Tag:Kansas City Royals
Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:43 pm
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Short Hops: Yanks, Zo-rilla, Padres zeroes & more

-- The Yankees are doing exactly what they need to do in the first few weeks of the season, and that's take advantage of home cooking. They opened with 11 of 14 games at home, and through May 1, they play 18 of their first 25 games at home. So far, they're 10-5 at home, and they've got a chance to continue to pad their home record while they play 46 of their first 79 games at Yankee Stadium. The flip side, and the reason it is important for Joe Girardi's club to build up as much collateral at home as possible: From Aug 1 through season's end, the Yankees are home just 20 times (nine home games in August and 11 in September).

-- Zo-Rilla is back: Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist has crushed four homers in his past five games, including one each in Thursday's day-night doubleheader in Minnesota. He had a monster doubleheader, collecting 10 RBI, giving him 18 over his last five games and 25 for the season. Impressive, yes, but his best moment might have come right after the game when he quipped to reporters, "This must be what it's like to feel like Sam Fuld."

-- Tampa Bay is 13-3 since April 10 which, yes, is the best record in the majors since that date.

-- Kansas City was the last team in the majors to lose a series this season, and now look at the Royals: six losses in a row. The Yankees were the last team in the majors to lose consecutive games, to the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.

-- Seattle's historically bad offense last summer looks positively Ruthian compared to what the Padres are doing (or, rather, NOT doing) so far this season. San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez-less lineup has been shut out seven times in the month of April. That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a major-league record. When the Padres score just ONE run, they're 9-9.

-- Yes, it's a different deal this year for the Padres from their 90-win team of a year ago. Ryan Ludwick (.202, four homers, 11 RBI), Brad Hawpe (.143, 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats), Orlando Hudson (.238, .300 on-base percentage) and Jason Bartlett (.231) have gotten off to miserably slow starts, and there are growing questions regarding whether cavernous Petco Park is defeating hitters mentally. That was one key to last year's group -- which included David Eckstein, the Hairston brothers, Jerry Jr. and Scott, and Tony Gwynn Jr. -- the bottom line was winning, and there was no griping about Petco. "You've got to be mentally tough to get through some things," Padres manager Bud Black says. "That's part of being a total player, part of being a total, major league professional player. It works the same way if you're a pitcher in a small park. It works the same way for pitchers in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Houston."

-- The Dodgers' Andre Ethier takes a 24-game hitting streak into this weekend's series with San Diego, but it could be in jeopardy Friday night. Ethier lifetime is hitting .077 (1 for 13) against Padres starter Clayton Richard.

Likes: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying the other day he has his closer -- outfielder Brent Lillibridge -- following Lillibridge's great, diving catches in Yankee Stadium. ...  Andre Ethier's hitting streak at 24 games. ... The way Brandon Phillips always refers to the "Redlegs", not the "Reds", in his tweets (@DatDudeBP). ... Great casting on Hawii Five-O. Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan (son of James) are really good together. ... First listen reaction to Steve Earle's new disc I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive: Outstanding. The disc might even be better than the title.

Dislikes: If you see me at Fast Five, please come up and say hello. Maybe that would then distract me from my next move: Jumping off of a bridge. Man, summer movie season stinks.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Now listen youngster, be on your way
"Don't bother me til a later day
"I like my men like I like my whiskey
"Mmm, aged and mellow"

-- Little Esther, Aged and Mellow Blues

 

Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Short Hops

Some quick mid-week notes:

-- Brandon Belt, who will be back and will be productive one day, made Wednesday's decision easy on the Giants by hitting just .192 with a .300 on-base percentage and .269 slugging percentage. It was a given since opening day that somebody would be the odd Giant out when Cody Ross (calf) was healthy. Belt's ongoing struggles combined with a weak defense with Aubrey Huff in right and Pat Burrell in left made it a no-brainer. The lesson in Belt's demotion to Triple-A Fresno (on his 22nd birthday, no less!): It's just not that easy. Not a new lesson, just one that needs reiterating from time to time. When Belt hit .282 with three homers and 13 RBI in 71 spring at-bats, Giants fans had visions of Buster Posey II. But Posey, who punched the accelerator as soon as he arrived last May, was the rare exception. Belt leaves with just one homer in 17 games (60 plate appearances).

