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11-24-2004, 02:39 AM

Teahen impresses peers in fall league


The Kansas City Star

Third baseman Mark Teahen capped a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League by winning its sportsmanship award in a vote by players and coaches. The award is designed to recognize the player who best exemplifies the qualities of leadership, hard work and unselfish behavior.

Teahen, 23, was also picked to the fall league's all-prospect team by league managers and coaches after batting .385 with two homers and 25 RBIs in 30 games for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. He also had just two errors in 28 games at third.

“Teahen is our future,” Baird said. “He played well in the Arizona Fall League, but that does not mean he's ready to step right in (next season). He's a good player, and when he's ready, he'll be here.”

The Desert Dogs won the league title Saturday with a 6-2 victory over Scottsdale. Royals second baseman Donnie Murphy supplied the winning blow with a grand slam in the eighth inning.

The slam eased a disappointing fall for Murphy, who batted just .214 with four homers and nine RBIs in 24 games. While he displayed strong defense and good plate discipline, the Royals are still trying to get him to eliminate the hitch in his swing.

The Royals also had five pitchers on the Desert Dogs:

• Right-hander Brian Bass: 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 innings in eight games. Recovery from shoulder surgery seems complete. He hit 91-93 mph with an above-average change-up — and his best pitch has always been his curve.

• Right-hander Billy Keppinger: 5-0 with a 3.04 ERA in 23 2/3 innings in 18 games. Picked to the all-prospect team, but performance was not as good as his numbers. Possible trade bait.

• Left-hander Mike Stodolka: 1-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 26 1/3 innings in seven games. Former No. 1 pick showed an improving fastball in his recovery from Tommy John surgery but still needs an effective breaking ball.

• Right-hander Danny Tamayo: 0-4 with a 10.73 ERA in 26 innings in eight games. His star is fading; he could soon be elsewhere.

• Right-hander Wes Wilkerson: 0-0 with a 0.98 ERA in 18 1/3 innings in 14 games. Opened some eyes, but his 94-mph fastball remains arrow straight.

Butler tops list

Third baseman Billy Butler is cited as the Royals' top prospect in Baseball America's annual post-season rankings. Butler, 18, was the organization's top pick in last June's draft and batted .373 with 10 homers and 68 RBIs in 74 games at short-season Idaho Falls.

The magazine said Butler uses a “patient approach and line-drive mentality” and has “quick hands and excellent hand-eye coordination,” but needs to “improve his flexibility to enhance his range at third base.”

Pitcher Zack Greinke was the magazine's top prospect after the 2002 and 2003 seasons. The list is limited to those players who still qualify as rookies.

The rest of the top 10: right-hander Denny Bautista, third baseman Teahen, outfielder Chris Lubanski, catcher Justin Huber, right-hander Luis Cota, outfielder Shane Costa, third baseman Mitch Maier, second baseman Murphy and left-hander J.P. Howell.

Omissions from the list who are protected on the club's 40-man roster: shortstop Andres Blanco, catcher Paul Phillips and pitchers Devon Lowery, Ambiorix Burgos, Brian Bass and Jorge Vazquez.


• Andy Kettler is the Royals' new strength-and-conditioning coordinator. He replaces Chris Mihlfeld, who resigned at the end of last season. Kettler worked last season as San Diego's minor-league coordinator and worked previously in the Cleveland minor-league system.

• Miguel Asencio's slow recovery from reconstructive elbow surgery could jeopardize his future with the Royals. Asencio is eligible for arbitration because he remains on the big-league roster even though he hasn't pitched in the majors since May 15, 2003.

• Blanco is recovering from a rib-cage injury and is expected to resume winter ball in Venezuela.

• The Royals left two former No. 1 picks, pitchers Stodolka and Griffin, available in next month's Rule 5 draft by not protecting them on their 40-man roster.