Ball Star

Andy McCullough blogs about the Royals and baseball

James Shields opens second half for Royals in Boston

07/17/2014 5:09 PM

07/17/2014 5:15 PM

The second half begins on Friday at Fenway Park, and the Royals will turn to the leader of their rotation. James Shields cobbled together a pair of solid outings to close out an otherwise troubling start to the season.

In his past 14 innings, Shields has allowed two runs, both of them in a loss to the Tigers last Saturday. He returns to a familiar venue in the American League East to face the Red Sox. A year after racing to the World Series, Boston has crumbled. They are 9 1/2 games out of first place.

Meanwhile, the Royals are still two games above .500, with 6 1/2 games separating them from Detroit. Kansas City is 2 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card, and tied with Toronto for that spot.

Here are the matchups for this weekend at The Fens:

Friday, 6:10 p.m.: James Shields (9-5, 3.65 ERA) vs. Clay Buchholz (4-5, 5.42 ERA).

Saturday, 6:10 p.m.: Danny Duffy (5-9, 2.76 ERA) vs. Rubby De La Rosa (2-2, 2.89 ERA).

Sunday, 12:10 p.m.: Yordano Ventura (7-7, 3.22 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (9-7, 2.65 ERA).

PLAYERS FOR CASH

On Wednesday, the Royals made a lower-level deal they’ve made several times this season: They traded a minor-league pitcher for cash. Boston acquired RHP Ryan Verdugo for the famed prospect “cash considerations.” The team has also gone this route with Donnie Joseph, Greg Billo, Justin Marks and others I’ve likely forgotten.

Assistant general manager J.J. Picollo indicated the minor-league deals resulted from roster crunches at the lower levels. The addition of Scott Downs and Jason Frasor brought players with options back to the minors like Casey Coleman.

“We’ve stayed healthy and we’ve had guys coming out of rehab so we’ve gotten backed up and we are just moving guys,” Picollo wrote in an email.

PROSPECT BANTER

ESPN’s Keith Law ranked a pair of Royals farmhands among his top 50 prospects. The two names are familiar: RHP Kyle Zimmer landed at No. 21, with shortstop Raul Mondesi at No. 24.

Zimmer has resumed throwing at the team’s complex in Surprise, Ariz., but has missed all of this season due to a strained latissimus dorsi muscle. Law still thinks highly of him. “When healthy, he can throw three plus pitches,” Law wrote. “He’s also a superb athlete who fields his position well.”

Mondesi, 18, has hit just .225 with little power in Class A Wilmington. “He’s an elite defensive shortstop and plus runner with a short, clean swing that should produce lots of line-drive contact,” Law wrote. “He’s playing against much older competition now, but when his body catches up to his instincts, that stat line will make a big jump.”

FROM THE STAR

Alex Gordon transformed himself from a first-round bust to a two-time All Star through his obsession and meticulousness with preparation.

THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)

17.4 percent.

HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC

“Prehistoric” by Now, Now.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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