-- What are the odds of the 8-8 Cubs splitting today's doubleheader with the Padres? So far this season, the Cubs have been 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8. Even I can do that math.

-- And they don't even get paid overtime: Kansas City has gone extra innings in five of its first 16 games. At that pace, the Royals would play 48 extra-inning games this season. The major-league record is 31, held by the 1943 Boston Red Sox.

-- Into Wednesday's series finale in Oakland, the powerful Red Sox remained historically impotent: 0-7 on the road, their worst-ever road beginning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, surpassing 0-6 in 1927. It's not historically bad by major-league standards, however: The Nationals started 0-8 away from home just two seasons ago.

-- The Padres were confident that they had a better-balanced lineup even without Adrian Gonzalez's bat, but they were shut out in four of their first 16 games. At that pace, San Diego will be blanked 41 times this season. Yes, that would be a record. The current NL mark for being shut out in a season is 33, held by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals. The AL mark is 30, owned by the 1906 Washington Senators.

-- Yes, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a sensational start, leading the NL with a .438 batting average and ranking second with a .514 on-base percentage. But before declaring that he's turned it around from a disappointing 2010, let's let things play out another couple of months. Kemp ALWAYS plays well in April: Coming into this season, his career April numbers were a .312 batting average, .362 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage -- his highest numbers of any single month all season.

-- That said, my favorite Kemp moment so far this season occurred in the second game against the Giants. At first base and running on the pitch, Kemp read a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval perfectly. Not hesitating, he blew around second base as Sandoval was throwing to first and easily made it to third. It was a great play that involved athleticism, talent, instincts and smarts. When Kemp is on like that, he's as electric as anuybody.

-- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips not only is a big fan of shortstop Paul Janish, but also of Janish's family. Phillips says Janish's mother is a mean cook.

Likes: The Farrelly brothers are moving along with plans to bring The Three Stooges to the silver screen, bringing in Sean Hayes of Will & Grace to play Larry. Better news would have been coaxing Sean Penn to change his mind on Moe, but, alas, no such luck. Curly is Will Sasso of MADtv. But with filming supposedly set to begin in Atlanta soon, still no Moe. Speculation: Hank Azaria, who voices in The Simpsons.

Dislikes: Rented Wild Hogs the other night. A couple of pretty funny moments but, overall, not so good. Strong cast, though: William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence.

 Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"As I walk on
"Through troubled times
"My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
"So where are the strong
"And who are the trusted?
"And where is the harmony?
"Sweet harmony.
"'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away
"It just makes me wanna cry
"What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?"

-- Nick Lowe, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

 

Posted on: May 13, 2010 5:20 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2010 6:50 pm
 

Hillman out, Yost in in Kansas City

This was Royals' general manager Dayton Moore speaking to the Kansas City Star on Tuesday about manager Trey Hillman: "Trey is a tremendous leader. ... He's exactly what our organization needs at this point in time."

This was Moore speaking to Hillman 48 hours later in Kansas City: "You're fired!"

And with that, bam, another Royals manager bites the dust.

That's three in the past six years, five in the past 13, and on and on this grisly story goes. From Tony Muser to Tony Pena (who did deliver an AL Manager of the Year season in 2003) to Buddy Bell to Hillman. Fired, fired, fired, fired.

Next up is former Brewers manager Ned Yost, who joined the Royals this year as special advisor to baseball operations ... which is not unlike a storm chaser signing on as special advisor to tornado damage.

Wreckage everywhere. And what I can't get over is the twister that blew through in that 48-hour span from "He's exactly what our organization needs at this point in time" to "Pack your bags and hit the road, Jack."

Talk about a reaching a crisis point.

The Royals look like they have no idea what they're doing.

They clearly underachieved under Hillman: At midweek, they ranked fifth in the AL in batting average, sixth in slugging percentage, seventh in on-base percentage ... yet 11th in runs scored. Only Baltimore's record was worse.

But they also are not getting any better players than they were five or six years ago, and the pitching is abysmal. Statistically, only the Angels have a worse bullpen right now, and only Detroit has a worse rotation.

For that, the spotlight now swings straight over to Moore, whose choice to replace Hillman was predictable: An old Braves connection from the days when Moore was an assistant to Atlanta GM John Schuerholz and Yost was a coach on manager Bobby Cox's staff.

