The first day of the post-postseason chase Thursday found Royals manager Ned Yost willing to look ahead to next year rather than dismissing any inquiry that focused beyond the next game or two.
Not about his own contract situation; not yet, anyway. But in terms of what the Royals need to do to close the gap between a winning club and a postseason participant.
Topping the list — no surprise — is the need for more offensive punch. The Royals, before Thursday’s game, ranked 11th among the 15 American League clubs in runs, 13th in total bases and dead last in home runs.
“We think we’ll have a natural upward progression offensively,” Yost said, “but, yeah, I think we need another bat. It’s hard to say (where) because we really haven’t discussed anything specifically yet.”
Those discussions should intensify as the Royals turn their attention from a possible postseason berth to preparations for next year.
The likeliest target is an outfield bat to team with left fielder Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain, who can play either center field or right field — although Yost suggested Justin Maxwell could evolve into an everyday player.
Maxwell entered Thursday batting .294 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 31 games, primarily against left-handed pitchers, since his July 31 arrival from Houston.
Club officials also indicate Emilio Bonifacio, an Aug. 14 acquisition from Toronto, has shown enough, batting .282 with15 steals in 40 games, to mitigate the need to acquire a second baseman.
The Royals are likely to sift through available second basemen this winter but appear willing to stick with Bonifacio unless they find the right fit at an acceptable price. If that happens, Bonifacio could shift to a utility role.Aaron Crow on hold
Wondering what turned former All-Star reliever Aaron Crow into an MIA in the Royals’ bullpen? Look no further than a few rough outings in late August and early September.
“Crow is healthy,” Yost insisted. “He went 14 days (without pitching), but he had that bad outing (Aug. 31) in Toronto and another bad outing (Sept. 4 against Seattle). Then we just starting going with the hot hands.”
The result: Crow has made only one appearance since Sept. 6; he worked the final inning of last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Texas at Kauffman Stadium. Crow yielded a leadoff single but retired the side with no damage.
For now, Crow stays sharp by throwing regular bullpen workouts.
“That works,” he said. “I threw well the other day.”
Crow, 26, is 7-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 56 games but has allowed 48 hits and 22 walks in 46 2/3 innings. More alarming for a short reliever, 22 of 56 first batters reached base and 15 of 43 inherited runners came around to score.Danny Duffy done?
Left-hander Danny Duffy’s season isn’t officially over, but the Royals should little inclination to activate him for the season’s final series.
“I don’t feel any discomfort whatsoever,” he said. “But I don’t know. I haven’t gotten back on a mound yet.”
The Royals chose to place Duffy, who is 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery, on the 15-day disabled list on Sept. 17 after he displayed slow progress in recovering from a strained left forearm.
It was a curious move at the time because it afforded no personnel benefit. Clubs rarely use the 15-day DL in September because rules permit active rosters to expand to 40 players.
Duffy, 24, was 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 24 1/3 innings in five big-league starts after working 69 innings over 16 minor-league rehab appearances.Thanks and a plea
Right-hander Ervin Santana, who evolved this summer into something of a twitter sensation, sent out a message that thanked Royals’ fans for making him feel welcome in what might be his only season with the club.
“I want to thank all of you fans for an amazing and fun season,” Santana tweeted through his @ErvinSantana_54 account. “I love you guys. Thanks for everything.”
Santana likely completed his season in Wednesday’s 6-0 loss at Seattle. He is a pending free agent who figures to attract significant interest in the off-season market.
Duffy stepped in with a response shortly after Santana’s tweet.
“@ErvinSantana_54,” Duffy pleaded through his @DannyDuffy805 account, “cooooommmeeeee baaaaaack maaaaaaaan! We need you! Its an honor that I have had the chance to call you a teammate.”Frick Award
Royals broadcasters Ryan Lefebvre, Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler are among 165 preliminary nominees for the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award, which recognizes excellence in baseball broadcasting.
Fan balloting, which ends Monday, will determine three of the 10 finalists for the award, which is presented each year at the Hall of Fame’s induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews was the 2007 recipient.
This year’s nominees also include former Royals broadcasters Fred White, Paul Splittorff, Bob Davis, Denny Trease and Steve Busby.
To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous major league broadcast service with a ballclub, network, or a combination of the two.
Fans can cast online ballots through 4 p.m. Monday athttp://bit.ly/17zT4xK
. The final ballot will be announced Oct. 2.Looking back
It was 24 years ago Friday — Sept. 27, 1989 — that Tom Gordon set what remains a franchise rookie record by winning his 17th game of the year when the Royals won 8-3 at California.
Gordon had lost his five previous decisions before finishing the season at 17-9 while splitting time as a starter and a reliever. The Royals‘ previous rookie record for victories was 16 by Steve Busby in 1973.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.