Five straight victories toned down the stress level for the Royals and their fans. And anyone who wants to chirp about the level of competition, Minnesota and Houston...you’re right, of course.
Just remember, the Royals weren’t beating much of anyone last month during a 4-19 stretch that, at one point, included 12 losses in 13 games. Five straight is five straight.
That said, it will be interesting to see how the Royals perform this week when American League Central heavyweight Detroit comes to town for three games.
I’ve mentioned here previously that I viewed May as the Royals’ toughest month — no, I didn’t expect it would be the disaster it turned into, but it figured to be a true challenge.
We know now how that turned out, but the schedule softens considerably in June, and the Royals, so far, are taking advantage.
I also believe if the Royals can get back to .500 by the All-Star break — that means going 18-14 between now through July 14 — they have a chance to make some noise in the second half.
This week’s questions were heavy on what roster moves are on the horizon — and decisions are looming for club officials as outfielder Jarrod Dyson and pitchers Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino work through minor-league rehab assignments.
But understand, it’s all speculation at this point. (And, sure, speculation is a key part of being a fan). Just know those decisions are rarely made until they have to be made. Too many things can happen in the interim.
On to the exchange:
@WFweatherman: With Lough proving to be serviceable RF, is there now a stronger argument to lose Frenchy and his expensive contract?
Got a lot of these questions, and it’s a fascinating dynamic in trying to work through the possibilities. Simply based on performance, Jeff Francoeur might easily seem to be the odd-man out.
The Royals are unlikely to see it as that cut-and-dried.
David Lough is making this an issue because he’s been solid since his May 17 recall from Class AAA Omaha following Jarrod Dyson’s injury. Lough is batting .279 in 18 games (although his on-base percentage is just .302).
Had Lough flopped in his opportunity, optioning him back to Omaha would have been an easy call when Dyson returns (which could be as soon as this week).
Some more points to note: Lough has options remaining; Dyson doesn’t — and rehab assignments for non-pitchers are limited to 20 days. Dyson began his assignment, for a high right ankle sprain, on June 6.
After 20 days, Dyson has to come back — or be moved off the roster (which is unlikely).
Francoeur’s salary for the remainder of this season, a little over $4 million, is guaranteed. That’s not insignificant, but it is sunk cost, and Francoeur is a pending free agent.
You can argue (and many do) that the Royals are paying that money regardless; that it makes more sense to pay a little more (Lough is making just a little more than the minimum) in return for better production.
But dumping Francoeur leaves the Royals with three lefty-hitting outfielders (Dyson, Lough and Alex Gordon) and just one right-handed hitter (Lorenzo Cain).
That’s a lot of words to say: I don’t know what they’re going to do. Plus, as noted above, something could happen prior to Dyson’s return (an injury to someone, etc.) that could render all speculation moot.
@jeffL4: Has the offense improved since George Brett became hitting coach? How does it compare to other teams in that time span?
Run production is actually down since Brett became the interim hitting coach — averaging just 3.50 in his 10 games. The Royals were averaging 3.98 runs per game prior to Brett’s arrival.
But the Royals are 7-3 since Brett put his uniform back on. Winning makes everything look better, doesn’t it?
The Royals are tied for 22nd among the 30 teams in runs per game in Brett’s tenure.
@Dr_Zoom_: Do you think that G Brett is Helping Ned? Water surely runs easier downhill.
I’m not grasping the downhill-running water simile, but there’s no question that George Brett adds a powerful presence to the clubhouse. That can only be a good thing.
@KcRoyLOLs: Is the #Royals record when scoring 4+ overstated? 11-0 when scoring 7+
The current American League per-team average for runs per game is 4.41. So putting the bar at four runs a game is fairly low. Even so, the Royals are 20-5 when they score at least four — and 8-27 when they score less than four.
You judge if it’s overstated.
@EdBartel: Why is Will Smith pitching in relief and Teaford starting at Omaha? Shouldn't they be keeping Smith stretched out?
Smith’s best short-term chance for major-league duty is probably in the bullpen, and the Royals want to get him acclimated to that role.
Club officials anticipate Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will be physically ready to rejoin the rotation prior to the All-Star Game. (Now...being physically ready doesn’t necessarily mean they get a spot.)
What it does mean is competition for rotation duty is about to get a lot more crowded. Duffy has options remaining. So when his rehab time expires (30 days for pitchers), he can simply be optioned to the minors if no spot exists on on the big-league roster.
Paulino starts his rehab assignment Tuesday at Class AA Northwest Arkansas. He doesn’t have options remaining. The Royals must put him back on their 25-man unit, or move him off the roster, after 30 days.
@JessBackhausILM: Chance that Gordon and Shields are both All Stars?
Both have performed at an All-Star level, but James Shields is 2-6. And while he’s been better than that — and you can debate the merit of pitchers’ win-loss records — starters who are 2-6 rarely get selected as All-Stars.
To date, Alex Gordon has been the Royals’ player most deserving of selection. But a year ago at this time, Mike Moustakas and Tim Collins were positioned as top candidates for selection.
My point is things can look a lot different on June 30 than on June 10.
Other factors weigh in, too. When Detroit manager Jim Leyland and major-league officials are putting together a team, a player’s position or skill set might trump overall individual performance.
I believe, at this point, catcher Salvy Perez, closer Greg Holland and starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie would receive consideration. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Royals limited to one representative.
@tikeeno5: who makes a start in Kansas City this season first Duffy or Ventura?
Just guessing? I’d say Danny Duffy.
@WaldoGlenn: So there's nothing Moose can do to get demoted?
There’s always a point at which a club just can’t keep a non-productive player on the big-league roster. The Mariners and Mets proved that recently by demoting Dustin Ackley and Ike Davis.
Mike Moustakas is batting .177 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 51 games. While his defense at third base perked up recently to previously high levels, that lack of production is a gaping hole in the lineup.
My sense is the Royals will go a little longer with Moustakas to see if he responds to George Brett’s guidance.
It also works in Moustakas’ favor that the Royals don’t have an obvious replacement available to step in on a regular basis.
Johnny Giavotella is learning to play third base at Omaha, but he’s batting .220 in 35 games since May 1. And everyone I talk to believes Miguel Tejada’s performance would dip sharply if asked to play more than twice a week.
But is there a breaking point on Moustakas? Absolutely.
@smileyksus: Do you think they'll trade Santana before the trade deadline? Understand if they're "in it" they won't but what is "in it"?
Even if they aren’t in it, the likelihood of a trade depends on what the Royals can get in exchange for Ervin Santana, who is still owed roughly $8 million for the rest of the season.
The Royals might choose to hold onto him and make a qualifying one-year offer — a figure still to be established but probably around $14 million. That way, they either retain him for 2014 or get a draft pick in compensation.
@Riley6866: Does Yost finish the year as manager? If so, why? Who would be replacement candidates?
At this point, yes, I believe Ned Yost will finish the year as manager, although another 4-19 stretch (or anything similar) would likely change that.
Your speculation on possible replacements is likely to be as accurate as anyone else can do.