Royals

The Rundown | A weekly glimpse at the majors

Updated: 2013-04-27T23:44:37Z

By PETE GRATHOFF

The Kansas City Star

That blockbuster Blue Jays-Mets trade last December that sent NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto is looking more lopsided by the day.

While Dickey has a 4.66 ERA for the Jays, former Royals catcher John Buck is off to a monster start for the Mets. Buck wasn’t even thought to be the best catcher in the deal. He was expected to keep the position warm until superprospect Travis d’Arnaud was ready to take over behind the plate for the Mets.

Instead, Buck is hitting .263 with eight home runs and a league-best 23 RBIs. Not bad for a guy whose best season for the Royals was 50 RBIs in 2006.

“It’s heightened just because it’s right at the front of the season,” Buck said of his power surge. “It adds the extra feel-good feeling, I guess. I’m going to ride it as long as I can.”

But Buck isn’t the ex-Royal who has been the biggest surprise. That honor goes to the Brewers’ Yuniesky Betancourt.

Last we saw of Betancourt in these parts, he was released by the Royals in August. No one picked him up last year, but he got an invite to Philadelphia’s spring camp.

The Phillies released him March 24, and the Brewers signed him two days later.

Brewers utility infielders Jeff Bianchi and Taylor Green were injured, and Donnie Murphy wasn’t playing well, so the Brewers reached out to Betancourt, who had played with them when they won the NL Central in 2011.

And he’s delivered to the tune of a .277 average with four homers and 16 RBIs in just 20 games. That includes his fifth career grand slam, which one reader noted is more than George Brett had.

Although he’s played mostly shortstop in his career, Betancourt recently has been playing mainly at third base and first base, the latter a position he’d never played in the majors. But the Brewers had a need, and he’s been a big help.

The fast start at the plate is due in part to his time playing winter league baseball in Mexico.

“Mexico helped me a lot,” Betancourt told MLB.com. “That was the main thing, go there to be more patient and get better pitches to hit. I was working hard down there."

Playing a new position and showing patience at the plate?

“Better learning later than never,” said Betancourt, 31.

Three up

• Texas starter Yu Darvish has 49 strikeouts through his first 322/3 innings. In 1973, when Nolan Ryan set the modern-day record with 383 strikeouts, he had 41 through his first 322/3 innings. Of course, Ryan tossed 326 innings that year.

• Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright opened the season by pitching 342/3 innings before issuing a walk. Wainwright had 35 strikeouts before that free pass, a record. The previous mark had been 30 Ks.

• Heading into Friday’s games, Seattle’s Kyle Seager was batting .520 with three homers, two doubles and seven RBIs in his last seven games.

Three down

• Entering the weekend, Dodgers’ third basemen were last in the majors in batting average (.135) and slugging percentage (.176).

• Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, who signed a four-year $52 million contract, is 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA this year.

• White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn is four for his last 45 (.089) heading into Saturday’s games, although he was three for his last eight.

Statistically speaking

• Texas starter Nick Tepesch of Blue Springs has walked three batters in 211/3 innings, but they all came in the second inning of his first major-league start.

• According to STATS, LLC, the Braves are 15-1 when they hit a home run and 0-7 when they don’t.

• In his last 18 starts, former Royals left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who is with the Pirates, is 0-12 with a 9.13 ERA.

• Entering Saturday, Pirates’ set-up man Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli have a combined 0.39 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23 innings while allowing four walks and 10 hits.

On deck

• The Indians’ Jason Giambi has 431 career home runs and is tied for 42nd on the all-time list with Cal Ripken Jr. He is just three behind Juan Gonzalez and Andruw Jones.

• Heading into Saturday, Royals’ starter Ervin Santana was just two wins away from becoming the 10th Dominican-born pitcher to win 100 games in the big leagues.

• Braves pitcher Tim Hudson is one victory shy of 200 for his career.

You need to know

• Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg has a 10.80 ERA in the first inning of games this year. His ERA in innings two through seven is 1.85.

• When Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley hit a home run off Ryan Vogelsong on Monday, it marked just the third time in franchise history (June 1953, May 1929 and August 1884) that Giants pitchers had given up three home runs to three different opposing pitchers in a calendar month.

• Entering Saturday, the Tigers were the only team in the American League without a home run from their designated hitter.

• Don’t be surprised if the Mariners dip into their minor-league system for a shortstop now that Robert Andino has supplanted Brendan Ryan at that position.

• The Royals’ Class AAA affiliate in Omaha is selling an Omaha Dog: a hot dog with pulled pork, bacon and nacho cheese.

• The Padres snapped a 25-inning scoreless streak last week when long reliever Anthony Bass had an RBI groundout.

• According to Elias, the Dodgers used eight starting pitchers in the first 20 games of the season for the first time since 1964. They didn’t use their eighth starter until the 108th game last season.

Words of wisdom

“I think we need to jumble it up, and we need to switch the mojo a little bit. Somebody was talking about Phil Jackson the other day. We need to call him up, have him come in here and burn some sage or something. We’re not very feng shui right now.”

| Washington’s Jayson Werth on the team’s recent slump

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