Whatever. This is a team that has lost 100 or more games in three of the past six years and 93 or more games in five of the past six years. Moore replaced former GM Allard Baird (fired, too) in May, 2006, and the Brewers have lost 93 and 97 games in two of Moore's three full seasons.

This season? They're on pace to finish 56-106.

The exact same record they posted in 2005, the last full season before Moore was hired.

Progress? Or irreversible corrosion?

It is never pleasant when a man loses his job, no matter how much relief there surely is in many quarters of Royal fandom today.

"Thankfully, in 20 years of managing, last year easily was my most trying year," Hillman told me this spring. "Easily. Because each day, you want to give the great fans of Kansas City what they want, what they deserve."

The Royals owe their great fans something fierce. And it isn't Scott Podsednik getting picked off of base, Yuniesky Betancourt half-assing a routine infield fly and muffing it, or the current sorry bullpen that has sabotaged several games the Royals could have won.

And it damned sure isn't singing the manager's praises early in the week only to fire the same guy later in the week.

Posted on: April 29, 2010 12:17 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2010 1:37 pm
 

U2, the DH and the baseball schedule

Don't know whether or not Bono favors the designated hitter rule, but based on U2's summer concert tour, they're definitely American Leaguers.

The band is playing Angels Stadium (June 6-7), the Oakland Coliseum (June 16) and Toronto's Rogers Center (July 3) before, finally, landing in NL Florida's Landshark Stadium (or whatever they're calling it now, on July 9).

And it wreaked havoc with the 2010 schedule.

"They've become my least-favorite band -- which has nothing to do with their songs, talent or anything else," jokes Katy Feeney, the longtime National League media specialist who now helps handles major league baseball's club relations and scheduling issues.

Putting together the major-league schedule is always a chore because it has an incredible number of moving parts, and this year's was even more difficult based on the band from Ireland.

Because of the magnitude of the tour and sheer size of the stage, Feeney says, "they require 10 days to set up the concert and then break it down. That's an unusually long period of time [compared to other concerts].

"And that means a team has to be on the road for three series' over a week-and-a-half."

The problems, for example, didn't necessarily occur with sending the Angels on the road for a 14-game trip from May 31-June 14 to make room for U2, or with sending the A's on a nine-game trip from June 11-21 to accommodate Bono and the boys.

"Unfortunately, everything has a ripple effect," Feeney says. "And the number of actual teams hosting the concert, other than those 10 days, may not feel as many consequences as some other clubs."

It could have gotten more dicey. St. Louis initially asked to hold dates for U2, but for whatever reason, the band didn't fit Busch Stadium into its itinerary. And while the band is playing major-league cities Denver (June 12), Seattle (June 20), Minneapolis (June 27) and Chicago (July 6), those concerts are all in football stadiums.

"It wasn't as bad as the year the Republican National Convention was in Houston," Feeney says of the 1992 gathering. "The Astros had to be on the road for a month that year.

"Every year has something. Hopefully, everybody enjoys the U2 concerts in baseball stadiums. And hopefully, the stadiums will be full."

Maybe Bono will write about it in one of his New York Times Op-Ed columns.

Likes: Colleague Mike Freeman's column lobbying baseball to consider moving 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona if the state does not change its new immigration law. ... Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo, the game's next superstar. ... Baltimore wins two in a row this week! ... Former Indians pitching coach Carl Willis as the roving pitching coordinator for the Mariners' minor-league system. He'll be back in the bigs soon. ... First three episodes of HBO's Treme have been solid. Very promising New Orleans-based show right there. From David Simon, who did Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. ... New release from The Hold Steady next week. ... New DVD coming in June from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, London Calling. ... Finally started reading Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. Not too far in yet, but anytime I'm reading a Hornby book, it's good with me.

Dislikes: The Giants' ninth inning Wednesday following Tim Lincecum. ... The Brewers' ninth inning Wednesday with Trevor Hoffman. ... The Royals' eighth and ninth innings Tuesday following Zack Greinke. ... Regarding the above on David Simon, I still haven't caught up with The Wire, which I hear is superb. It's on my list.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then, than I do now
"Neon heart, day-glow eyes
"A city lit by fireflies
"They're advertising in the skies
"For people like us"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights

Posted on: April 22, 2010 11:59 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2010 6:06 pm
 

Short Hops: Bullpens reaching critical mass

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

 Where legendary manager/raconteur Casey Stengel once groused, "Can't anybody here play this game?", Dave Trembley (Baltimore), A.J. Hinch (Arizona), Trey Hillman (Kansas City), Ron Washington (Texas), Lou Piniella (Cubs) and Fredi Gonzalez (Florida) are among the skippers anguishing through today's modern translation: "Can't anybody here pitch in the late innings?"

