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Old 07-17-2008, 02:59 PM  
Deberg_1990 Deberg_1990 is offline
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Five Questions for the Royals Second Half

Issue one: Is youth ready to start serving?

Issue 2: Quick bat, quicker mouth equals … what?

Issue three: Is it time to pursue a long-term deal with Zack Greinke?

Issue four: Can the Royals win with this rotation?

Issue five: What free agents make reasonable targets in the upcoming off-season?

http://www.kansascity.com/666/story/708857.html


CHICAGO| The grind resumes Friday night for the Royals, here on this city’s south side where they have won only 18 times in 72 games against the White Sox since the start of the 2001 season.

Where better to start pondering questions that must be answered over the season’s remaining 66 games?

“This team is moving in the right direction,” offered outfielder José Guillen, whose unvarnished assessments often made him a focal point prior to the All-Star break.

“At times, we look like, ‘OK, this is a great team.’ But there are also times when we look like we don’t deserve to be in the big leagues.”

The Royals are 43-53 as they head into their post-break schedule, which begins with a run of 28 games before they play a team that currently possesses a losing record. It figures to be a severe test.

“We’re not where we want to be by a long shot,” general manager Dayton Moore said, “but our baseball team continues to improve. Our offense is getting better. Our starting pitching needs to recapture some of the form that it had earlier in the first half of the season. I think that will happen.”

The offense, particularly the young bats that serve as its fulcrum, is one of five issues requiring answers before the regular season concludes Sept. 28 at Minnesota. Let’s start there:

Issue one: Is youth ready to start serving?

It has been a breakthrough first half for David DeJesus, who is batting .306 while already achieving a career high with 10 homers and nearing a career high with 51 RBIs (he had 58 in 2007). He has become a steady, solid, dependable catalyst who also provides consistent defense while drawing time at all three outfield posts.

“David has been our most consistent player, obviously,” manager Trey Hillman said. “The key thing for David is he feels comfortable against right and left-handed pitching.”

The only real question concerning DeJesus is whether he can maintain his form for another 2½ months. He batted just .223 last season after the All-Star break.

The questions get sharper for other key members of the club’s youthful core. Alex Gordon is batting just .208 in his last 41 games. Billy Butler surged initially following a one-month remedial tour at Class AAA Omaha but has just three hits in his last 35 at-bats.

The Royals are also still waiting for Mark Teahen to become a consistent performer. Teahen is on pace for 17 homers after hitting just seven a year ago, but his average is down from .285 to .252.

Gordon, Butler and Teahen each need to become reliable run-producers for the lineup to take off. If one or more turn into busts, the Royals’ rebuilding job gets much harder.

It will be interesting to see if rookie infielder Mike Aviles can continue his Michael Young impersonation for the remaining 10 weeks. That seems unlikely, but Aviles has already exceeded expectations.

“It’s going to be more of a mental grind for Mike Aviles,” Moore said. “Physically, he can play. He’s got enough bat speed. He’s got enough strength. He’s got enough quickness. He’s got enough smarts.”

Issue 2: Quick bat, quicker mouth equals … what?

Guillen is on pace to finish with 49 doubles, 22 homers and 110 RBIs despite getting little help and protection from other parts of the lineup. That’s everything and more the Royals could have hoped for in signing him last December for $36 million over three years.

It’s not that simple, of course.

Guillen’s mercurial personality has often stirred controversy with his shoot-from-the-lip style. Only he knows whether his jogs to first on grounders are the result of an ailing hip, a suspect attitude or some parts of both.

“I don’t think he’s been controversial within the confines of our baseball team,” Moore insisted. “I’m not saying that from time to time that (unfortunate) things aren’t said. People get frustrated. But he has produced to a level that we’re extremely satisfied with.”

Issue three: Is it time to pursue a long-term deal with Zack Greinke?

The Royals made the decision earlier this season that All-Star closer Joakim Soria isn’t a fluke. The result was a three-year contract extension that includes three option years.

Club officials, so far, have made no overtures toward Greinke, whose status as the rotation’s top gun just got further confirmation: He is opening the post-break schedule, instead of Gil Meche, Friday night against the White Sox.

“I would listen,” Greinke said, “if they wanted to make an offer.”

It’s been more than two years since Greinke returned from a bout with social anxiety and clinical depression. He is 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 26 starts since returning last August to the rotation.

Only the Reds’ Edinson Volquez and Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay have lower ERAs while making at least 25 starts in that span.

Tampa Bay set the framework for any potential talks between Greinke and the Royals by signing Scott Kazmir earlier this season to a three-year extension for $28.5 million. That deal includes a $2.5 million buyout for a club option for $13.5 million in 2012.

Like Greinke, Kazmir was on track to become a free agent after the 2010 season.

Issue four: Can the Royals win with this rotation?

