Royals Spring Training Notes and Thoughts for Wednesday 2/13

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.

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

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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Topics: Kansas City Royals, Luke Hochevar

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  • jimfetterolf

    Mike, you’re a pitching guy so should probably have noticed that Hoch in trouble overthrows and the ball straightens and flattens. Tim Bogar of the Red Sox told that to Lee two years ago, just a matter of a pitcher willing to make a change.

    The Omaha pitching coach tried to get Luis Mendoza to makes some adjustments before ’10, he didn’t and was getting slaughtered before he gave in and listened to his coach about halfway through the season and improved, then was PCL Pitcher of the Year the next year. With talent and good health it all gets down to mechanics.

    Hoch has stuff, so just a matter of getting his head right. Seitz points out that other players have that problem, not all that unusual among human beings. It’s all on Luke, saw something that the Royals could still save some money releasing him, so the leash will be short.

    • Michael Engel

      That’s what makes it so frustrating. You can see some nights that the talent is there, but it just doesn’t come together consistently and it’s just unreliable to do anything than put a guy in the #5 spot. I’d be thrilled if he proved me wrong, but so far, nothing’s worked. But now and then, the stuff will rise above whatever hangup he’s fighting and he has a really good game, then gets blown up the next time out.

      I’m rooting for him, but can’t expect anything out of him.

      • jimfetterolf

        Nice thing about this year is we don’t have to expect or even need anything from him.

        Best case he gets it together, has a great year, goes FA and we get a comp pick. Worst case he’s a 7th inning set-up man and is traded or released at the ASB. I think he may be able to fix this as it’s not that big a deal and he should be supremely motivated in his final year.

        I kind of like Hoch as a #5, a slot that gets to face the opposing #1 quite a bit and he is most likely to be able to ambush a David Price. SP games will tell us if he’s making the adjustment or not and Sal Perez seems a strong enough personality to keep Hoch in line during a game, just a matter of internalizing adjustments and maintaining self-control under an adrenaline rush.

  • Eric Akers

    Those poor Phillies fans that have to endure a game where they play the Royals and not the Yankees. This is what is wrong with baseball.

    Anyway, I remember learning last year that Hooch wasn’t listening to the coaches. They wanted him to reduce his number of pitches in an effort to maintain his mechanics, but he refused to do that. So I was worried at that time that a guy that people claim is the worst starting pitcher in history is refusing to make adjustments.

    The fact that Hosmer did the same bothers me some, but he is still a young buck. Hopefully his lesson is learned.

    • jimfetterolf

      Luke’s complaints at the end of last year was one reason he was thought to be a trade candidate, bad attitude needing a change of scenery. That happens to people, in baseball and the real world. Luke stays closed and within himself and he’ll make some money next year. If not, he may be hoping for a minor-league contract. His choice.

      As for worst starter, I get a chuckle from people who think ERA is worthless old-school using it to indict Hoch. We all stat-mine in defense of a per-conceived thesis

      • Eric Akers

        I agree with this. I have all the hope that Hooch can turn it around and be more consistent, I am just leery. The theory that he is overthrowing fits with the stats that he is great until he gets into trouble.

        I think Hooch has suffered from a lack of innings from the bullpen. He should have been taught along with Grienke by David Riske how to pitch with runners on.

        • jimfetterolf

          Agree Hochevar needed a couple of years in the ‘pen but that was a luxury the Royals didn’t have then. Now they can bring an “ace” along easy. Good point on Riske.

          I think Luke was rushed and I think the combination of being a two time #1 pick and being a late sign got him off to a bad start with maybe a bad attitude. I would note, as Mike Engel has mentioned, that Luke was a long-tosser in college and a 98mph “wild thing” who had a lot of changes made by the Royals with perhaps insufficient time to internalize them before hitting the bigs. Whateves, he has to produce now and good luck to him.

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