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Bob Dutton’s Q&A on the Royals

Updated: 2013-02-05T23:08:08Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

Here’s how this works: I’m soliciting questions regarding the Royals on twitter – then answering them here.

This is our first run, and we got a far bigger response than we could reasonably handle in one sitting. But if interest continues – and we hope it does – we’ll have more of these exchanges. Our goal is to make it a daily feature.

But that’s up to you.

The rules are simple. Tweet your questions to me at @Royals_Report. I’ll send out a call for questions once or twice a day, but there’s no need to wait. Just send in your question whenever the mood strikes.

The plan, generally, is to stick to news questions. I’m not here to preach or, really, to argue or endorse a point of view – yours or the Royals’. The goal is to provide information. You make up your own mind.

Here we go:

@Eppler420: Who could I expect to see pitch on our opening day?

First, manager Ned Yost, if he follows form, won’t make any official announcement until late March. But if you mean the April 1 season opener in Chicago, it would be surprising if it were anyone other than James Shields.

If you mean the April 8 home opener against Minnesota, it figures to be Jeremy Guthrie or Ervin Santana. My guess – and that’s all it is at this point – is it will be Guthrie.

Here’s why: Guthrie was the club’s best starter last season over the final two months, and he’s started on opening day for other teams. That means he might merit the call as a reward, but he’s also used to the chaos that accompanies an opener.

But…if Shields can’t pitch the season opener for any reason, my guess is Santana might get the call against the White Sox. That’s because whoever pitches the opener will also be in line to start the final game of the season-opening trip on April 7 in Philadelphia.

Citizens Bank Park is a cozy place that often haunts fly-ball pitchers like Guthrie.

@dgdowner2: Are the Royals firm on Davis being the # 4 starter? He wasn’t a top 5 in TB’s rotation, yet he walks in here cemented at #4?

They seem pretty firm entering camp, but I’ve got to believe he’s not quite the same lock as Shields, Guthrie and Santana. I can’t imagine any of those three, no matter how poorly they pitch in spring training, not being in the rotation when the season opens.

Davis…I guess we’ll see. But I can picture a scenario where he pitches so poorly – and other guys pitch well – where the Royals decide to put him in the bullpen. I don’t expect that to happen, but I think it’s possible.

@justinmarkbro: If the royals don’t make the playoffs before 2016 should I find a new team?

Probably not. The Royals haven’t had a winning season since 2003 and haven’t reached postseason since winning the 1985 World Series. I can’t imagine there are any fair-weather fans left.

@JohnnyUtah81: Your opinion on any of the top prospects seeing the big leagues this season. #hypothetical

Am assuming you mean guys who haven’t played yet in the big leagues. If so, the feeling I get from the Royals is they will be disappointed if right-hander Yordano Ventura doesn’t make his debut at some point this season.

I’d be surprised if he breaks camp with the club, although I expect him to get some real scrutiny in spring training. Club officials increasingly believe Ventura has the potential to be a front-end starter.

Other possibilities? I could see infielder Christian Colón getting a call. If an injury forces Alcides Escobar to the disabled list, I think Colón would likely get full-time duty at shortstop over a utility player like Miguel Tejada or Irving Falu.

Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the club’s first-round pick last year, is on the fast track. A strong season could result in a late-season look, although I think that’s more likely to happen in 2014.

@wcg1380: do you think Royals will have a philosophy change and take advantage of platoons at 2nd/RF?

Spring training always produces surprises, but all signs entering camp suggest Jeff Francoeur is the unchallenged right fielder, and that Chris Getz will battle Johnny Giavotella for the starting job at second base.

Colón and Tejada should also get a look at second, but I expect the starter on opening day to be Getz or Gio. I also don’t see both of them making the 25-man roster because neither is a good fit as a utility player.

@thayne_griffin: How is Mendoza not being considered (publicly) for the 5 spot? Better production at MUCH lower cost than Hoch/Chen last year.

The cost, at this point, is irrelevant. That was an offseason consideration. It comes down to this: The Royals, and particularly manager Ned Yost, currently see Mendoza as a better fit for the role of long reliever.

That could change. Injuries or poor performance by others could easily result in Mendoza reclaiming a spot in the rotation. But he enters camp slotted for long relief.

@davismattek: What does management realistically believe will happen this year? Is it win the division or bust for Dayton?

Expectations are certainly higher. The Royals traded some of their future in the offseason for immediate impact and will enter the season with the highest payroll in franchise history.

But I haven’t sensed any win-or-bust ultimatums from the Glass family. Now, there could be a reassessment if this club loses 90 games again.

A reasonable goal is a winning record. Anything less would be a disappointment, but it’s hard to see the Royals as a division favorite. On paper, Detroit is simply better. Many people think Chicago is still better, too.

@LimbackShawn: What’s Mondesi’s timetable to KC and will he stay at SS or is he better suited for another position?

Adalberto Mondesi is undeniably a shortstop and just might be the system’s best non-pitching prospect. He played last year at short-season Idaho Falls, so he seems likely to open this season at Low-A Lexington.

There’s no need to rush him. He’s still just 17, and the Royals have Escobar under contract through 2017.

@HuskerInsanity: When will Bubba Starling make it to KC?

Starling also seems likely to open the season at Lexington after making his pro debut last year at short-season Burlington. So he’s still a few years away.

There is a tendency by some to view Starling as a disappointment because of the breakthroughs by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. But while the Royals believe Starling has a similar ceiling, they always viewed him as a much rawer talent.

Everything I’ve heard from the Royals, privately and on-the-record, is they were pleased by Starling’s first year. They’ll expect more this year.

@djcionemarco: What are the Royals going to do with Giavotella? Seems like he has no future with the Royals.

As noted above, Gio should battle Getz for the starting job at second base. I see nothing to suggest the Royals have given up on Gio. My view is he wins the job if he shows the potential to carry his minor-league production into the big leagues.

The Royals know what they have in Getz, whom they view as serviceable. Gio is the X factor.

@mrjverhulst: Royals TV schedule shows no Sat or Sun games on TV after Sept 1. If they are in the race, can that be changed?

That’s a problem the Royals and, I assume, Fox Sports Kansas City would love to confront. My guess is, yes, something could be done. But know this: however well the Royals play, we’ll have you covered here at The Star.

To reach Bob Dutton, send email to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.

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