The news that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano would again be the American League captain for the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game brought a wry smile from Royals designated hitter Billy Butler.
By BOB DUTTON and SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
“I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that this year,” Butler offered.
Cano later confirmed to the New York Post that there’s “no chance” that he would select Butler to participate in this year’s Derby on July 15 at Citi Field in New York.
That decision is grounded full in merit, of course. Butler has just five homers this year and probably needs a scorching few weeks to garner serious consideration for a second straight All-Star appearance.
But Canoclearly is still stinging from the reception he received last year at Kauffman Stadium for bypassing Butler for the Derby after indicating his preference to select a hometown player.
The sold-out Kauffman crowd responded with loud boos when Cano took part in the Derby, and it affected his performance — he failed to hit a single home run.
The boos continued the next night at the All-Star Game and again earlier this season when the Yankees came to Kansas City for a three-game series,
“You’re not going to enjoy getting booed,” Cano told The Post. “The fans don’t understand, it was tough.”
Bullpen has AL’s best ERA
Before you credit the starting rotation — or even the lineup and its late-game magic — as the fuel behind the Royals’ 7-2 home stand, remember the men who kept it close.
Only three days ago, Royals closer Greg Holland dubbed the Kansas City bullpen the deepest in the major leagues.
It’s no longer opinion. For now, it’s fact.
After three more scoreless innings Wednesday, the Royals have the best bullpen ERA in the American League (2.81) and are only 0.01 behind the Pirates for the best in the majors.
In the 3-2 comeback victory Wednesday, Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar and Holland combined to get nine outs after James Shields pitched two-run baseball over the first seven innings.
“It was huge,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Hoch came in and shut the door and got us through to the next inning. Holland came in with a great (10th) inning against the meat of that order and gave us an opportunity to win it in the 10th.”
Holland recorded the final three outs to pick up his second win of the season, but Hochevar earned arguably the most crucial two.
After Collins walked back-to-back hitters to lead off the eighth inning, he struck out Victor Martinez before departing. Hochevar took over from there, retiring the next two batters to work out of the jam before working a perfect ninth inning.
Hochevar struck out two batters over the five outs for his third consecutive scoreless appearance — and that’s despite not pitching in six days.
“That’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in the bullpen,” Hochevar said. “Sometimes you go through a six- or seven-day layoff, but you have to find a way to stay sharp. I feel like I’ve gotten into a pretty good routine of keeping sharp.”
Manager Ned Yost will miss Thursday’s series opener at Tampa Bay in order to attend the wedding of his daughter Jenny in Georgia.
“I’m going back to Atlanta,” Yost said. “I’m going to go to the wedding (on Thursday) and be back Friday.”
Yost and his wife, Deborah, have four children: Jenny and three sons (Ned IV, Josh and Andrew).
Bench coach Chino Cadahia will run the club in Yost’s absence.
Yet another ratings record
Apparently the winning streak drew some viewer interest.
The Royals’ 3-2 loss to Detroit on Tuesday set a Fox Sports Kansas City ratings record. The old mark — set Monday — stood for all of one day.
Tuesday’s loss broke the Royals’ six-game winning streak, but it was the highest-rated program in Kansas City, drawing an 8.8 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. It peaked at roughly 104,000 homes between 8:30-8:45 p.m.
The game Monday drew an 8.1 rating.
Overall, ratings for Royals games on Fox Sports KC are up 40 percent from last season.
Class AA Northwest Arkansas placed four players on the North Division team for the Texas League All-Star Game, which the Naturals will host June 25 at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark.
Shortstop Orlando Calixte, catcher Mitch Canham, infielder Angel Franco and pitcher Santiago Garrido will represent the Naturals.
Right-hander Yordano Ventura was also selected but won’t participate due to his recent promotion to Class AAA Omaha.
The Naturals’ on-field staff will also represent the North Division: manager Brian Poldberg, pitching coach Jim Brower, hitting coach Nelson Liriano, trainer Masa Koyanagi and conditioning coach Nate Dine.
It was 44 years ago Thursday — June 13, 1970 — that the Royals made one of key trades in their early rise to power by acquiring second baseman Cookie Rojas from St. Louis for infielder Fred Rico.
Rojas was batting just .106 at the time for the Cardinals and had, at that point, been a journeyman infielder for three teams over eight-plus seasons. (He was an All-Star in 1965 while playing in Philadelphia.)
The trade transformed Rojas’ career. He was selected to four All-Star teams in his eight years with the Royals and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 1987.
Rico got 35 plate appearances for the Royals in 1969 but never again played in the big leagues. He retired after the 1973 season.