Royals’ No. 2 prospect, Bubba Starling, might get Lasik surgery

Bubba Starling, the Royals’ first pick in the 2011 draft out of Gardner Edgerton High School
Bubba Starling, the Royals’ first pick in the 2011 draft out of Gardner Edgerton High School The Kansas City Star

Outfielder Bubba Starling left his Low-A team in Lexington on Wednesday and traveled to Kansas City where he may have surgery.

Lasik surgery.

Starling told Legends manager Brian Buchanan and hitting coach Justin Gemoll that he was having a tough time seeing the ball in the evening, according to J.J. Picollo, the Royals’ assistant general manager in charge of player development.

“When a player makes mention of it, we’re going to get it checked again,” Picollo said. “Upon his examination, there was a discrepancy from his last eye examination, which was in 2012, to this year’s most recent one.

“He’s going to see our doctor here, and he is a potential candidate for Lasik surgery. If that’s the case, we’re just going to go ahead and get it taken care of right away.

“The turnaround time for Lasik is so quick that he can potentially be back in the lineup maybe as early as this weekend. However, we’re not counting on it, nor do we think it’s necessary.”

Starling, the Royals’ first pick in the 2011 draft out of Gardner Edgerton High School, is hitting .213 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 35 games. He also has 41 strikeouts and 10 walks.

However, Starling currently has a modest four-game hitting streak and is batting .250 over his last 10 games. Some of his splits are impressive: he is batting .323 against left-handers, .306 with runners on base and .294 with runners in scoring position.

Although Starling, the Royals’ No. 2 prospect in Baseball America’s preseason rankings, is just 20 years old, it is not unusual for players his age to have the surgery performed.

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer had the procedure done late in the 2009 season while he was at Lo-A Burlington.

Hosmer was also was 20 at the time, and the next season there was a notable improvement in his statistics. His average with Hi-A Wilmington jumped from .206 in 2009 to a league-best .354 in 2010.

“It’s very common from what we’ve been told by the eye experts,” Picollo said. “Between 18 and 21 years old, players have developed astigmatisms in their eyes, which to the common person is not that big a deal. They may need corrective glasses to wear for a little bit and the astigmatism may take care of itself.

“But for an athlete, especially in baseball who’s trying to hit, and you’re dealing with minor-league lights, and competition against pitchers, the experts typically recommend getting the Lasik surgery.

“It’s such a minor procedure now with very little chance of not working and not worrying about it anymore. You kind of put it behind you.”

Walking issues

Watching Angels lefty Jason Vargas baffle the Royals on a series of pitches not even in the strike zone Tuesday night pushed manager Ned Yost into action mode.

The Royals held an extended hitters’ meeting prior to Wednesday’s game. The message was clear: Enough of what former Royals outfielder Mark Quinn once termed “brain-dead hacking.”

The numbers prior to Wednesday’s games showed the Royals with the fewest walks in the American League.

“It means we don’t have great approaches right now,” Yost said. “It changes with discipline, learning, experience. If you’re not taking your walks, that means you’re making outs far more frequently than you need to on the pitcher’s pitch.”

Yost conceded the Royals’ lineup is heavy with aggressive hitters.

“You still have to be able to control your aggressiveness.” he said. “It’s a process that we work on. We’ll work on it every single day until we get more proficient at it.”

Part of that means taking pitches.

“Make him throw you your strike until you get two strikes,” Yost said. “What we need to do a little bit better is go to the plate and look for the pitch that pops our eyes open — and then not miss it.

“If we get two strikes, then we go into battle mode. But in order to drive the ball, and to do damage, we have to sit on our pitch a little more consistently. And not miss it when we get it.”

Remembering …

First: former Royals pitcher Kyle Davies, now in the Minnesota organization, continued his latest comeback bid Wednesday night by pitching five innings for Hi-A Fort Myers against Dunedin.

Davies, 29, gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out two in his first professional appearance since late 2011, when he logged six games for Class AAA Las Vegas in the Toronto system.

The Twins signed Davies to a minor-league contract in February. He was 29-44 with a 5.34 ERA in 99 starts for the Royals from 2007-11.

That’s not all.

The Dodgers signed former Royals pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to a minor-league deal, pending a physical. He is expected to be assigned to Class AAA Albuquerque.

Sanchez, 30, was 1-6 with a 7.76 ERA last season in 12 starts for the Royals following an off-season trade that brought him to the club with minor-league pitcher Ryan Verdugo for outfielder Melky Cabrera.

The Royals sent Sanchez to Colorado in a July 20, 2012 trade for pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Sanchez was 0-3 and 9.53 in three starts for the Rockies before signing in the off-season with Pittsburgh.

Sanchez was 0-3 and 11.85 in five appearances for the Pirates prior to his release on May 8.

Minor details

Credit Class AAA Omaha with a new take on a fan-favorite giveaway.

Instead of a bobblehead doll, the Storm Chasers are marking the 30-year anniversary of George Brett’s wild charge from the dugout in the 1983 Pine-Tar Game by distributing 2,000 Brett bobble-arm dolls.

The promotion is Saturday — three days after Brett’s 60th birthday — and available to the first 2,000 fans through the gates at Werner Park for the Chasers’ game against Las Vegas.

Looking back

It was 38 years ago Thursday — May 16, 1975 — that Dennis Leonard gained the first of his 144 career victories by pitching a five-hit complete game in a 5-2 victory at Boston.

Leonard, who turns 62 on Saturday, was selected by the Royals in the second round of the 1972 draft. He reached the big leagues in 1974 and spent his entire 12-season career with the Royals.

The club inducted Leonard into its Hall of Fame in 1989.

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