Johnny Giavotella is starting the year out in Omaha after spending two months in Kansas City last season. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

Checking in on the Storm Chasers, Johnny Giavotella and Mike Jirschele

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After a road trip that has to be seen as a good one (today’s loss was rough, but the Royals return to Kansas City 3-3), the Royals are off on Thursday before the home opener on Friday. It seems like a good time to check in with Omaha and look at what’s going on with the defending Pacific Coast League champions.

With a team that boasts many of the key contributors from last year’s roster, Omaha has opened up 6-1, including a 16 inning win against Round Rock on Tuesday.

New contributors have stepped up to fill gaps where other players have been promoted. Lorenzo Cain is the everyday center fielder in Kansas City, but Derrick Robinson has started off hot with 13 hits in 32 at bats so far. The speedy outfielder has been hanging around the Royals system for a few years now and early success in Omaha is encouraging. The speed and defense are apparent, but the question with Robinson is whether or not he can develop a bat to make him a productive player in the lineup. He showed glimpses late in 2010 and at times in 2011, but it hasn’t clicked yet.

Max Ramirez has two homers and 8 RBI. Kevin Kouzmanoff has five doubles and 9 RBI. Both were minor league free agent signees this offseason.

Clint Robinson is picking up where he’d left off in each of the past two seasons. After winning the Texas League Triple Crown in 2010, he hit .326/.399/.533 last year in Triple A. He had 52 homers and 198 RBI in 2010 and 2011 combined. Fortunately for the Royals organization, they have solid depth at the first base position. Unfortunately for Clint Robinson, he’s stuck behind Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler. Still, the performance is there so far.

Some surprising names have been producing on the mound, too. Vin Mazzaro has had two good starts, putting up a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings and has struck out 10 batters. According to Lee Warren (@OmahaBaseball) of Yahoo Sports, Mazzaro’s slider has looked great early on.

Jeremy Jeffress and Louis Coleman have both been strong out of the bullpen and both figure to see time at some point in Kansas City as the Royals take advantage of available option seasons with some of their young bullpen arms. Nathan Adcock had a good first start, as well, a year after being a Rule 5 guy all year in Kansas City.

Two players have been disappointments in the rotation though.

Will Smith had solid control through the minors with 2.2 BB/9 over his career (520.1 IP) but has walked seven batters in 7.1 innings over two starts so far. He made nine starts in Triple A while part of the Angels system before the Royals acquired him as part of the Alberto Callaspo trade but he didn’t struggle like this. He should even it out as he gets more comfortable – it’s only two starts.

Mike Montgomery hasn’t jumped out strong yet, though he’s only had one start but gave up seven hits and three walks over 4.1 innings. He struck out three batters. That’s just not going to work if he’s going to progress into a pitcher who’ll see Kansas City before the All-Star break. He only gave up two runs against Round Rock but the threat for more is always present with that many baserunners reaching.

A key player that many are interested in is Johnny Giavotella. Lee Warren shared an interview he did with Gio just before the season started where they discussed his defense and what he’s working on, as well as his time in the big leagues in 2011. Other comments from Omaha manager Mike Jirschele point out that Giavotella is taking extra reps before regular workouts as he tries to get to where the Royals feel comfortable bringing him up and keeping him up at the big league level. Giavotella is hitting .296/.387/.444 in six games in the young season.

Below is the embedded clip of Warren’s interview with Giavotella and other segments with Jirschele. He was kind enough to share the audio with the Royalman Report and is allowing us to pass it on to listeners and readers. You can check out his work on Yahoo here.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Derrick Robinson Johnny Giavotella Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Mike Montgomery MLB Omaha Storm Chasers Royals Vin Mazzaro

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