“Has Alex Gordon turned the corner?” That’s how Dick Kaegal started his report from Surprise a couple of days ago. In the interest of time – but really out of general laziness – I won’t go around looking to see if this is a first time occurrence. There’s probably been what, three such stories written about this same time of year that could have all started the same way? That could have been “ctrl+c’d”/ “ctrl+v’d” only with to have a different players name inserted?
This, is the Sounds of Royals’ Spring.
The Sounds of Spring usually means the poetic nonsense that announcers and lazy writers use to explain baseball and the wonderful grandness of it all. But the Sounds of Spring in Royals camp inevitably means there is always some rebuilding-his-career veteran trying to make his way back to prominence that somehow gives this team hope for competing. This March, has been no different.
We all knew we’d be at this point when spring training opened, though. The jokes and the snide comments about what we’d be hearing about Jeff Francoeur were too easy to predict to be considered prophetic, and all the guys in the best shape of their lives make for a solid amount of copy for the beat guys that need something to write about, but at some point there should be restraint shown for all the guys that are just sure to have big years.
Now I’m not a complete naysayer to the good-vibe train that makes its annual visit to Surprise. I’ve written at length and hinted a number of times about my unwavering devotion to the man they call “Alex,” but at least my man crush is directed at a player that has proven to be at least an average major league performer at one point in his career. And even now there are signs in his game that make a return to that productiveness, or better, seem like a fairly safe bet.
The same can’t be said for what seems like more than half the Royals roster that, like clockwork, is lauded for their individual improvements in the offseason and impending Campaign of Hope and Resurgence that is almost surely to come.
It’s frustrating, really, when you know the team can’t come out and say what they absolutely should regarding certain players. They do, after all, still have to perform for the team, and it doesn’t make much sense to just go telling the truth bashing on athletes receiving a paycheck to play. But for the Royals (admittedly, I’m sure it has more to do with those following the team looking to fill a word-quota, and not a mechanism of the organization’s PR machine) each spring becomes a new opportunity for wayward vets to find their long forgotten skills of decent baseball.
Kyle Davies is the perfect example of this player.
Michael Engel said it perfectly this morning when he wrote, “It seems like the only way to get Davies to stop getting lit up is to have him pitch less.” Seconded. And thirded.
Davies has always been the guy full of potential that just somehow needed to harness all his electric stuff. One of the Atlanta “Baby Braves”, Davies was supposed to be the next great arm in the lineage of Leo Mazzone pupils. He was Greg Maddux feel with John Smoltz stuff; a 21 year old phenom who was called up because the ever-durable Mike Hampton was put on the DL. The production has never matched the hype.
In this little bit of groundbreaking quote giving, Davies says the exact words that will be on his baseball tombstone someday: “I didn’t get to four innings but did stretch the pitch count out. I was pitching pretty good up to this point but I was just overthrowing a little bit. Command wasn’t great with the fastball. Any pitch really, the command was kind of spotty.”
Even though your English teacher would cringe, you could take those four sentences, rinse, and repeat and you have what will be said every fifth day starting March 31st. It will be nothing new.
Unfortunately, the same can possibly be said for another Royals starter, Luke Hochevar.
Even though the two are the same age entering this season the paths they took to this point are very different, and yet, they’re the same pitcher. Full of promise; flashes of brilliance; nothing but bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrations.
In January MLB.com ran a studio piece about Hochevar and how the Royals are counting on him to be an ace and lead this young staff. If only because there’s no one else to, yeah, I can see Hochever leading the pitching staff. But the hype for a pitcher to be the “ace of the staff” should probably be reserved to someone that doesn’t have a career 4.47 FIP in nearly 400 innings.
Until John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer and others are ready to be a part of the Royals rotation, we have to hold out hope that either Hochevar or Davies will fulfill whatever amount of promise they still have in their right arms. Until Salvador Perez and Wil Myers and Lorenzo Cain (his situation is a discussion for another day) are ready to break the Royals lineup full time, we’ll have to put up with the overwhelming leadership qualities of Jason Kendall and Francoeur and Melky Cabrera.
Until those days come though, do we really need to hear about how they’ve all “turned the corner”?