Each outing by Greg Holland seems to confirm his return as a dominant weapon in the Royals bullpen after an injured left rib resulted in a dreadful April and, eventually, a tour on the disabled list.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Holland has a 1.75 ERA in 27 games since returning May 11 to active duty while striking out 36 in 252/3 innings. He is also 3-0 with eight holds and one blown save in that stretch.
That closely mirrors his breakthrough 2011 season, when he was 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 46 games along with 74 strikeouts in 60 innings. He also had four saves and 18 holds in 24 save opportunities.
I feel good right now, Holland said. I feel like Im consistent. I feel my fastball command for the last few weeks has been better than it was last year, but my off-speed (pitches) still need some work. Ive still got some timing issues with that.
But if you can just be consistent and get ahead with your fastball, you can do a lot of things from there. Im pretty excited about where its at.
A healthy Holland in top form makes it easier for the Royals to weigh the potential return for closer Jonathan Broxton, a pending free agent, in the two weeks remaining before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Hes right there, manager Ned Yost said. His last two or three outings have been right there. His arm slot has stabilized. Hes gotten consistently back into his (proper) arm slot. Before, he was all over.
The rib injury prevented Holland from driving toward the plate on his follow-through, which limited his ability to keep the ball down. His mechanics also deteriorated as he began pulling too early toward first base. Worse still, his arm slot began to fluctuate.
It was a mess, and his numbers reflected it.
Holland allowed eight runs and 13 hits over 61/3 innings in his first seven appearances. He contributed two losses and a blown save to the clubs 12-game April skid before he and the Royals bowed to the obvious and put him on the disabled list.
If I had been getting outs, Holland said, we could have tried to work through it. So it might have been a blessing in disguise. If Id been getting outs with bad pitches, maybe I could have hurt myself worse.
Looking back, the two-and-a-half weeks on the DL really gave me a chance to get healthy, go through some mechanical things and get back on track and get back to close to where I was last year.
Fewer things generate more debate among fans than the managers lineup decisions. Thats especially true right now for the Royals since Yost continues to keep struggling Eric Hosmer in the No. 3 slot while hot-hitting Salvy Perez remains low in the order.
Want to know why? Heres Yosts explanation for Mondays entire lineup:
Ive got (Alex) Gordon hitting first because hes our leadoff guy. Ive got (Alcides) Escobar hitting second because we want to try to develop him as a No. 2 hitter, and hes done (well) in that role.
Weve got Hosmer in the three hole because were trying to develop him as a three-hole hitter. I believe thats where hes going to be, and I dont care (that hes struggling) right now.
I know his production isnt that of a No. 3 hitter, but I think it will be, and I want him comfortable in that spot. Hopefully, hes going to get it going. If he doesnt in the next series or two, I might have to move him out of there.
But right now, Im trying to keep him in a spot where I think hes going to hit for many years to come. Weve got (Billy) Butler in the four. We moved (Lorenzo) Cain to the five because hes swinging the bat as well as anyone weve got right now.
Moose (Mike Moustakas) has been locked in at the six for awhile; Frenchy (Jeff Francoeur) has been locked in at the seven for awhile. I switched Cain with (Yuniesky) Betancourt because Cain is swinging the bat well, and the only other spot left is Perez.
I can move Moose down (for Perez), but Moose is swinging the bat well. I dont want to hit Sal ninth, but I dont have any other spot to hit him at this moment. Im not moving Frenchy down any further. Hes swinging the bat better.
Im trying to figure out how I can get Sal up in the order because I think hes a middle-of-the-order guy. But right now, it looks to me like the order is OK. Weve got some production at the bottom, some production at the top and some production in the middle.
One problem the Royals dont have is a hole at the bottom of the lineup.
Entering Monday, the .282 average by the Royals No. 9 hitters ranked first in the majors. And their .421 slugging percentage and 42 RBIs trailed only Torontos .474 and 44 production.
Part of that rear-gunner production stems from Escobar batting ninth in 37 of the Royals first 87 games. And, as noted above, Perez batted ninth, for the first time this season, in Mondays series opener against the Mariners.
Others who have batted ninth: Humberto Quintero (21 times), pitchers (9), Jarrod Dyson (8), Chris Getz (5), Jason Bourgeois (3), Mitch Maier (2), Cain (1) and Irving Falu (1).
Fox Sports Kansas City saw a ratings spike for its telecasts of the Royals weekend games against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
Fridays 14-inning loss was FSKCs highest-rated game since April 29 and the third-highest of the season. It generated a 5.5 household rating, according to Nielsen.
FSKC was also the most-watched channel in prime time on Friday and Saturday in Kansas City. Overall, FSKCs ratings for Royals games are up 19 percent, through Sunday, to 4.1.
Idaho Falls right-hander Ali Williams was picked as the pitcher of the week in the short-season Pioneer League after working six shutout innings with 11 strikeouts in last Thursdays 5-0 victory over Helena in his only start.
Williams, 23, was a 34th-round pick in 2011 from Charleston Southern. He is 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in five games, including four starts, for the Chukars.
Outfielder Alexis Rivera, 18, is off to a blazing start for Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League batting .431 with a .481 on-base percentage through 18 games.
Rivera is a big, strong left-handed hitter, assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. Very physical. He has a lot of power but, obviously, has hitting skills as well.
The Royals selected Rivera, 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, in the 10th round of the June draft and signed him for the slotted bonus of $125,000. He has seven extra-base hits, 12 RBIs and six steals.
The much-anticipated return of lefty John Lamb, rated as the organizations top pitching prospect prior to the 2011 season, from Tommy John surgery remains on hold. Picollo said Lamb is day to day while battling tendinitis in his left foot, which surfaced in conditioning drills.
Lefty Chris Dwyer had a rough Class AAA debut: seven runs and 11 hits in five-plus innings in Omahas 16-6 loss to Oklahoma City. Outfielder Mitch Maier pitched the final inning in the blowout loss and gave up two unearned runs.
Right-hander Kyle Zimmer allowed one hit in three scoreless innings for Surprise against the Rangers in the Arizona Rookie League. He also struck out five and walked none. Zimmer was the Royals first-round pick in the June draft.
It was 22 years ago Tuesday July 17, 1990 that Bo Jackson hit three homers in three at-bats against New York at Yankee Stadium before exiting because of a separated shoulder. All three homers came against right-hander Andy Hawkins in a 10-7 victory.
Jackson then hit a homer in his first at-bat when he returned from the injury on Aug. 26 in the first inning against Seattle lefty Randy Johnson in an 8-2 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals, at 38-50, are 12 games under .500 for the first time this season. Yuniesky Betancourt got his 200th career double on a leadoff drive to left in the third inning. He was thrown out at third in attempting to advance on Alex Gordons one-out fly to deep left.
Eric Hosmer broke a zero-for-12 skid with an RBI single in the seventh inning. He also had two walks in five plate appearances.
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur got his ninth outfield assist when he threw out Michael Saunders at third in the eighth inning. Saunders attempted to go from first to third on Munenori Kawasakis one-out single.
Alex Gordon entered Monday as the American League leader with 28 doubles and got No. 29 with one out in the ninth inning. Gordon went three for four with a walk and raised his average to .285.