Daily Clips

March 24, 2018


Soler, Gordon entering crucial seasons

Royals hope slugger breaks out and veteran bounces back

March 23, 2018By Jeffrey Flanagan/MLB.com

Merrifield feels 'awful' for Bumgarner after injury

Royals second baseman's liner fractures Giants ace's left pinky

March 23, 2018By Jeffrey Flanagan/MLB.com

Moore thrilled with KC prospects this spring

March 23, 2018By Jeffrey Flanagan/MLB.com

Split-squad action: LA's Kershaw shuts down Royals; Cuthbert, Junis help beat Giants

March 23, 2018By Maria Torres/KC Star

The Royals almost drafted this Rule-5 pitcher in 2013. Now he might join their bullpen

March 23, 2018By Maria Torres/KC Star


SF gets bad injury news on MadBum, Shark

Ace fractures left hand, out 4-6 weeks; Samardzija will miss 3-5 weeks

March 23, 2018By Chris Haft/MLB.com

Sano not suspended for alleged assault

March 23, 2018By Rhett Bollinger/MLB.com

Red Sox pitcher Wright suspended 15 games

March 23, 2018By Ian Browne/MLB.com

Original Marlins owner Huizenga dies

March 23, 2018By Joe Frisaro/MLB.com

Six relievers who could close now

March 23, 2018By Eno Sarris/The Athletic

March 24, 2018 •.CBSSports.com


Soler, Gordon entering crucial seasons

Royals hope slugger breaks out and veteran bounces back

March 23, 2018By Jeffrey Flanagan/MLB.com

Two players the Royals' front office, coaching staff and fans will watch closely in 2018 are Jorge Soler and Alex Gordon.

And Soler and Gordon will be under the microscope for similar reasons.

Soler, who is out of options, was touted as a five-tool player when the Cubs signed him in 2012. The Royals, in turn, thought so much of his potential that they traded closer Wade Davis for him during the 2016 Winter Meetings.

Now the Royals are eager to see those tools on display for an entire season.

"We need for him to get 500-600 at-bats," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We need to know and find out what we have there. You can see the talent."

Soler certainly has shown flashes of that talent this spring. He entered Friday tied for the Cactus League lead in home runs with six, and leading the Royals in walks with eight.

"You can tell he has a good eye at the plate," Yost said. "His ability to draw walks will keep his on-base percentage up even when he might be in a slump. That's what good hitters are able to do. And, of course, he's got that raw power."

Yost envisions Soler as a potential 30-40 home run hitter. Injuries slowed Soler's 2017 season, yet he hit 24 home runs at Triple-A Omaha.

Yost also has been impressed with Soler's defense at the corner-outfield positions.

"His routes are better, he's taking better angles," Yost said.

Soler did his part to prep for a breakthrough season, losing 19 pounds over the winter.

"I just feel better and am moving around better," Soler said through an interpreter. "It has made a difference."

The Royals' coaching staff has taken notice. Third-base coach Mike Jirschele remarked recently, "Just seeing him go from first to third on a single to center was pretty impressive. He can run."

Gordon's performance in 2018 also will be under the spotlight.

Gordon's elite defense -- he won his fifth Gold Glove in 2017 -- has kept him on the field. But after dreadful offensive seasons in '16 (.220) and '17 (.208), Gordon also has struggled this spring (.118).

Yost even suggested to Gordon that he spend some time in Minor League games this week -- a common practice for veterans during Spring Training that allows them to get 12-14 at-bats per day. Gordon did so Thursday, but he only had four at-bats, Yost said. Gordon started in left field for the club's split-squad matchup with the Dodgers on Friday afternoon.

"His timing is just off," Yost said. "But he'll figure it out. He always does."

But what if Gordon's offense doesn't pick up when the regular season starts? Can the Royals live with another season from an elite defender who doesn't produce offensively? Or would the Royals sit a player such as Gordon, who is owed $40 million over the next two years?

The Royals can't answer those hypothetical questions now, but they may have to down the road.

Merrifield feels 'awful' for Bumgarner after injury

Royals second baseman's liner fractures Giants ace's left pinky

March 23, 2018By Jeffrey Flanagan/MLB.com

Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield was just as much in shock as everyone else regarding the news that Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner suffered a fractured left pinky finger after being hit by a Merrifield line drive on Friday.

Bumgarner was making his final start of Spring Training when he was struck by a liner off the bat of Merrifield in the third inning. Bumgarner left the game almost immediately after being examined by the team trainer.

Merrifield said he has been trying to get in contact with Bumgarner since leaving the game in Scottsdale and learning of the fracture late Friday afternoon.

"I feel awful, this coming in his last start of the spring," Merrifield told MLB.com by phone. "Obviously, there was no intent. I just feel terrible. He's my kind of player, my kind of pitcher. He goes out there and grinds and does whatever it takes to win. I loved watching him pitch."

Merrifield and Bumgarner played against each other and with each other as teenagers growing up in North Carolina.

"He's a great guy," Merrifield said.

Moore thrilled with KC prospects this spring

March 23, 2018By Jeffrey Flanagan/MLB.com

One of the benefits of Spring Training for Royals general manager Dayton Moore is the proximity to his Minor League players.

