Its quite an afternoon matinee today that wraps up what has already been a successful homestand for the Royals. They are 6-2 as they head into this rematch from opening day:
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Its James Shields against Chicago left-hander Chris Sale at 1:10 p.m. at Kauffman Stadium. Sale won a true pitchers duel, 1-0, when the two squared off on April 1 in Chicago.
The Royals carry a 17-10 record into the game, which can be seen on Fox Sports Kansas City. And as Rustin Dodd points out in this mornings paper, that puts them seven games over .500 for the first time since May 7, 2009.
My mega-talented young colleague further observes that a victory today would put them eight games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 22, 2003. Heres the link to his story: http://bit.ly/17GvL3T
So, yes, I know youve got questions. Lets get to it:
@jshwtk11: @Buster_ESPN keeps making noise about the #Royals potentially acquiring chase utley. Is he on to something?
If youre asking whether Ive heard anything more than speculation: No, I havent. But if youre looking for possible matches, its not unreasonable at least on the surface, which is what I think Buster Olney is suggesting.
Utley is in his last year before free agency and, therefore, projects as a likely rent-a-player candidate if the Phillies, as they seem to be doing, play their way out of contention. And, yes, the Royals could use Chase Utley.
Now the obstacles, and theyre considerable. First, hes making $15 million. That means roughly $5 million to get him just prior to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
Personally, I dont think thats a deal-breaker. I think the Royals, if theyre in contention in late July, will try to add a significant piece. I also think owner David Glass would sign off on a major short-term expenditure.
The bigger problems are (1) Utley can block trades to 21 teams (including, presumably, the Royals); (2) several contenders are likely to show interest, which means (3) getting him will likely require something of real value.
Chew that over. Would/should the Royals add $5 million in payroll and trade a top prospect or two for two months of Utley? You can bet the Phillies will be asking for Yordano Ventura, Kyle Zimmer or someone similar.
Im not sure theyd be willing to do that.
@crazyroyalsfan: what are people within the organization saying about Chris Dwyer so far this season? It's early but his numbers are solid.
Theyve been understandably encouraged. He threw 61/3scoreless innings Sunday for Class AAA Omaha in getting a no-decision over Memphis, which lowered his ERA to 2.13 through six starts.
Dwyer is quickly reestablishing himself as a top prospect after two very disappointing seasons. Remember to follow Pete Grathoffs daily minor-league updates on our Ball Star blog.
@jdplantinga: Understanding that Mendoza has had to deal with irregular starts, how short is the rope until Chen takes the 5 spot?
I dont sense the Royals are close to making such a switch. My guess is Luis Mendoza is probably safe in the rotation through May.
Also, Bruce Chen would need to be stretched out. Hed probably require three starts to get up to the typical 100-pitch zone desired from starters. The stretch-out procedure taxes the bullpen.
@HuskerInsanity: Are you surprised all these weather postponements havent affected the team?
I think it has affected the Royals, primarily in terms of their run production. I think cold weather and an irregular schedule affects hitters far more than pitchers.
I expect the lineup to be more productive once the weather warms a bit and they get into a regular daily routine.
Conversely, I think the rotation has benefited somewhat because those same factors are affecting the hitters on opposing teams.
@topcitycowboys: what do you expect to happen with Duffy and Paulino if everyone is healthy when they come back? Omaha for both?
Felipe Paulino is out of options, so once he starts his formal minor-league rehab assignment, he can only be kept in the minors for 30 days.
Danny Duffy will be on the same 30-day rehab clock, but he has options remaining. That means he can simply be optioned to the minors when that clock expires if there is no spot for him on the big-league club.
Trainer Nick Kenney recently said both pitchers are on track to be ready to pitch five or six innings on the one-year anniversary of their Tommy John surgery. Thats June 13 for Duffy, and July 3 for Paulino.
That doesnt mean five or six innings in the majors. But its probably a reasonable soft target date for the start of their minor-league rehab assignments.
@revzhoward: with hochevar being so dominant thus far and Mendoza struggling, how long before Hoch gets a start?
I dont see Luke Hochevar moving into the rotation anytime soon, but I think his responsibilities in the bullpen could increase if he continues to pitch effectively.
I could easily see him pushing his way into the seventh-inning mix with Aaron Crow and Tim Collins.
@kc571: the team is winning. Should I be concerned that most of the wins have been comebacks? How about more dominating wins?
Wow. For now, just enjoy the winning. And remember, the Royals are entering what projects as the toughest stretch of their schedule.
