14 March 2008

Grudz comes back for back

With "Mr. DL" Mike Sweeney now fighting for a spot in Oakland's camp (and hitting .393 with a .985 OPS while second on the team with 8 RBI in 9 games, it should be noted....as for that, I wish him the best, but I can't say I would have liked to have seen him back in KC....it was time to move on), it has fallen to Mark Grudzielanek to be the guy to have an injury every spring. Of course, most of it has to do with the fact he's in his upper 30s playing a professional sport, but last year's knee problems have been followed by back problems this spring that have led the Royals to ship him back to KC to get it checked out. The cause of the concern is reported by Bob Dutton of the Star to be tightness in the lower back. Trey Hillman told Dutton he wasn't really concerned about it and, if it were the regular season, Grudz wouldn't hit the DL, but it smells kinda fishy that you'd send somebody all the way back to KC to get something thought of as minor checked out. He's expected to be back in camp Saturday with his new bionic back implant in tow (I just made that last part up, but he is supposed to be back in Surprise tomorrow.)

One spring incident I didn't touch on here at The Pipeline and that I'm a few days late on was Hillman's "meeting at home plate" with the team March 6 where, after Ryan Shealy cranked a walkoff homer to beat the Diamondbacks, Hillman kept the team at the plate to lecture them on their baserunning efforts in the game. This was done in full view of the fans and the media, rather than in the locker room, but I guess Hillman felt the point needed to be made. I can go either way on this one. On one hand, did the team probably need a kick in the pants? Yeah. Is holding them all at home plate like its Legion ball or something the right way to go about it? I'm not so sure. The players all seemed to think it was fine, although not what they're used to as major-leaguers, but I doubt they're gonna stir it up in the media with the new manager, either. Hillman was also tight-lipped on it after the game. Anyway, what's done is done and Hillman's relationship with the team and how he handles situations are both gonna be scrutinized by the fans and media in KC this season. Two points to be made, though, are that at least he's trying some different approaches, which is obviously needed in the Royals' case, and at least he's not Buddy Bell.

Three more cuts were announced today, and we have our first casualty of the race for the #4 and #5 rotation slots. Camp was trimmed to 47 guys as Carlos Rosa got sent to AA, Tyler Lumsden got sent down to AAA and NRI Brian Lawrence was sent to minor league camp as well a day after giving up 2 ER in 3 IP in a comeback win over the Diamondbacks. His spring ERA was 6.43 after the game, although he did K 4 while walking only 1. If he could have kept the ball on the ground more, he might have given himself a better shot. I predict Royals fans haven't seen the last of Lawrence this season in a major-league uni.

Damon Hollins continues to make waves in camp as he was 2-3 with a 2-run shot Thursday to move into team RBI lead with 11. Jorge de la Rosa got knocked around for 2 ER on 4 hits and 3 BB with 3 Ks in 4 IP to again make his case for being left out of the rotation. Haven't we seen enough of this guy to know he isn't gonna be good like 90 percent of the time?

Tony Pena Jr. was the focus of a story on the team site yesterday that talked about his "taking to (Hillman's) small ball approach." I'd say he'd better, even though he's also quoted in the story as saying his hack-away, never-take-a-walk approach will continue this season. That's all well-and-good when playing video game baseball, but in the real world if you want to stick around nowadays, it'd be nice to take more than 10 walks a season, especially if you're gonna hit in the mid-.200s. Ichiro has only walked more than 50 times once, but he also hits .300, if not .350, every year, so he's somewhat unique. Learn to take some pitches, Tony, although in your late 20s, I doubt you're gonna learn that now.

Today it's Brett Tomko taking the hill versus the Rangers with the Royals front office crossing their fingers he shows some glimpse of being able to maybe take a rotation slot in April. After watching Sunday's debacle with Chicago, I'm doubtful.

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