The starting pitchers’ 4.82 ERA entering the post-break schedule is, despite Greinke’s contributions, only slightly better than last season’s final 4.88 mark. Yes, the yield improves if departed Brett Tomko and injured John Bale are removed — but only to 4.59.

That means the final 66 games should determine whether the Royals feel the need to find another starter in the off-season.

The biggest question surrounds Brian Bannister, who is 4-8 with a 6.22 ERA in his last 16 starts. He contends he is making adjustments that will show major dividends long into the future as the reward for this rough stretch.

“Sometimes you have to take a step back,” he said, “to take a couple steps forward. I’m starting to see good results.”

Meche isn’t going anywhere, despite continued trade rumors, and shows signs of returning to form. His ERA is 3.76 over his last 15 starts after peaking at 8.00 through five starts.

Luke Hochevar shows signs of harnessing his killer sinker, which provides the Royals with visions of him becoming the next Brandon Webb. Kyle Davies hasn’t won in five outings after going 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his first four starts after returning from Omaha.

“I’ve like the flashes of a consistent five-man rotation,” Hillman said. “Obviously, there still needs to be more consistency and growth. I think a lot of that is confidence. I think a lot of that is experience.

“It’s a process that we have to go through.”

Issue five: What free agents make reasonable targets in the upcoming off-season?

Club officials are, no surprise, reluctant to identify possible free-agent targets, but two needs are impossible to overlook:

At least one more impact bat, preferably from a corner position.

A proven, dependable middle infielder.

Aviles’ emergence, if it continues, provides the flexibility to seek either a shortstop or a second baseman.

It would be no surprise to see the Royals pursue shortstop Rafael Furcal, who is completing a three-year, $39 million deal with a the Dodgers. Furcal is a former Brave, which typically scores points with the Royals’ Atlanta-centric front office.

The list of available outfielders offers no Guillen-like fits unless but still offers at least one intriguing possibility: Raul Ibañez, who is concluding a two-year deal for $11 million with the Mariners.

Ibañez, now 36, was among the Royals’ most-popular players with fans and within the clubhouse from 2001-03. He is a trade possibility this summer for the Mariners but, barring a contract extension, will be a free agent after the season.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:00 PM   #2
StcChief StcChief is offline
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is anyone gonna make an offer on Soria that Royals won't refuse
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:00 PM   #3
Demonpenz Demonpenz is online now
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ibanez is teahen minus the speed
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:02 PM   #4
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I remember Rany saying "solid" player means he sucks....thats what Ibanez is another solid player. We have enough of those
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:03 PM   #5
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i really believe that the first four pitchers in our rotation are quality... we can contend with this rotation and soria/nunez in the pen.

and i had the exact same feeling about ibanez when i looked at the list of free agents earlier in the year... i don't care how old he his.. he can play.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:07 PM   #6
Deberg_1990 Deberg_1990 is offline
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I hope they keep Grienke. Hes the best "in house" pitcher we have developed since Appier in the early 90's.
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Originally Posted by Cassel's Reckoning:

Matt once made a very nice play in Seattle where he spun away from a pass rusher and hit Bowe off his back foot for a first down.

One of the best plays Matt has ever made.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Demonpenz View Post
ibanez is teahen minus the speed
uh, ibanez has hit at least .280 seven years in a row. he has had 20+ homers four times in that span, and over 100 RBIs three times.

teahen, meanwhile, has a .270 career average, and career highs of 18 HR and 69 RBIs.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:16 PM   #8
Deberg_1990 Deberg_1990 is offline
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Originally Posted by Deberg_1990 View Post
Gordon, Butler and Teahen each need to become reliable run-producers for the lineup to take off. If one or more turn into busts, the Royals’ rebuilding job gets much harder.

The most important part of the whole article.
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Originally Posted by Cassel's Reckoning:

Matt once made a very nice play in Seattle where he spun away from a pass rusher and hit Bowe off his back foot for a first down.

One of the best plays Matt has ever made.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:18 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Deberg_1990 View Post
The most important part of the whole article.
that is no shit...
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:20 PM   #10
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Never should've let Ibanez go in the first place....he is solid but 36...id try him at 2 years maybe...

I would rather go after a Burrell or Dunn personally
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:57 PM   #11
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Dunn would be pretty sweet.
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Old 07-17-2008, 04:01 PM   #12
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Dunn would be pretty sweet.
obviously, if we were to acquire Dunn he would appear almost exclusively as the DH, right?
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Old 07-17-2008, 04:05 PM   #13
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Mark Teixeira. Spend the $$$. Oh...wait...I guess we probably shouldn't move Gload or Teahen...or Butler, who is clearly our future.
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Old 07-17-2008, 04:21 PM   #14
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can we get rid of Billy Butler too please??
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Old 07-17-2008, 04:22 PM   #15
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Mark Teixeira. Spend the $$$. Oh...wait...I guess we probably shouldn't move Gload or Teahen...or Butler, who is clearly our future.
Would love it but i doubt he'd come here...or we can afford to dish everything out for him.
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