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Old 12-11-2002, 06:19 AM  
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Dutton: Pitchers improving in winter ball

Pitchers improving in winter ball

By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Tue, Dec. 10, 2002

The Royals now have all three of their rookie closer candidates pitching in the Caribbean.

Jeremy Hill leads the Dominican Winter League with eight saves while going 1-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 20 appearances for Gigantes Del Cibao.

But Hill has gained the nickname "Heart Attack" because of 17 walks in 201/3 innings.

"He's getting the job done," said manager Tony Pena, who has witnessed several of Hill's outings. "He's leading the league in saves, but he's pitching behind a lot. He can't do that up here (in the majors)."

Mike MacDougal bounced back from his first rough outing -- two runs and three walks in 11/3 innings -- at Mayaguez in Puerto Rico by gaining saves in his next two appearances. He has a 2.42 ERA in 19 games.

A slimmer Ryan Bukvich recently started his winter work by turning in three scoreless innings in three appearances for Aguilas in the Dominican.

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Right-hander Miguel Asencio, under orders this winter to work on his control, didn't walk a batter in his first two appearances for Estrellas in the Dominican. But he allowed 10 hits and seven runs in five innings.

"He has been throwing strikes," Pena said. "But his strikes are too good. Everything has been flat. But he just needs time to pitch."

Outfielder Mark Quinn is six for 32 with one homer and five RBIs in his first nine games at Mayaguez. Pena and general manager Allard Baird are both in Puerto Rico to evaluate Quinn before the winter meetings start later this week in Nashville, Tenn.

Shortstop Angel Berroa still isn't hitting at Azucareros in the Dominican. His average is just .165 after 26 games, and he has 25 strikeouts in 79 at-bats.

Second baseman Carlos Febles, playing alongside Febles at Azucareros, is batting .283 in 26 games. He also has 12 walks and a .360 on-base percentage.

Zack Greinke finished his half-season of duty in winter ball with a 2.45 ERA in nine games. He struck out 14 and walked two in 252/3 innings. Greinke, 19, was the club's first-round pick in June's draft.

Lefty Chris George replaced Greinke on the Mayaguez roster and pitched three perfect innings Sunday in his first start.
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