Judging the Royals

Dusty Coleman and major-league debuts — have a heart

Royals pinch runner Dusty Coleman (43) is tagged out by Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) on a rundown at home on a fly ball out by Mike Moustakas to end the ninth inning during Friday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals pinch runner Dusty Coleman (43) is tagged out by Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) on a rundown at home on a fly ball out by Mike Moustakas to end the ninth inning during Friday's baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer made his major league debut on May 6, 2011. The Royals were at home playing the Oakland A’s, and Hosmer went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts. After that game Jason Kendall said Hosmer had done something really impressive that indicated Hosmer might be the real deal.

Hosmer walked when he took ball four—as I recall, it was a slider just off the plate.

I asked Jason why that was a big deal and Kendall turned to Chris Getz and asked Chris what he was like the night he made his major league debut. Getz laughed and confessed he was a mess; he was over-amped about being in the big leagues—if the pitcher had dropped the rosin bag he might have taken a swing.

The game was a blur.

The fact that Eric Hosmer had the presence of mind to take a borderline pitch for ball four in his big league debut told Jason that Hosmer might have it: the mind and personality to handle the big league life.

Kendall told me about his big league debut on April 1, 1996. He was facing Kevin Brown, a good pitcher who had a 1.29 ERA that season. Brown threw one pitch and Jason stepped out of the box and thought: "If they’re all this good, I’m screwed."

Luke Hochevar also told me about his first game in the big leagues; he was coming out of the bullpen to throw in relief. At that time the Royals bullpen coach was Fred Kendall, Jason Kendall’s dad. As Luke left the pen Fred said: "Hey, kid, do me a favor—don’t look up."

Hochevar ran to the mound thinking: "Don’t look up? Don’t look up? What the hell does that mean?" He then walked up the back of the mound and did exactly the wrong thing: he looked up and saw how big the stadium and crowd was and thought: "Holy @#&*!"

Big league debuts can be nerve-wracking: the new guy shows up and the carnival starts. He’s got to meet dozens of new teammates and coaches. Before the game starts everyone in the media wants a piece of him, the new kid on the block is a good story. Coaches are trying to cram information down the kid’s throat, there’s a lot he needs to absorb before 7:10. He might have family and friends flying in at the last second to see his debut; he’s got to get them tickets and make sure they’re taken care of. He might try to watch some video or read scouting reports, but how much is he absorbing?

So if you watched Friday night’s game and saw Dusty Coleman screw up on the base paths; have a heart. Big league debuts are nerve-wracking; the game comes at you pretty fast and it’s easy to make a mistake.

Now that’s over and next time Dusty Coleman gets a chance, he can’t go halfway home on a sacrifice fly and then lose heart and head back to third. His teammates bailed him out with an extra-inning win and they were all pretty sympathetic about Coleman’s mistake—they understand how it happened.

But if he does it again they won’t be so understanding.

Kansas City Royals utility infielder Dusty Coleman was called up to the majors on Friday from Triple A Omaha, as Christian Colon was sent to Omaha. Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star

Why Christian Colon got sent down—probably

Dusty Coleman was here in KC last night because utility player Christian Colon got sent down to the minors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Christian did anything wrong. Colon just wasn’t playing enough to keep his timing, so it’s likely the Royals figured they’d send Christian to Omaha and let him get some at bats and innings in.

If you’re playing American League ball it makes some sense to rotate your bench players, especially if they’re young; if they sit too long, send them down and get them some playing time, then bring them back up and send another guy down.

A veteran might now how to handle long periods of inactivity, young guys might need some time on the field to stay sharp.

Where Alex Rios got hit

In the fifth inning Kurt Suzuki sent a foul pop fly down the right field. Right fielder Alex Rios raced over, got to the sidewall just about the same time the ball did, failed to make the catch, hit the wall and then doubled over in obvious pain. Up in the press box people started speculating immediately; did he hurt his wrist when he hit the wall?

The TV guys wondered if the ball hit him in the head. Then they thought he might have hurt his wrist or did something to his foot when he hit the wall—maybe it had something to do with his side. Trainer Nick Kenney and manager Ned Yost came out to see what was wrong.

If you feel like taking a guess as to where the ball hit Alex Rios, here’s a revealing bit of evidence: centerfielder Lorenzo Cain was in hysterics. When a male human gets hit with a solid object, there’s one place on his body that will make him double over in pain and every other male in the vicinity double over in laughter. I don’t know why we think that’s funny; maybe it’s just a huge relief that we didn’t get hit there.

I certainly hope Alex Rios has recovered—and starts wearing a cup.

Happy Fourth of July

Lots of people have asked me what I’m going for the Fourth of July and my answer is the same thing I’m doing for the Third of July and Fifth of July; watching a baseball game. And if you don’t already have other plans, you could do a lot worse than joining me.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.

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