Nearly three weeks in, and bullpens in each of those places range from blown up to still-smoldering. While the issues and problems are disparate, there are a couple of things in play here.

One, as Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher suggests, some relievers are still attempting to settle into the regular season's erratic workload after pitching regularly scheduled stints throughout spring training.

Two, the spectacular number of blown saves in Baltimore (two conversions in six opportunities), Texas (two in five) and Kansas City (four in nine) add grist to the argument against rigidly locking your closer into the ninth innings. Sometimes, the eighth inning is the game-changer. Sometimes it's the seventh.

"The way the bullpen sets up today, you've got a closer for the seventh inning, a closer for the eighth inning and a closer for the ninth inning," Butcher says.

So, given the nature of specialty bullpens, in an era when there are no Goose Gossage-style closers who can get seven or eight outs, maybe what's needed is less managing-by-the-book and more imagination. Maybe if the Royals, for example, summoned Joakim Soria sooner rather than later, they wouldn't have suffered four of their first five losses in games in which they led in the seventh inning.

In Texas, Frank Francisco has been removed as closer in favor of Neftali Feliz. In Baltimore, Mike Gonzalez, who blew save opportunities on both opening day and in the Orioles' home opener, went to the disabled list with a shoulder strain (and in his place, Jim Johnson has blown two of three save opportunities).

The 2-14 Orioles have lost five games in which they've led in the eighth inning or later. Texas has lost four such games. Kansas City starters already have been cost five wins because of blown saves (including two each for Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister), while Arizona, Milwaukee, Florida and Cubs' starters have lost four victories to blown saves.

The Diamondbacks suffered back-to-back walk-off losses on April 15 (Blaine Boyer, at Los Angeles) and April 16 (Juan Rodriguez, at San Diego). Then, Arizona's pen was hammered for five ninth-inning St. Louis runs Wednesday in what at the time was a tied game.

The Cubs' plight caused Lou Piniella to move erstwhile ace Carlos Zambrano from the rotation to eighth-inning set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol in an absolutely stunning move of desperation. Through Tuesday, the Cubs had surrendered 16 eighth-inning runs, a major-league high. They also had allowed 32 runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined, also the most in the majors.

"A vast majority of these games are decided in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings," Piniella explained -- as opposed to, say, the first-through-sixth innings, when Zambrano (and Greinke and Dan Haren and Kevin Millwood) usually is on the mound.

This continues, some brave manager -- Washington with Feliz? Gonzalez with Leo Nunez? -- is going to call on his closer to protect a one-run lead in the eighth instead of the ninth, out of self-defense if nothing else. And maybe that will be the start of a new -- and welcome -- trend.
 Biggest culprits in blowing up opposing bullpens? Detroit this season has caused a whopping seven blown saves, while the Dodgers have caused six. Though, as manager Jim Leyland noted Thursday in Anaheim, it would make life far easier for the Tigers if they'd start scoring on starting pitchers.

 Regarding the scorched-earth pen in Texas, the Rangers already have lost five games they've led in the seventh inning or later this year. Last year, they lost only six of those games over their 162-game schedule.

 Baltimore hitters with runners in scoring position: A big-league worst .155 (17-for-110). And .103 (6-for-58) with RISP and two out.

 Chad Billingsley has a 7.07 ERA lodged in his throat after surrendering seven runs and seven hits to Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Joe Torre says it looks like the pitcher has confidence issues and Billingsley says his confidence is fine. Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Billingsley had command issues, Billingsley said he didn't. And in other news, the Dodgers say the earth is round and Billingsley says it's flat. This all had better get worked out, pronto.

 The suddenly reeling Giants, who went from 7-2 to getting swept by the Padres, face contenders St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado in a homestand beginning Friday and are perfectly set up for the Cards: Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain are lined up to start.

