Right-hander Ervin Santana contends he feels like a rookie again in assessing his status as the first cornerstone in what the Royals hope will be a rebuilt rotation for the 2013 season.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
This is a new team, he said late Monday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium after emerging from a routine (but extensive) physical examination. I have to get to know my teammates and know the manager and know everybody.
Im the new guy here.
Santana might be new, but hes no rookie.
The Royals are paying $12 million next season to Santana, an eight-year veteran, in the belief that he can provide a reliable power arm to the front of their much-maligned rotation.
There is risk.
Santana, 29, arrives from the Los Angeles Angels, following an Oct. 31 trade, amid industry concerns that his diminished velocity in recent years and an inconsistent 2012 performance stemmed from an elbow injury.
The Angels openly shopped Santana before the deadline to pick up their $13 million option for next season and planned to let him walk away for a $1 million buyout before the Royals offered minor-league lefty Brandon Sisk.
The deal calls for the Angels to pay $1 million of Santanas salary the buyout equivalent in return for Sisk. The Royals poured through Santanas medical records before agreeing to the deal.
Its a one-year risk; Santana will be a free agent after next season unless the two sides agree on a contract extension, which is unlikely until the Royals see exactly what theyve got. For his part, Santana is adamant that he isnt damaged goods.
Im healthy, he said. Everything is good and ready to go . There was a little soreness (last season) but nothing major.
While Santana struggled through the early months last season, he closed strong by compiling a 3.63 ERA over his final 10 starts. He finished at 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA in 30 starts.
Santana acknowledged an elbow injury in 2009, which limited him to 23 starts. He recalled it wasnt fun at all, but it served to show him the difference between routine soreness and an injury.
Discounting 2009, Santana has averaged 31 starts and 200 innings since 2006 while compiling a 4.21 ERA. The Royals will take those numbers.
The guys got ace-type stuff, new teammate Billy Butler said. Hes probably got one of the top sliders Ive ever faced in my big-league career . He can really help us out if he can put it together next year.
Butlers words are notable not only because he is one of the games better hitters but also because he and Santana have some tense history particularly in 2010, when Santana twice hit Butler with pitches in the same game.
Both contend those incidents were merely heat-of-the-moment flashes of emotion. Santana said the two were amiable in subsequent meetings. Butler agreed.
It doesnt matter who hits me in any situation, Butler said, Im going to be mad because thats what happens when youre competitive.
Nobody likes to get hit but if you understand the game, you know guys have to pitch inside, too. Its just part of the game. We both know theres no offense taken, and that hes got to establish that inside of the plate. Thats what good pitchers do.
The Royals, after watching their rotation compile a 5.01 ERA, need all of those they can get.
Bourgeois now a free agent
Outfielder Jason Bourgeois became a free agent when he refused an assignment to Class AAA Omaha after clearing waivers.
The move isnt a surprise.
The Royals designated Bourgeois, 30, for assignment on Nov. 2 in a series of roster moves. That provided the club with a 10-day window, which expired Monday, to trade him, release him or send him through waivers.
Bourgeois spent most of last season at Omaha after joining the Royals with catcher Humberto Quintero in a March 20 trade with Houston for two minor-leaguers: pitcher Kevin Chapman and outfielder DAndre Toney.
The trade stemmed from the Royals need to acquire a catcher after injuries to Salvy Perez and Manny Pina. Quintero batted .232 in 43 games before he was designated for assignment June 27 shortly after Perezs return.
Bourgeois batted .258 last season in 30 big-league games and .243 in 60 games at Omaha. He has a .261 career average in 222 games over parts of five seasons with the White Sox, Brewers, Astros and Royals.