Opinion

Royals mailbag: An update on Luke Hochevar? Who is the emergency catcher?

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields. The Kansas City Star

How hot are the Royals? David Price pitched a complete game for Detroit on Thursday. He walked none. He gave up a single hit.

And the Tigers lost.

And so the Royals gained ground on an off-day. They can widen their advantage by feasting on the Rangers this weekend at Globe Life Park.

Until then, there are various odds and ends to discuss. Welcome to the weekly edition of the mailbag.

This will sound counter-intuitive. But I thought the Royals got somewhat lucky with the middle-relief blow-ups these past few weeks. For those who have forgotten: Three times in a six-game span, the Royals carried a lead of four runs or more into the ninth inning. Each was not a save situation, so Greg Holland did not have to pitch.

Except . . .

8/14: Jason Frasor allows a couple runners aboard, and Ned Yost inserts Holland.

8/18: Aaron Crow serves up a three-run bomb to Minnesota third baseman Trevor Plouffe to force Holland into action.

8/19: Francisley Bueno gives up a two-run homer to Rockies outfielder Drew Stubbs and another subsequent hit. Holland records a one-pitch save.

In between, Frasor also gave up a two-run jack to Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia. All of this is bad. It cost the Royals chances to rest Holland.

But they did not lose one of these games. Relievers are volatile assets. They can become very bad in quick fashion. The reversals can be just as speedy. So Kansas City caught a break in that their middle relievers bunched all their bad luck into low-leverage situations.

Now, can Ned Yost trust any of these fellows down the stretch in critical situations? I suppose we’ll have to find out.

I would assume “out of position.”

A word on the folks clamoring for Hosmer to move to right field, or somewhere else on the diamond, now that Billy Butler no longer possesses a sub-.700 OPS: If Hosmer could play another position besides first base at a premium level, he would play another position besides first base. Team officials insist he could handle right field. He has played there before. But it is quite unlikely he could thrive out there at the level the organization requires to maintain their defensive standards.

I suppose the probability increases, ever so slightly. But I would be stunned if James Shields pitched for the Royals in 2015. So would the baseball operations department of the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals are worried about paying $15 million to Wade Davis and Greg Holland in 2015. They are not the sort of club with the inclination to sign Shields. He figures to sign for something in the market of a nine-figure deal. Perhaps it will be as low as a four-year, $80 million contract. But even that appears out of the team’s range.

This reality hasn’t changed since spring training. A World Series berth only increases Shields’ value on the open market – it doesn’t reduce his price.

It is a combination of all three (although logic and intuition are basically the same thing here, I figure).

1. Chatter (also known as “reporting” or “reportage”): A team official described the $15 million paycheck heading toward the duo as “a problem” for a club that is so budget-conscious.

2. Logic/intuition: With the acquisition of Josh Willingham, the team’s payroll swelled to about $94 million for 2014. This is $9 million past the $85 million budget, according to people familiar with the situation.

Let’s say the payroll jumps to $100 million in 2015 – even though David Glass told The Star in July he does not intend to become much more aggressive in the free-agent market. The salaries for Holland and Davis would eat up 15 percent of the budget. Would the baseball operations really divert that sizable portion of resources toward a pair of one-inning relievers?

Dayton Moore has developed a knack for building a bullpen, often on the cheap. It may be his best area of big-league roster construction. You can trust he could construct another group, with a different composition, that can offset the departure of either reliever.

Plus, the value of each man may never be higher. Holland has shown signs of fatigue in the second half. Davis is having the best season of his life.

Hochevar said he plans to throw for the first time on Sept. 10. He is unsure the exact schedule for his throwing program, but he expects to be pitching off a mound by January. He could even make a few sessions in December. He indicated this would not deviate too far from his usual offseason schedule.

This is the transcript of questions that has allowed me to report that Mike Moustakas is the emergency catcher.

McCullough: “Who is the emergency catcher?”

Yost: “Why does it matter?”

McCullough: “Because people like knowing these things.”

Yost: “Uh . . . [pause for five seconds] Kratz.”

McCullough: “Emergency.”

Yost: “He’s an emergency. If something happens to Sal . . .”

McCullough: “What if something happens to Kratz?”

Yost: “Then, Sal.”

McCullough: “This is like Abbott and Costello.”

Yost: “I don’t know. Moose caught in high school. It could be him.”

[Fin]

I’m partial to #StayHot, but that’s because I created it (after filching it from the vernacular of Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post).

“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” My favorite Wilco record is “A Ghost Is Born.” It is a cliché, but the guitar noodling and dad-rocking of the subsequent records turned me away. I still enjoy their work. In my mind I lump Wilco together with Spoon: An incredible catalogue, dozens of excellent songs, an admirable legacy and a preposterous longevity – and I’ve never met one person who says either is his favorite band.

I really do like the new Spoon record, though.

1. Nori Aoki: “The Downfall of Us All” by A Day To Remember. This would just be an amusing way to start the first inning.

2. Omar Infante: “Mojo So Dope” by Kid Cudi. Omar is a laid-back fellow.

3. Salvador Perez: “Simon Says” by Pharoahe Monche. The Godzilla introduction would be excellent. You would probably need to use the radio-friendly version.

4. Billy Butler: “Some Guys Have All The Luck” by Rod Stewart. A classic for the perpetually put-upon DH.

5. Alex Gordon: “Put On” by Young Jeezy. Either this, or “My Hero” by Foo Fighters. Or “The Best” by Tina Turner. I doubt Gordon would like the latter choices.

6. Josh Willingham: “Top Notch” by Manchester Orchestra. Non-descript rock music.

7. Lorenzo Cain: “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by Drake. Smoother than LoCain flagging down a line drive in center.

8. Mike Moustakas: “You Wanted More” by Tonic. It’s a good guitar riff.

9. Alcides Escobar: “Bowtie” by Outkast. I don’t know. Feels like it fits.

***

And now, the usual daily onslaught of links, odds and ends.

FROM THE STAR

How can the Royals keep Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy going during the stretch run?

THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO FANGRAPHS)

68.3 percent.

HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC

“American Spirits” by Donovan Wolfington.

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

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