SURPRISE, Ariz. — Every so often, this place lives up to its name.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Left-hander Sean Manaea, the Royals’ much-prized second pick in the June draft, capped a rehab workout Tuesday afternoon by stepping on a mound for the first time since undergoing hip surgery in June.
“That wasn’t the plan when we brought him (to the Instructional League) for his rehab work,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “But our (training staff) thought it might be the best thing for him.”
It wasn’t much. Roughly 20 pitches, all fastballs, from a practice mound adjacent to the Frank White Field on the Royals’ side of the Surprise Recreation Campus. And yet …
“We think it’s a big step,” Picollo said. “He’ll probably get back on the mound again Friday, and that will be it. His rehab will be over.”
Manaea, 21, will then head home for an offseason of normal preparation for spring training. He should have no restrictions when the club’s minor-leaguers gather next spring here in the desert.
Tentative plans call for Manaea to open next season with a full-season club, which means probably Lo-A Lexington or Hi-A Wilmington.
“As long as everything is (healthy),” general manager Dayton Moore confirmed. “We may keep him here until May or even June. I don’t know. We’ve just got to wait and see as we get closer.
“We’ll go slow with him. We’ll be real conservative. We’ve got to be 100 percent sure he’s ready to go out.”
The Royals’ caution follows a major draft gamble that netted Manaea.
Analysts viewed Manaea, 6 feet 5 and 215 pounds, as a possible No. 1 overall pick before his hip injury raised concerns. His problem surfaced in March after he adjusted his delivery to compensate for a minor ankle injury.
Manaea still compiled a 1.47 ERA in 13 starts as a junior at Indiana State while striking out 93 in 73 1/3 innings, but he remained available when the Royals made their second pick — No. 34 overall.
That’s the scenario the club officials envisioned when they selected Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier with the No. 8 overall pick. Most analysts viewed Dozier, at best, as a late first-round pick.
The Royals reached a below-slot deal with Dozier and several other picks, which provided them with sufficient money in their draft pool to offer a $3.55 million bonus that persuaded Manaea to forego his senior season.
Manaea’s bonus was slightly more than the slotted amount for the No. 6 overall pick and is the second-highest amount ever given to a player not chosen in the first round.