Ball Star

Andy McCullough blogs about the Royals and baseball

Royals Q&A with Dutton: Is John Lamb’s speed an issue?

02/25/2013 9:00 AM

05/16/2014 9:16 PM

The radar readings on John Lamb’s one-inning performance in Sunday’s 7-5 victory over Texas are, if online traffic is an accurate gauge, a growing concern.

The scoreboard readings showed Lamb touching 89 mph on one occasion in a 20-pitch outing but generally working in the 84-87 range with a curve in the low 70s. It was a good-looking curve, too.

The concern regarding Lamb, once regarded as the organization’s top pitching prospect, is that he worked in the low 90s before undergoing surgery in June 2011 to repair a torn elbow ligament (Tommy John surgery). That was nearly 20 months ago.

In short: Shouldn’t he have regained his velocity?

First, Lamb isn’t concerned.

At least he didn’t seem too concerned after Sunday’s outing: “It looked like it was coming out pretty live. I felt good out there. My command can always get better, but I’m always going to be hard on myself with that.”

Second, manager Ned Yost dismissed those concerns by saying Lamb was “fine.”

Of course, this issue isn’t going away until Lamb displays his pre-surgery velocity on a regular basis, but there are reasons that argue against overreacting.

It was Lamb’s first spring outing. There are plenty of reasons not to reach back for everything in your first appearance. That a 22-year-old looking/needing to prove something held himself in check could be the mark of impressive poise. That’s an area that Lamb always drew high marks in.

Following up on the first point, the conditions weren’t optimal. It was cold with a stiff breeze, which affected the command of many pitchers. Lamb adjusted as well as anyone by throwing 16 of 20 pitches for strikes.

Most pitchers, certainly most control pitchers — and Lamb is a command guy — concentrate on throwing strikes early in spring training before building velocity. Mechanics are easier to hone that way.

The 20-month measurement is deceptive. Lamb’s elbow was sufficiently recovered last July to permit a full-time return to active duty, but he developed a foot injury that pushed him back. I’m told he did show good velocity once he returned.

That foot injury scrambled his schedule. Instead of 10-12 starts, he pitched just 13 innings last year before the Royals shut him down. Another point to remember is this is a trimmed-down Lamb. He weighs 197 pounds, which is down nearly 40 pounds in the last 14 months. If he fails to push his velocity back into the 90s in coming weeks, that might be the reason.

“From a baseball standpoint,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said, “I think he’s in great shape. In time, he has to figure out if it’s a good playing weight for him. `Do I need to put on a little more weight to get me through August and September?’

“That’s something he’ll have to figure out.”

The Royals’ goal this season for Lamb is that he makes 25 starts and pitch 150 innings in the minors. If he accelerates that timetable, fine, but club officials just want him ready to compete next spring for a big-league job.

But being a top prospect means he draws extra scrutiny.

Left-hander Noel Arguelles can expect similar attention today when he makes his spring debut against Arizona at Surprise Stadium. Arguelles, 23, has yet to display the zip he possessed prior to undergoing shoulder surgery in 2010.

The Royals shelled out $6.9 million over five years to sign Arguelles in January 2010 after he defected from Cuba. He had some encouraging moments in the closing weeks last season, and he’ll be watched closely this spring.

Lefty Chris Dwyer, another prospect with something to prove, is scheduled to start today’s game, which can be heard on KCSP (610 AM) in Kansas City. Also in line to pitch: Arguelles, Atahualpa Severino, J.C. Gutierrez, Nate Adcock, Sugar Ray Marimon and Brian Sánchez.

The lineup against Diamondbacks right-hander Randall Delgado: LF Alex Gordon, 2B Chris Getz, 1B Eric Hosmer, DH Billy Butler, 3B Mike Moustakas, RF Jeff Francoeur, SS Elliot Johnson, C Brett Hayes and C Jarrod Dyson.

Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here’s today’s exchange:

@dgdowner2: besides Bueno, what are our options for a situation lefty? Can any of our “kids” take that spot?

I think Francisley Bueno is the best option for a situational leftyif the Royals keep a situational lefty. I’m not sure there is room for one in a seven-man bullpen.

@bradkharper: Going to any @OMAStormChasers games this year in Omaha to report on prospects?

I doubt it. I don’t miss many Royals’ games. But I’d be surprised if The Star doesn’t send someone to Omaha on a few occasions.

@jbryanlarson: If there was a trade for the loser of the fifth starter sweepstakes what would be expected return?

Equal value in a current major-league player, perhaps an outfielder, or a maybe a legit second-level prospect. Other clubs are scouting the Royals in the belief they will deal one of those guys (Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen or Luis Mendoza). At this point, I sense the Royals are willing to listen but are not yet looking to deal. That could change if the Royals get to late March without any injuries in their rotation — and they like the return.

@Justin_Ranes: have you noticed any obvious changes to Hosmer’s swing or approach. Need a big turn-around from him this year.

Folks who are skilled enough to spot subtle differences say Hosmer has a quieter approach, which generally means a hitter fewer moving parts. And you’re right, the Royals need a big bounce-back year from Eric Hosmer.

@markgfitz: Your overall assessment of Lamb’s outing?

There were a bunch of these questions, which I tried to answer above. Statistically, he gave up four hits in one inning. But he appeared poised (long viewed as a strength) and he threw strikes – 16 in his 20 pitches.

Afterward, he was pleased, and I’ve talked to him enough to believe he makes hard self-assessments.

@sstorm89: ESPN has stated the royals have the toughest schedule in the AL this season. How much stock do you put into that?

I saw Buster Olney’s blog, and he makes a reasonable case. I certainly agree with Buster’s view that the Royals have a particularly tough stretch from April 30 through June 2. Overall, the AL schedule is pretty much the same as every other team. So much depends on how tough those interleague games are; the Royals play the Cardinals, Braves, Phillies, Mets and Nationals.

@MikeVmos: should #Royals fans be concerned with three blown saves in three games?

Not in the least. One thing that becomes very obvious if you come to spring games is wins and losses are almost meaningless.

For one thing, remember the closing innings, particularly early in the spring, are played primarily by backups and minor-league players.

@rmaynard123: with Lohse still out there, is there any way the Royals would make a low ball offer? Or this pick to valuable to them?

I just don’t see it.

To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.

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