Sunday, March 2, 2008

Don't Mess With Texas?

I know it's just Spring Training, and these games don't matter. But geez, do you think the Royals could actually catch a break one of these days and win a game against the Rangers? Texas is pretty much a consensus pick to finish as an "also ran" in the American League West, so three straight losses against it is kind of embarrassing, don't you agree?

You know, there are signs all over the state of Texas that say, Don't Mess With Texas, and apparently the Royals need to heed that warning.

With Sunday's 8-7 loss to the Rangers, Kansas City fell to 1-3 in Cactus League play, with all three setbacks coming at the hands of the team with which it shares their Surprise, Ariz., training facility. Texas has outscored the Royals, 29-15, in the three games, and KC also allowed nine runs in its lone win (against San Diego), so Royals pitchers are allowing 9.5 runs per game. Ouch.

Sunday's defeat was made even more disappointing by the fact that the Royals held a 7-5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. But Joel Peralta surrendered three hits in a third of an inning, including a two-run homer to tie the score, and the Rangers rallied for the win.

But it's Spring Training, and you have to hope that the Royals are learning from their early mistakes. Despite the fact that it seems way too soon to start looking at stats, with only four Spring Training games played, here's a look at some of the notables from the first week of camp:

The Good
--Right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar has to be at the top of the list of pleasant surprises. On Sunday, he made his second appearance of the spring, and once again pitched brilliantly. He's pitched a total of four innings, allowing just one hit, while striking out a pair of batters and walking none. It's too early in camp to get too excited, but if Hochevar continues to pitch this well, he could earn a spot in the rotation, or at least make the Royals' roster as a member of the bullpen to start the season.

--Kyle Davies also fared well, making his spring debut on Sunday. The right-hander, who was acquired in the Octavio Dotel trade last year, went three innings and gave up three hits and one earned run.

--I haven't written about this yet -- my son's fourth birthday was Saturday, so that kept me busy this weekend -- but Gil Meche had a decent debut, as well. Meche said after the game that he wasn't pleased with his curveball, but he allowed two hits and fanned a batter in his two innings of work.

--CF David DeJesus must have gotten sick and tired of reading all the comments from people who say they want to trade him, because he's off to a great start, with four hits (including a double) in five at bats, three runs batted in, and four walks in three games.

--Justin Huber is 3-for-4, with all of his hits going for doubles, and a pair of RBI in his quest to find a roster spot. His play in left field has been as one might expect when asked to move from first base to left field early in camp. If the Royals aren't smart enough to give him a shot, then hopefully he continues to put up impressive offensive numbers, so that he could at least attract decent trade value.

--LF Mark Teahen is batting .300 (3-for-10) with a double, three runs scored, and has drawn four walks for an OBP of .500.

--Ross Gload has played in three games, batting .444/.444/.778 with four hits (one home run), and three runs batted in. No wonder Trey Hillman said he likes his swing.

--Damon Hollins has about zero chance of making the Royals' roster, but he's been playing right field until Jose Guillen sees some action. Hollins, who hit 15 home runs for Tampa Bay two seasons ago, is 3-for-7 (.429) with two doubles, two runs scored, and a pair of stolen bases.

--Third baseman Alex Gordon is batting .375 with three RBI. He's away from camp until Tuesday, attending his grandfather's funeral in Nebraska.

The Bad
--Honestly, Brian Bannister was rusty, not bad, but he allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) in his three-inning debut on Sunday. I really don't expect him to be on this list next week.

--Kansas City has eight pitchers with double-digit ERAs.

The Ugly
--Esteban German committed a costly error in the first inning of the first Spring Training game, and has not made up for it at the plate. In four games, German is batting .091/.091/.182, with one hit in 11 at bats.

--OF Mitch Maier is 0-for-7 in three games.

--Julio Pimentel has a 36.00 ERA after allowing four hits and five runs (four earned) in his one inning of work so far.

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