SEATTLE — If it’s up to veteran lefty Bruce Chen, he wants to be back not only next season with the Royals, but for the next several seasons.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“I’m very grateful for everything they’ve done for me,” he said. “They’ve really helped me out in my career. I’d be willing to talk to them, but I don’t want to be a distraction to what we’re trying to get accomplished here.”
No talks yet — and that’s fine with Chen, who entered Tuesday’s starter against Seattle with at 8-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 32 games. He is 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 13 starts since replacing Luis Mendoza in the rotation.
“He’s been real strong from the All-Star break on,” manager Ned Yost said. “We started him this year in the bullpen because it just made sense for a guy like Bruce in case we needed him in the second half.
“It’s a long haul. We felt if we could keep him strong then, boom, at the All-Star break, if we needed him, we could insert him (into the rotation), and he would be strong.”
Chen never griped at opening the season in the bullpen despite serving the previous year as the club’s starter on opening day and posting double-digit victories in each of the three previous years.
“I’m just trying to help this team win any way I can,” he said. “They haven’t talked to me (about a new deal), but we have a really good relationship. I’ve been here for the last five years.
“I love the city, and I love this organization. I really believe in this team, not only this year but what it’s going to do for the next five-to-10 years.”
Chen, 36, is completing a two-year deal for $9 million and will be a free agent in the coming off-season — one of two pending free agents, along with Ervin Santana, in the club’s rotation.
While Santana figures to be one of the winter’s most-sought free agents, Chen is far more likely to fall within any club’s salary structure. An offer similar to his current deal would likely generate serious discussion.
“I do have something in mind,” Chen said, “but I don’t really know the numbers. I haven’t talked to my agent. I don’t know my value (in the market).
“But I do want to accomplish a lot of things in baseball. I want to keep playing, and not just for next year. I want to keep playing for four or five more years, and then look up and see how much longer I can go.”
The Royals’ decision on Chen will likely hinge on their ability to retain Santana and in-house evaluations on the likelihood of Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer to step into next year’s rotation.
“I want it to be mutually beneficial,” he said, “but I think they know I want to stay. I think they know what I’m all about. They have spring training in Arizona, and I live in Arizona.
“There’s a bunch of great guys here. Good defense. Good ballpark. I’m very comfortable here.”
James Shields is still sporting considerable swelling on his right upper arm one day after taking getting hit by a David Murphy line drive in the third inning of Sunday’s victory over Texas.
“It’s still swollen,” he said, holding up both arms to show a comparison. “But I’ll be ready to go (Friday in Chicago). I’m getting ready to go out and play catch.”
Justin Maxwell’s game-winning blast overshadowed another Shields’ ability to shake off the pain and pitch eight scoreless innings before exiting with a no-decision.
“I don’t know how I did it,” he admitted.
Shields is 10-3 with 13 quality starts in his last 17 outings. Since his aberrant Sept. 6 start against Detroit (10 runs, 14 hits in 3 2/3 innings), Shield has permitted three runs in 22 innings over three starts.
The Royals’ staff entered the season’s final week needing 32 strikeouts over the remaining seven games to break the franchise record of 1,177 set last season.
To get there, the Royals need only maintain their season average of striking out 7.39 opponents per game. That would get them to 1,198.
Justin Maxwell is one of just three active players with more than one walk-off grand slam. (Maxwell also had one on Sept. 30, 2009 for Washington against the New York Mets.)
The others with multiple walk-off slams: Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez with three, and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman with two.
Maxwell is also only the fifth player to hit a walk-off slam with two outs and a full count since 1988 — and he’s done it twice.
The others are Alan Trammell (1988 for Detroit), Tino Martinez (1995 for Seattle), Brad Wilkerson (2003 for Montreal) and Zimmerman (2011).
Catcher Salvy Perez threw out two of three runners attempting steals in Sunday’s victory over Texas and entered Monday tied with Baltimore’s Matt Wieters for tops in the American League with 22 caught-stealings.
Perez’s CS percentage of .348 ranked second among to Wieters among AL players who have caught at least 100 games. Wieters had thrown out 24 of 68, while Perez had nabbed 24 of 69.
But Perez leads the AL with a 3.32 catcher’s ERA. Texas’ A.J. Pierzynski ranks second among those players who have caught at least 100 games at 3.65.
Surprise first baseman Samir Duenez was picked by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in the Arizona Rookie League after producing a .294/.337/.380 slash (average, on-base and slugging percentage) in 47 games.
Duenez, 17, is a left-handed hitter whom the Royals signed in 2012 for $425,000 as an international free agent from Venezuela.
Baseball America reported Duenez (6 feet 1 and 195 pounds) “impressed league observers with his excellent hand-eye coordination and ability to use the whole field. He has good bat speed and a feel for hitting.
“While he’s a gap-to-gap hitter now, Duenez should develop more pull power as he grows bigger and adds strength to his average frame.”
Five years ago, the Royals had four of the top 13 prospects in the Arizona Rookie League in Baseball America’s ranking, including left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery at No. 1.
The others were pitcher Tyler Sample at No. 8, infielder Yowill Espinal at No. 10 and catcher Jose Bonilla at No. 13. None of those four have yet played in the majors.
It was 24 years ago Tuesday — Sept. 24, 1989 — that the Royals closed out their home schedule by drawing 24,518 for a 4-1 victory over Seattle. That pushed home attendance to a franchise-record 2,477,700.
Attendance this year finished at 1,750,754.