CHICAGO — Dodgeball.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
What started a flip remark by Royals pitcher Ervin Santana — that the All-Star Game add dodgeball for pitchers as a counter-point to the Home Run Derby — turned into another validation to the power of Twitter.
“I know it’s not going to happen, but I was having fun,” he said. It would be something different.”
Of course, it’s not going to happen. The mere thought of clubs watching the game’s top pitchers risking injuries by unleashing dodgeballs at one another …
“Dodgeball?” manager Ned Yost deadpanned. “Interesting idea.”
The pretty much sums up management’s view.
“It would give the pitchers something to do instead of just watching hitters hit home runs,” Santana argued through a big smile.
Santana preceded his All-Star suggestion with a tweet in response to ESPN’s Jasyson Stark regarding comparisons between him and pitcher Matt Garza as potential trade acquisitions:
“I'm definitely better at #Dodgeball than #MattGarza is.”
Soon thereafter, Santana (@ErvinSantana_54) sent out: “Next year at #MLB #allstargame we should do #NL pitchers vs. #AL pitchers in #Dodgeball. Same night as #HRDerby. #CelebratePitching.”
Santana’s Dodgeball tweet followed his humorous video tweet about trade rumors “exploding” in the Royals’ clubhouse. (With Garza going from the Cubs to the Rangers, the Santana rumors are escalating.)
The short clip shows Santana, catcher Salvy Perez and outfielder Lorenzo Cain sitting in the Royals’ clubhouse — and then jumping away from an object comes into the screen.
Santana created that video clip with an app. His intention was to provide a humorous slant on the pervasive rumor mill leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
The Royals acknowledge a willingness to listen to possible deals — largely because Santana, who is having a strong season, will be a free agent after the season. For his part, Santana simply shrugs off the speculation.
“All I can say is I’m enjoying my time,” he said. “I’m having fun here. I’m just trying to relax.”
Santana’s next scheduled start is Tuesday at Minnesota.
Want more trade speculation? Opposing clubs believe the pitcher the Royals are most open to trading is Luke Hochevar, who has developed into a reliable reliever after several disappointing years as a starter.
Several postseason contenders are looking to bolster their bullpens and, presumably, casting their eyes at the Royals’ deep relief corps. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com cited the Braves and Dodgers as possibilities.
“Once they brought (Kelvin) Herrera back from the minors,” one rival official said, “that really lessened their need for Hochevar. And that’s a contract they would probably like to unload.”
Hochevar is 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 32 games after closing out Friday’s 5-1 victory over the White Sox with a four-pitch ninth inning.
But Hochevar is making $4.56 million, which is pricey for a middle reliever. He has one more year of arbitration eligibility before qualifying for free agency.
Rehabbing right-hander Felipe Paulino is heading to the Royals’ year-round complex in Surprise, Ariz., to pitch three innings Tuesday in a simulated game.
If all goes well, Paulino, 29, could start another formal minor-league rehab assignment as soon as next weekend.
Paulino pitched two innings last Thursday in a simulated game at Kauffman Stadium and reported no day-after soreness in his shoulder — an ailment that surfaced in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
James Shields recorded his 26th career pickoff Friday when he nabbed Alejandro De Aza at first base with one out in the fifth inning.
No right-handed pitcher has more pickoffs since Shields made his major-league debut in 2006. Overall, Shields is tied for the fifth overall in that span. Toronto’s Mark Buehrle leads all pitchers with 56 pickoffs since 2006.
The Royals, by winning Friday, hit the 100-game mark at 49-51 — their best record at this stage of the season since standing 55-45 in 2003. (They also had a four-game lead in the American League Central at that point.)
A year ago, the Royals were 41-59 after 100 games and one game away from concluding a 7-20 slide that began with two losses at Minnesota on June 30.
It was eight years ago Sunday — July 28, 2005 — that the Royals suffered a 10-5 loss at Tampa Bay. That in itself wasn’t particularly significant.
What followed was.
That was the first of a club-record 19 consecutive losses that extended to a 2-1 victory on Aug. 20 at Oakland. The Royals’ record dropped from 38-63 to 38-82 on the way to a franchise-worst 56-106.