 The Twins, according to sources, had what they viewed as a workable deal to acquire Padres closer Heath Bell after Joe Nathan was hurt this spring but veered away because they were nervous over character issues. Bell's outspoken manner at times can grate on teammates.

 When is this guy going to get some work? Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton has converted his only save opportunity this season, and though he's only appeared in six of 15 games, one scout who has watched him this year and in spring training raves about him. "Mariano Rivera still sets the bar, but Jonathan Broxton right now is every bit as good," the scout says. "I saw him this spring and I've seen him this year, and je just comes in pumping strikes at 96 miles an hour."

 Glad to see baseball came to grips with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's hoodie. Now let's move on to the maple bat issue before somebody gets decapitated.

 Sure wish Milton Bradley would quit giving everybody so much material. Now the Chicago landlord who sued Bradley for $44,000 in unpaid rent over the winter alleges that Bradley also caused $13,900 in damage to the condo with wine, food, juice and coffee stains as well as paint stains.

 One thing I neglected to mention last week while reviewing the Twins' superb new Target Field: The excellent touches extend all the way to the crew responsible for the in-game music, especially the inspired choices of playing clips of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive during key moments for the Twins in the late innings and Bruce Springsteen's Long Walk Home after losses.

 Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker may have a crack pinch-running candidate in-house and not even know it: Congratulations to Reds media relations guru Rob Butcher, who sets the bar in his day job, for not only completing the Boston Marathon on Monday but for doing so in 3:24:59. That's 7:49 per mile!


Posted on: April 5, 2010 12:24 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 4:09 pm
 

Opening Day: Ceremonial first blog pitch

Welcome to the last day of the best sports weekend of the year: Opening Day, and Final Four weekend. And yes, we count the Monday of the NCAA championship game and 13 baseball openers as part of the weekend.

If you haven't called in sick today, I have just one question: What's wrong with you?

While we count down to the Butler game (yes, it's the Butler game, not the Duke game, and I'll get to them in a separate blog in a little while), colleague Danny Knobler and I will be blogging throughout the day, sending quick hits regarding today's 13 openers. So check back often.

A couple of quick opening thoughts heading in:

-- Coolest moment: President Obama set to throw out the first pitch before today's Philadelphia-Washington game in D.C. I don't care whether you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or a leftover reguee from the Whig party. You don't see presidents dropping the first puck, making the first handoff or tossing up the first jump ball. Just one more reason why baseball remains the best and most important sport going.

-- Best pitching matchup: Tough to beat the Detroit-Kansas City game at 4 EDT, when Tigers ace Justin Verlander goes against AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

-- Most interesting home debut: Let's see what kind of ovation Atlanta right-fielder Jason Heyward gets when the Braves open against the Cubs this afternoon. I'm guessing it will range somewhere from raucous to exceptionally raucous.

-- Most interesting road debut: OK, so we never notice hitting coaches unless one of our favorite players delves into a slump. But when the Cardinals open in Cincinnati today, and they introduce the teams pre-game, let's just see what kind of reaction St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire gets as things begin again for real for him.

-- We're still unwrapping the season and: The Red Sox and Yankees already checked in with their first sub-4 hour game! They played Sunday night's opener in 3:46. Now the raging question becomes, can they do it again?

-- Opening day boos to: The Angels and the A's. Two things I know about Opening Day: It should always be a day game, and clubs should never schedule it opposite the NCAA title game. What, you think your fans don't want to watch the basketball championship? Why not just schedule an afternoon game?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The Cubs made me a criminal
"Sent me down a wayward path
"They stole my youth from me
"That's the truth
"I'd forsake my teachers
"To go sit in the bleachers
"In flagarant truancy
"And then one thing led to another
"I discovered alcohol, gambling and dope
"Football, hockey, lacrosse, tennis
"What did you expect?
"When you raise a young boy's hopes
"And then just crush 'em
"Like so many paper beer cups
"Year after year after year"

-- Steve Goodman, A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request

Posted on: January 22, 2010 12:48 am
 

Ankiel to sign with Kansas City

Seven seasons and a couple of positions into his major-league career, Rick Ankiel, the former pitcher turned outfielder, has crossed Missouri and will play for Kansas City in 2010, CBSSports.com has learned.

Ankiel and the Royals have agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $3.25 million, according to sources, with a mutual option for 2011 worth $6 million.

