May 6, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Spring Training Notes and Thoughts for Wednesday 2/13

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After the Royals picked up Elliot Johnson from the Rays, Ned Yost stressed flexibility as an important factor in the competition for bench spots.

Johnson’s entering a battle with Miguel Tejada and Irving Falu for a utility infield spot. According to a Bob Dutton report, Falu will play some outfield this spring (as will Johnson) in addition to the infield while Tejada will play all over the infield as they sort out who will land on the opening day roster. Falu has options left and has an uphill climb in his pursuit of a utility spot. Johnson is out of options and is probably the favorite right now.

Dutton also noted that Danny Duffy felt great after his mound session on Tuesday and will throw again on Thursday.

If the Royals are winning in July when Duffy comes back, he could provide a nice spark to the rotation. A key factor in the team’s success will be pitching well all year, which makes Luke Hochevar‘s fight for the fifth spot in the rotation that much more significant for both he and the team.

So it’s no surprise, then, that as soon as camp opens, up the Royals and Hochevar are saying they’ve figured out the problem that’s turned Hochevar from a two-time first round pick into one of the worst starters in 2012. They’ve tried to keep him from tipping pitches, then had him change his sequencing, then changed his selection of pitches to simplify everything. Now he’s saying that he’s found a mechanical problem when runners reach base. If the pattern holds, he’ll find some success as he works on the new solution, then, after a while, he’ll go back to giving up big innings and falling apart.

The article points out that taking out seven awful starts would change Hochevar’s ERA from 5.73 to 3.65. That’d be comforting if the league allowed teams to throw out bad games. Dave Lesky pointed out the silliness of that exercise on Twitter:

 

 

Needless to say, I’m skeptical.

The Pine Tar Press guys got a good interview with former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer in, as well. He detailed why he disagrees with the Royals statements of wanting a different approach at the plate in 2013 and discussed his successes and failures as a coach. In regards to Eric Hosmer, he said that once he’d lost him, he couldn’t get him back. Seitzer also suggested that Ned Yost wouldn’t be the manager to lead the Royals to the playoffs.

You can look at those comments in a couple of ways. First, Bob Fescoe had already reported this week that Hosmer had tried to make adjustments on his own, so that seems to fit with Seitzer’s comments. Second, Seitzer’s philosophy is counter to the pull/power approach the Royals say they want to try in 2013. Finally, I’ve thought myself that Yost would be a great manager to get these guys ready to compete, but not necessarily the one who would be there when they were winning playoff series. He’s been involved with rebuilding teams and young players to where it’s sort of his calling card and he might not be enough to get everyone over the hump. This year will be telling.

But there’s also a bit of the “disgruntled ex-employee” to these comments. They’re not inflammatory, but they’re not gentle either. I don’t think Seitzer’s lashing out just because the Royals fired him, but I also don’t think that if he were asked the same questions this time in 2014 that he’d have the same answers if everything else were the same and he was just one more year removed from the situation. It’s a very good interview though, so make your own judgments.

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