The toughest moment in David Lough’s climb through the Royals’ farm system, which culminated Saturday, came in December 2010 – less than a month after being placed on the 40-man roster for the first time following a solid year at Class AAA Omaha.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The Royals, in a span of nine days, acquired three outfielders that December: signing free-agents Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur before obtaining Lorenzo Cain as part of a six-player trade with Milwaukee.
“It was tough,” Lough admitted. “But things like that happen. It makes you want to go out and play better. It makes you want to prove that you belong.”
Lough, 26, returned to Omaha in 2011 and produced his best overall season, but that still wasn’t good enough. This spring, he found himself at Omaha for a third straight year, and heightened resolve.
“This year,” he said, “I’ve tried to take that next step. I felt last year that I had a pretty good season all-around. I felt I proved myself there with the numbers. This year, it was more about the other things.
“I got more confident on the basepaths. I showed I can be very durable. That was an issue, too (in previous years). I played in 130 games this year, and I feel strong. I feel healthy.”
The Royals summoned Lough, along with catcher Manny Piña, before Saturday’s double-header against Minnesota at Kauffman Stadium. Rules permit rosters to expand from 25 players to as many as 40 from Sept. 1 through the end of the season.
It isn’t certain how much Lough will play over the final 32 games, although manager Ned Yost said he “will see some time.” But Yost also said Lough’s is here for “a get-your-feet-wet (situation) more than an evaluation period.”
For Lough, after four minor-league seasons, just being here is enough for now.
“Just ecstatic,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words. I know people say that all of the time, but it really is. There were a lot of emotions the past two days for me.”
Lough batted .275 this season with 40 extra-base hits and 65 RBIs in 130 games. He also stole 26 bases in 30 attempts after never swiping more than 19 in any previous season.
“I’ve always liked him from the first day I got here in 2010,” Yost said. “I always liked his athleticism. If you’re going to compare him to someone, he’s a David DeJesus-type player.”
That’s a common comparison. Lough is 5-feet-11, 180 pounds and bats and throws left-handed. He has doubles power with some speed and can play all three outfield positions, although he is generally viewed as a better fit in the corners.
“I’ve always had confidence in my ability,” he said. “I was just hoping one day they’d give me a shot. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to come up with…Its just one of those things. Not everybody is pushed to the big leagues.
“It takes time to develop, and there are still things I need to work on. But I felt I was ready.”
Manny Piña recalled, too
Manny Piña also rejoined the Royals before Saturday’s double-header when recalled from Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Piña missed more than three months after undergoing surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee following a Feb. 22 injury at spring training in Surprise, Ariz. He batted .278 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 49 games, primarily at Northwest Arkansas.
“I’m healthy,” he said. “My knee is fine. It took a while, but it’s really good now. It’s 100 percent. No pain. I was playing five or six days a week (at Northwest Arkansas).”
Even so, Piña is likely to see limited duty in the closing weeks. Yost said Brayan Peña will remain paired with veteran lefty Bruce Chen, and that Salvy Perez will likely start virtually all other games.
“I’m not sitting Sal,” Yost said. “This gives us the opportunity now where I’ll feel better about pinch-running for Sal if we’re behind in the late innings, but (Piña) is the third guy, pretty much.”
Next in line
Right-hander reliever Jeremy Jeffress should rejoin the club Tuesday, one day after Northwest Arkansas completes its season. Club officials said there might be no further call-ups, barring injuries, until Omaha completes its season.
The Royals optioned Jeffress to Northwest Arkansas before last Monday’s game at Boston. Optioned players can’t be recalled for 10 days unless they replace a player on the disabled list, but that doesn’t apply for players on teams that complete their season.
Northwest Arkansas failed to qualify for postseason.
Omaha will open defense of its Pacific Coast League title on Wednesday at home against an opponent yet to be determined.
The Royals rebounded from a miserable July by going 17-11 in August. Only Texas, Baltimore and Oakland had better records.
It marked the club’s first winning August since going 15-14 in 2000, and its best August since going 18-11 in 1991. The Royals’ all-time best August was 23-7 in 1980.
The turnaround followed a 7-19 record in July.
Short-season Burlington opened the best-of-three Appalachian League finals Saturday night at home against Elizabethton, a Twins affiliate. The series shifts tonight and, if necessary Monday, to Elizabethton.
The Royals, 41-25 in the regular season, reached the finals by holding on Friday for a 3-2 victory over Johnson City, a Cardinals’ affiliate, in the decisive third game of the first round. Daniel Hernandez held Johnson City to one run in six innings.
Elizabethton, 43-23, also won a decisive third game Friday with a 4-2 victory over Danville, a Braves affiliate.
Class A Wilmington clinched the Carolina League’s North Division second half pennant Friday and will open postseason Wednesday in a best-of-three series against Lynchburg, a Braves’ affiliate.
Left-hander John Lamb, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, was transferred to short-season Idaho Falls from Rookie, Surprise, which concluded its season Wednesday. Lamb, 22, pitched in four games for Surprise after missing more than a year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
It was 26 years ago today – Sept. 2, 1986 – that Bo Jackson made his major-league debut by going one for three in a 3-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox at then-Royals Stadium.
Jackson beat out an infield single to second base in his first at-bat, but he also grounded out to short and grounded into a double play started by the third baseman. All three at-bats came against future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.