Ankiel batted just .231 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs in 122 games with St. Louis last season. He started his career in St. Louis as a pitcher in 1999 before inexplicably losing his control and converting into an outfielder. He debuted as an outfielder in the majors in 2007.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 15, 2009 5:00 pm
 

Hillman: Royals to unleash Soria

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Any other spring in which a Kansas City manager talks about how he will use his closer in the upcoming season might elicit a yawn or a shrug of the shoulders. But after the Royals compiled a baseball's-best 18-8 record last September and added leadoff man Coco Crisp and first baseman Mike Jacobs over the winter, who knows?

Nobody is predicting an AL Central title for the Royals, but things do seem to be headed in the right direction. Which is one reason why skipper Trey Hillman thinks the time and place are right to lengthen the leash on All-Star closer Joakim Soria.

In his first full season as Royals' closer in 2008, Soria essentially was a one-inning guy. His 42 saves ranked second in the American League, and of those, only two came in games in which he was asked to obtain more than three outs (he also had one blown save during which he entered the game in the eighth inning).

"Now, with more innings, we're going to be more aggressive with him," Hillman says. "We'll let the situation dictate, but maybe there will be times this year when we ask him to get four or five outs."

The Royals are very optimistic that they've improved their bullpen. The additions of right-handers Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, Doug Waechter and Jamey Wright, the return of Ron Mahay and John Bale (who is sidelined until late March with a thyroid condition) and the hot spring Robinson Tejada is having, combined with Soria, should give Hillman some dependable late-game options.

And the more consistent the Royals pitch in the sixth and seventh innings, the more games they should be in position to win in the eighth and ninth.

"It's a matter of being ready for situations," says Hillman of Soria, whom the Royals plucked from San Diego in the 2006 Rule V draft. "I think you need that one year of solidification without taxing him too much and putting him at risk."

That came last year, a breakout season in which Soria converted 42 of 47 save opportunities and became one of only 14 closers in major-league history (minimum 30 saves) to record more saves than hits allowed (39) in a season.

In 2007, Soria's quick ascension began in the bullpen, continued when he quickly became the Royals' set-up man and then went into overdrive when he became the primary closer.

The Royals were very aware of protecting Soria last season, with Hillman usually opting for somebody else on the third day if Soria had closed two consecutive games.

"During our 12-game losing streak (May 19-30), we had fans yelling at us, 'Where's Soria?!'" Hillman says. "But if he had pitched two days in a row, we were not going to pitch him a third day.

"I think we have more coverage for him this year. At least, from an experience standpoint."

Likes: Hall of Famer George Brett, upon hearing details of Team USA's mercy-rule loss to Puerto Rico, saying he was going to immediately call fellow HOFer Mike Schmidt, third-base coach for Team USA. "Oh, I'm going to call him and get all over him about this," Brett cackled. "I'll ask him, 'Are you guys even trying?'" ... The groundskeepers hard at work manicuring the field at 9:30 a.m. in a quiet Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday morning. One of them was taking grass clippings from a bucket and sprinkling them in bare spots, filling in areas where the sod was worn. "Shhhh," he said. No need to keep it quiet, though: Scottsdale Stadium is a beautiful place, the grass more consistently lush than anywhere else in the Cactus League and the trees on the other side of the outfield fence adding to the beauty. ... Padres broadcaster and former Yankees infielder Jerry Coleman busting into San Diego manager Bud Black's office the other day and expounding on the "lost art of the pop-up slide." ... The MLB Network is far better than I expected. More legitimate analysis, less propaganda. ... Seeing actor Timothy Busfield in Los Olivos, a Mexican joint in Oldtown Scottsdale, on Saturday night. I do miss The West Wing.

Dislikes: Arizona is loaded with those sneaky cameras not only looking to aid in ticketing drivers for running red lights, but also to catch them speeding. I've seen the red light cameras before, but I've never seen cameras rigged along freeways looking to catch speeders without a cop in sight. We're reaching the point where we need a citizens' uprising in our Big Brother society. If a cop can't catch you in a traffic violation, there should be no ticket.

Sunblock Day? Another in a streak of gorgeous Arizona days. Hot sun, 80ish, many girls wearing their summer clothes here in Scottsdale Stadium. Wish you were here.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It’s a cartoon town,
"I play my part,
"And I ain’t spoke her name in years"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me

 

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com