on a Torii Hunter line drive. Regardless, Hernandez kept his composure and didn't allow another baserunner for the remainder of his outing.

    The bullpen came out in the eighth, and the combined efforts of Elmer Dessens and Ambiorix Burgos nailed down the game for the Royals' fifth victory of the season. They go for the series win this afternoon, as Mark Redman opposes Twins' ace Johan Santana.

    Sorry about the late, short post. We'll have more for you tonight after the game. Stay tuned.


    Royals strand 14, screw Elarton again...

    So much for the winning streak. Royals' starter Scott Elarton pitched seven brilliant shutout innings, but again was denied his first victory of the year. The Royals had no trouble putting men on base, but they again failed to deliver in key two-out situations. It's a tough loss to take, but the Royals played well, and this isn't the type of loss to hang your head over.

    One must wonder what the result of tonight's game would have been if Mike MacDougal was healthy. Ambiorix Burgos -- who has been pretty dominant thus far -- would have been summoned for the 8th inning, and, God willing, MacDougal would have had the opportunity to close the game out. But as it was, Buddy Bell summoned Luke Hudson from the bullpen to begin the eighth, and disaster ensued.

    Now, RC doesn't quarrel with Bell's decision to bring in Hudson. We've seen him pitch well in such situations, and he hasn't been any worse thus far than any other pitcher out of the pen this year. Hudson brings an excellent fastball and occasionally great curveball to the table, so RC was hoping we'd see him hand the game over to Burgos in the ninth with a one-run lead. Of course, fate intervened with the modified plan.

    Hard to blame this one on Luke Hudson.

    Lew Ford led off the inning with a weak grounder to SS, but the ball was perfectly placed and Angel Berroa was unable to throw him out off the backhand. Ruben Sierra pinch hit, and after a passed ball by John Buck, Sierra drove in the game-tying run with a grounder through the hole between SS and 3B. Berroa had been cheating toward second with Ford on base, and the ball was hit precisely where he'd have been if Ford was still on first. The result was an RBI single for Sierra, and pinch runner Nick Punto moved to third when Shannon Stewart lined a single up the middle.

    The Royals then summoned Andrew Sisco from the pen, and Sisco did an excellent job limiting the damage. After coaxing Luis Castillo into a harmless foul pop fly to Doug Mientkiewicz, Sisco surrendered a shallow sacrifice fly to Emil Brown in left. Brown bounced the throw to home, and Punto was safe with the go-ahead run. Burgos was called from the pen to end the assault, which he did by coaxing a pop-up to Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

    However, the damage was done, and the Royals could do nothing with their remaining six outs. It's a shame to see them waste so many scoring opportunities, and the loss drops them back to 10 games under .500. They face rookie Scott Baker tomorrow, so hopefully the offense can get into gear and support Runelvys Hernandez, who is making his first start of the season for the Royals.

  • Shane Costa continues to impress us. He went 2-for-4 today, raising his batting average to .302, and he made an excellent sliding catch on a Rondell White liner to left-center. Costa has been one of the most consistent contributors to the lineup, and he's starting to raise questions about what happens when David DeJesus returns to the lineup.

    Shane Costa is making people forget about AAAAron Guiel.

    Does he spell Brown and Reggie Sanders on occasion vs. righties, or has he earned the right to start regularly? RC is proud to proclaim that we were the first media entity to predict his success this season (admittedly, at Omaha), and we hope the Royals find a way to continue getting him into the lineup as the season progresses.

  • We mentioned yesterday that Justin Huber was injured during Omaha's game on Monday, but we are happy to report that the injury was not serious. Huber suffered a dislocated pinky finger while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt, and there was no ligament damage. The O-Royals expect him to miss a couple of days, but he should return quickly and contine his assault on PCL pitchers.

  • Tuesday

    Off-day notes...Everyone should do the "Esteban Flip"

    Folks, now that the Royals are officially on a winning streak and spirits are high, it's time to tackle a light-hearted subject we've been meaning to comment on. It's called the "Esteban Flip." As you should have noticed by now, RC's Official favorite utility player, Esteban German, has a fantastic method of dropping his bat after making contact. Instead of simply dropping his lumber like most boring players, German usually adds some flair to the routine by flinging it into the air behind him on his way to first base. The bat hits the ground after traversing a beautiful arc through the air, and sometimes it travels quite far before coming to a rest.

    The term "Esteban Flip" was coined by RC Correspondent Chris Ray, not Esteban German.

    Now, he doesn't always do the "Esteban Flip," so don't be discouraged if you don't see it the next time he steps to the plate. Just keep watching, because he's sure to do it again eventually. And when you do see it, you'll know that you've witnessed the "Esteban Flip," and maybe you'll even share an understanding nod with a fellow RC reader who also noticed and appreciated it.

    In fact, RC is thinking about starting a movement. To show our support for Esteban German, we'd like the "Esteban Flip" to become the latest fad. Just imagine the possibilities! This goes far beyond simply teaching your little league son the "Esteban Flip" (which you should definitely do anyway), but instead extends into all areas of everyday life.

    The next time you're on the golf course, be sure to give that 3-wood an "Esteban Flip" to celebrate a great drive. The next time you go to the store, "Esteban Flip" your money to the cashier, and be sure to tell her exactly why you just threw your cash on the floor. And if you happen to be a Chiefs fan, the next time you spill your Natural Light while crashing your truck, be sure to "Esteban Flip" your expired insurance card to the victim.

