Ask Royals veteran infielder Miguel Tejada about playing time, and he takes care to make sure his thoughts aren’t misinterpreted. He isn’t grumbling. Far from it.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“When I signed here,” he said, “they told me they needed me to be a utility guy. So far, I’ve been liking my role. I understand we have good young talent in (Mike) Moustakas, (Eric) Hosmer and Esky (Alcides Escobar).
“I understand they are the future of this team. I just came here to do whatever I can do to help the team. Whenever I have the opportunity to play, I want to play wherever they want me to play.”
What does rankle Tejada is any perception, at age 39, he can no longer play regularly if circumstances create an opportunity. He is batting .270 in 74 at-bats over 29 games with some pop: three doubles and two homers.
“I know how hard I prepare myself,” Tejada said, “and I’m used to it. I’m used to playing every day. My body knows how to play every day. I know what I can do if I play every day.
“I think I can do it. If they gave me the chance to play every day, I think I could do my job. But right now, I’m just going to prepare for whatever comes.”
The possibility of increased time loomed, briefly, when the Royals optioned Chris Getz on June 22 to Class AAA Omaha. But that ended, effectively, late Saturday when the club recalled Johnny Giavotella.
Now, Tejada is again ticketed for limited playing time while remaining on full-time duty as a clubhouse presence —something he takes seriously.
“I think I could have a couple of more years,” he said, “especially just playing once in a while. But one thing I want to make sure I do before I leave this game is to give something to these young guys.
“I want to be able to say I helped guys become good baseball players. Rafael Bournigal helped me a lot. Rickey Henderson talked to me a lot about how to play and have a long career.
“What they told me was that to be in this game a long time, you couldn’t just love it. You have to work as hard as you can.”
And be ready to play every day ... whether you play or not.
“It’s difficult (after being a regular for many years),” Tejada admitted, “but times change. I just wanted a chance to come back to the big leagues and show everybody I can still play this game. I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”
Pay it forward
Outfielder David Lough might be the biggest beneficiary of the Royals’ decision to designate veteran Jeff Francoeur for assignment, but he took pains to praise his former teammate as a valued mentor.
“Frenchy is a class-act guy who taught me a lot,” Lough said. “Being out in the outfield or in batting practice, I always talked to him. He was always one of the first guys I talked to.”
Francoeur recalled being treated the same way as a young player in Atlanta.
“When Brian Jordan was there,” he said, “I took his job. He was as nice as could be to me. I was happy as heck for (Lough) when he’d do well.”
Outfielder Alex Gordon remained the only Royals player cited when Major League Baseball released its final American League balloting update for the All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field in New York.
Gordon ranked 11th among outfielders and trailed Toronto’s Jose Bautista by more than 1.2 million votes for the third and final starting position.
Major League Baseball only releases vote totals for the top 15 outfielders, and the top five at all other positions. The final National League update will be released Tuesday afternoon.
In-stadium balloting concluded last Friday, but online balloting continues through 10:59 p.m. Central time at www.mlb.com. The rosters will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Central time Saturday on Fox.
Tuesday marks the start of the international signing period, and Baseball America projects the Royals as the favorites to sign two of its top-30 ranked prospects: shortstop Marten Gasparini and outfielder Cristhian Vasquez.
Baseball America ranks Gasparini, an Italian, as its No. 12 international prospect and calls him as “one of the best athletes in this year’s signing class and should play a premium position.”
It cites Vasquez, a Venezuelan, at No. 22 and characterizes him as having a “sweet swing” but questions whether he has sufficient power to be a corner outfielder.
Left-hander Danny Duffy, now at Class AAA Omaha, got a boost in his recovery from Tommy John surgery when picked as the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week for June 24-30.
Duffy, 24, worked 10 2/3 scoreless innings in two appearances — a five-inning start June 25 at Oklahoma City and 5 2/3 innings Sunday in relief of Kelvin Herrera against Iowa. Duffy got the victory in both games.
The Royals optioned Duffy to Omaha prior to his start against Oklahoma City after he made six rehab starts — three at Class AA Northwest Arkansas and three at Omaha.
Duffy underwent surgery June 13, 2012 to repair a torn ligament in his elbow — a procedure commonly known as Tommy John surgery. He was 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in six big-league starts last season prior to the injury.
More minor awards
Northwest Arkansas swept the Texas League player- and pitcher-of-the-week awards for June 24-30 with outfielder Whit Merrifield and right-hander Brooks Pounders taking the honors.
Pounders, 22, threw a complete-game no-hitter last Thursday in an 11-0 victory over Midland. Merrifield, 24, was 11 for 16 in four games with nine RBIs.
It was 20 years ago Tuesday — July 2, 1993 — that Royals Stadium was renamed Kauffman Stadium in honor of owner and founder Ewing Kauffman, who died less than a month later from cancer.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.