Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2009

Royals baseball is back

February 26, 2009

Even though it’s still winter, the sounds of spring and summer are here. Yep, it’s baseball season now.

Go to most any ball field nowadays and the pinging sound of a metal bat hitting a ball fills the air. On Monday practice begins for spring high school sports. Meanwhile, about 1,300 miles away in Surprise, Ariz., the Kansas City Royals are in full swing at Spring Training.

This year, the Royals are celebrating their 40th anniversary as a franchise, and have second-year manager Trey Hillman leading the team. At times last year, the Royals showed how bad they were and how good they potentially could be. Under Hillman and pitching coach Bob McClure, the Royals showed signs that they could actually develop a pitching staff, which is something the Royals haven’t done since about 1995.

Now, 14 years later, the Royals believe they have a young starter in Zack Greinke who can dominate on the mound. Last season, Greinke won 13 games and showed he could be a No. 1 starter and ace of the Royals’ pitching staff. Greinke started 32 games, threw 202 innings, struck out 183 and had a respectable 3.47 ERA.

Early in his career, Greinke showed flashes of brilliance, but his development was hindered by a few problems both on the field and off. But judging by last year’s performance and his overall demeanor, Greinke seems to have conquered those ailments. Greinke was rewarded this offseason by the Royals and signed a four-year $38 million dollar contract with the Royals.

While that is a huge amount of money to spend on someone who plays about once a week, pitching is what wins games in baseball. And the Greinke signing showed the Royals were committed to building a young pitching staff and winning games now. Greinke and Gil Meche combine to give the Royals two top starters in the American League Central, and they can stop losing streaks, which the Royals had numerous times last year.

Luke Hochevar started 22 games last year and went 6-12 before missing the rest of the season with an injury and Kyle Davies won nine games in 21 starts, mostly filling in for Hochevar. Brian Bannister, who was acquired two years ago in a trade, had a disastrous season last year, but won 12 games with the Royals his rookie year.

The Royals will also throw lefty Horacio Rameriz into the mix and try to make him a starter again after pitching in the bullpen last year. Rameriz has had success as a starter when he was with the Atlanta Braves.

The Royals are counting on these young arms to push them above the .500 mark this year. And so are the fans, who do not want to go through another 90 or 100-loss season.


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