    RC won't be back in KC for at least a couple of months, but when we do return, we hope to see "Esteban Flips" wherever we go. We'll be downright disappointed if our waitress at Jack Stack doesn't "Esteban Flip" us our plate of burnt ends.

  • The minor leagues tonight provided some good news and some bad news. The good news is that both Billy Butler and Alex Gordon homered in Wichita's 6-5 win over Arkansas, the first time this year that both have done so in the same game. The bad news is that Justin Huber left Omaha's game in the seventh inning due to a "hand/wrist injury." We have no further word on the extent of Huber's injury, but we'll be sure to keep everyone posted when we do hear something.

    We've generally moved all of our minor league reporting to our Daily Prospect Update (if you're not yet a member of our FREE e-mail list, sign up here), but we felt this news was sufficiently important to include on our main page. Hopefully the injury isn't serious, and Huber will soon be torturing Pacific Coast League pitchers again.

  • There was more significant movement on our Top 10 Collegiate Draft Prospect list, and this week's update has been posted. The draft situation continues to be murky, but according to reports, it appears as though the Royals may have honed in on four pitchers. Be sure to check out this week's report, and tell us what you think.
  • Sunday

    Now that's more like it! Royals win, end ridiculous 11-game slide

    The Royals last saw fireworks on April 8, a full two weeks ago.

    After watching Friday night's game, you sort of had a feeling that something like this was coming. The Royals had a great offensive approach at the plate in the first game of the series vs. the Tribe, and they carried that into tonight's game, halting their 11-game slide while picking up their first win since April 8th. They attacked Paul Byrd, hanging four runs on him in the first and jumping out to a 7-0 lead after three innings, and that was more than enough support for a surprisingly effective combination of Joe Mays and Mike Wood.

    Mays, in fact, was perfect through the first three innings, and thanks to a miraculous double play turned in by Angel Berroa, he entered the fifth inning having faced the minimum. It fell apart for Mays right there, and he was forced to turn the game over to Wood with two outs, two on, and a 7-3 lead. On the night, Mays was charged with four earned runs on four hits in 4.2 innings of work. Those certainly aren't great stats, but against an offensive powerhouse like the Indians, RC couldn't have expected anything better.

    RC was pleased with Mays' outing today.

    Wood, however, was incredible. He took over in the fifth and finished the game, tossing 4.1 innings while allowing just three hits and an unearned run. With the Royals staked a nice lead, Wood did exactly what he was supposed to do -- throw strikes. He didn't walk a single batter, and 36 of his 55 pitches were over the plate as he picked up his second victory of the year.

    Of course, the true star of today's game was the offense, which has now collected 25 hits over the last two days. Everyone except Paul Bako and Mike Sweeney got in on the act, and even Sweeney had a key RBI on a sacrifice fly. Doug Mientkiewicz (two-run double) and Emil Brown (two-run single) delivered the big blows in the first inning, and Reggie Sanders launched a big RBI double in the sixth inning. Shane Costa continued to look solid at the plate, picking up two more hits, as did Mark Grudzielanek, who continues to lead the Royals with a .317 BA.

    The teams play the rubber match tomorrow afternoon, as the Tribe sends Jason Johnson to the hill to oppose the unpredictable Jeremy Affeldt. The Royals have had both success and failure in the past vs. Johnson, and if Affeldt can replicate his command from his last outing, the Royals just might be able to take the series. It all hinges on which Jeremy Affeldt will show up tomorrow.

    RC has a few more observations:

  • Did anyone actually expect Grudzielanek to play this well? We don't know if he can keep it up for a full season, but if he does, the Royals won't mind picking up his 2007 option one bit. He often looks bad when he swings and misses, but he always seems to have an excellent idea of what he's doing at the plate, and his defense has been outstanding. Simply put, he's a ballplayer, and RC loves watching him play. With the Royals' luck in previous seasons concerning free agent signings, we were a little worried, but Grudz has dashed those fears quite effectively.

  • Mark Grudzielanek is getting it done this year.

  • During the losing streak, Brown in particular looked off-kilter. RC has remained a big Brown supporter since last season because of his quick, compact, and balanced swing, and we rarely saw him look bad on a pitch last year. For the last couple of weeks, Brown has looked bad on many occasions, opening up and flailing at off-speed breaking balls.

    Brown might be starting to heat up.

    However, RC has begun to see the old Brown over the last two games, and even though he still took a couple swings that made us cringe, we're starting to see that compact swing and competent, confident approach at the plate. We look for him to get back on track very soon, and we still expect him to eclipse last year's numbers before the season is done.

  • Are fans going to boo Sweeney EVERY SINGLE TIME he makes an out this season? The man went 4-for-5 on Friday night, and then drew boos from the fans when he struck out on a nasty 3-2 slider from a pitcher he had never seen before. And then they booed him again when he flew out in the eighth, even though the Royals had a six-run lead! RC was shocked, but a friend explained that perhaps they were booing because they wanted that 12th hit and free doughnuts. Either way, RC was disgusted, but that leads us to our next observation.

  • RC loves it when the Royals win on less than 12 hits. No, we don't own Krispy Kreme stock, but we do hate that the doughnut chase generates more crowd noise and excitement than the action on the field. We're probably too young to be so bitter, but RC actually let out a cheer when Mientkiewicz dashed the free doughnut dreams of 8,000 very cheap people by striking out to end the eighth inning. That was fantastic!

    Dougie Fresh did everything right tonight.

    It's sure nice to be able to write about a win.