Last weeks series against Tampa Bay started a stretch of 32 games in which all but three are against clubs that posted winning records in 2012. So far, the Royals are off to a 4-0 start.
@RSmithInc: Paulino should be available for trade shortly....Could the Royals get a bat?
Felipe Paulino hasnt pitched in 11 months, likely wont be ready to pitch in the majors until after the All-Star break and, despite some encouraging signs prior to his injury, really doesnt have much of a resume.
Im not sure the Royals could get much in a trade at this point.
@BraveRoyal: 1) Should the #Royals extend Shields now? 2) Would he sign? 3) How much do you think it would take?James Shields is on record as being open to a possible extension although thats not rare. Nearly all players are open to the concept of a long-term extension.
What it would take is anybodys guess, but lots of folks last winter believed Shields would have gotten more on the open market than Zack Greinke and Greinke got $146 million over six years from the Dodgers.
OK, Shields will be two years older, of course, when his current deal expires after the 2014 season (assuming the Royals exercise their option for 2014). Hell be 33.
Lets say he pitches to expectations over the next two years. That suggests and Im just guessing here any extension would need to be at least three years at more than $20 million a year. Maybe more.
Would you do that?
@thebeck7: 2003 team started 20-9 and finished 83-79. Compare the 2013 team to that one.
This current team is far better on paper, particularly in terms of pitching and defense. I covered that 2003 team, and I still dont know how it stayed in first place as long as it did.
@zdub25: Lough is making a strong case for himself in Omaha.. Any chance he gets the call?
David Lough is playing well after a slow start. Hes currently on a 14-game hitting streak that has his average up to .364. This follows a really strong showing in spring training.
But right now, barring injuries, I dont see Lough getting a call-up.
Let me anticipate some follow-up questions here: No, I dont sense the Royals are close to seeking a replacement for Jeff Francoeur in right field. (And hes had a nice homestand.)
But...if the time comes maybe not before next year when the Royals are looking for outfield help, I think Lough has positioned himself to get a shot before the club seeks alternatives outside of the organization.
@jmburton51: what is the problem between Tejada & Escobar? Seems like they want to take balls away from each other?
Some of that is familiarity. Alcides Escobar and Miguel Tejada havent played together much.
@GregBFGHarris: WHY WONT BILLY BUTLER HUSTLE? IS HE HURT? IS HE ANGRY? HUNGRY?
All caps? ...You sure youre not mistaking lack of speed for lack of hustle?
@KSUhumpy: Perez has already played in 25.5 games and is on pace for about 150. With Sal coming off knee surgery why not more Kottaras?
You can disagree with the heavy workload that catcher Salvy Perez is getting, but it shouldnt be a surprise. Manager Ned Yost said all winter and throughout spring training that Perez would likely start at least 140 games.
@davidwlowe: How many more times does Tim Collins need to falter before the team considers calling up Donnie Joseph?
Collins had a 2.79 ERA through eight appearances before faltering badly on Sunday. Donnie Joseph has a 3.27 ERA in 11 outings at Class AAA Omaha.
Theres a point, certainly, where Collins could pitch his way into the minors, but I dont think the Royals are close to it.
@gnikkcin: Do the royals project Mondesi as a SS?
Absolutely. Adalberto Mondesi is one of the systems brightest prospects. In a few years, the Royals could be facing the sort of choice currently confronting the Rangers with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar.
Thats the kind of problem that clubs love to have.
@LobsterJZombie: is there anywhere else we can watch Royals games? Not all of us can afford cable.
Can you afford a beer? Any sports bar should have the game on.
@KCRoyalsfan09: If the All-Star team was chosen today, how many Royals, besides @TheRealJGuts, obviously, would be on it?
Oh, there are lots of legitimate candidates, although I doubt the Royals will send more than two players to Citi Field in New York for the July 16 game. (Which is not the same as saying that only two will deserve to go.)
The top three starting pitchers James Shields and Ervin Santana in addition to Jeremy Guthrie are logical possibilities. So is closer Greg Holland, who has been dominant after a few shaky outings.
Left fielder Alex Gordon has many (if not most) of the clubs biggest hits. Billy Butler remains the best designated hitter in the league. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain has been the clubs most consistent player to date.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar has been a steady performer for nearly two years now. And the word is getting around the league that Salvy Perez might not have a peer among American League catchers.
To reach Bob Dutton, send email to email@example.com . Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.