Moore regularly can be found on the backfields observing the club's prospects. And Moore has been impressed with what many believe will be the next wave of young Royals talent, a group that includes first baseman Nick Pratto, catcher MJ Melendez, and outfielder Khalil Lee.

"Nick Pratto is the best hitter we've signed since I have been here," Moore said of the Royals' top prospect. "Will he continue to develop? I don't know.

"When you look at him, he's a guy who takes pitches, see pitches well. He has the right temperament. He doesn't get too excited. He's very advanced."

Moore on Melendez: "MJ Melendez is the most confident, secure player we've signed. Some people think he's cocky, but he's just really confident. A really advanced thinker in the game."

Moore on Lee: "Khahil is the most dynamic player we've signed since Eric Hosmer."

Hammel staying behind

Because of an iffy weather forecast for the Royals' exhibition game Monday in Omaha, right-hander Jason Hammel, who was projected to start that game, will stay in Arizona when camp breaks Sunday and pitch in a Minor League game. Hammel's first regular-season start will be April 1 against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

Camp battles

• Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, a non-roster invitee, struggled in the Royals' 10-0 loss to the Dodgers in a split-squad game at Surprise Stadium. Nolasco started and gave up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings, though manager Ned Yost said Nolasco actually threw the ball OK.

"He gave up that Arizona homer [to Yasiel Puig] and then some soft-contact hits," Yost said. "Not bad."

Nolasco can opt out of his Minor League deal on Saturday if he isn't added to the 25-man roster.

• Right-hander Wily Peralta, in camp on a Major League deal, has struggled most of the spring. Peralta, trying to secure a bullpen spot, gave up one run in 2 1/3 innings Friday and struck out two.

"He was better today," Yost said. "Still a little flat with his pitches but better."

Injury update

• Infielder Adalberto Mondesi, battling right shoulder impingement, continues to show improvement and may play in the field in a Cactus League game Saturday.

• Outfielder Bubba Starling is still out with a strained oblique, but he began throwing Thursday.

Up next

The Royals will play their final road game of Spring Training when they travel to Scottsdale to play the D-backs at 3:10 p.m. CT on Saturday. Left-hander Danny Duffy, the Opening Day starter, will start and get his final tune-up of the spring. Also expected to throw will be right-handers Blaine Boyer, Kelvin Herrera, Brad Keller and Brandon Maurer. The matchup will be available on an exclusive audio webcast.

Split-squad action: LA's Kershaw shuts down Royals; Cuthbert, Junis help beat Giants

March 23, 2018By Maria Torres/KC Star

The Royals on Friday divvied up their extended roster and played Cactus League split-squad games.

The group that stayed at Surprise Stadium was held to four hits by the Dodgers in a 10-0 loss. The group that traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz., beat the San Francisco Giants 9-5.

As the Royals prepare to play their last three exhibition games of the spring season, which ends Monday with a game on the road against the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers, here’s what you need to know:

The roster

The Royals’ roster decisions will come down to the wire. Although they’ve got the starting rotation set — Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Nate Karns and Jakob Junis — manager Ned Yost and company are still deliberating over who will be part of the opening day bullpen.

Rule 5 acquisitions Brad Keller (8 innings, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts) and Burch Smith (12 IP, 10 ER, 11 BB, 16 K) haven’t made it easy on the coaching staff. Neither have left-hander Brian Flynn, who has at times struggled but has a 2.31 ERA over six outings, or converted starter Wily Peralta.

“Honestly, we’re not there yet,” Yost said. “ … We’re still evaluating, we’re still discussing, we’re still trying to figure it all out.

“It’s probably a fair assessment that we’ll take it right down to the end.”

The farm system

Royals general manager Dayton Moore isn’t worried about the state of the team’s farm system, which was ranked 29th by Baseball America.

He’s confident in the abilities of top 2017 draft picks Nick Pratto (14th overall) and MJ Melendez (52nd overall) and 2016 pick Khalil Lee (third round).

Whether or not they win a World Series Championship like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez did — that is, after playing together extensively and succeeding in the minor leagues — remains to be seen. But Moore, who chatted with reporters for an hour on Friday morning, sees potential.

“Khalil Lee is the most dynamic player that we’ve had in the organization since Eric Hosmer,” Moore said.

Moore also sang the praises of last year’s top two picks.

On Pratto: “He’s very advanced. Will he continue to develop? He should. I can’t predict it cuz baseball’s hard. I don’t know what’s going to happen in his life tomorrow that potentially could interfere with his focus. But he’s really talented.”

On Melendez: “Some people might look at it him and say he’s really cocky. He’s just really confident. ... Melendez is just, I remember seeing Will Clark his first major-league camp and he acted like he was a 10-year veteran. Some people didn’t like that. Obviously a different level, but MJ is like that. He carries himself like that."

In Surprise

Ricky Nolasco, in camp on a minor-league contract he can opt out of on Saturday, cruised through his first two innings against the Dodgers. He threw a pitch that Yasiel Puig drilled into the tarp covering the Royals’ bullpen in left field. Otherwise, Nolasco needed just 25 pitches to churn through the top seven hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup and get six outs.

But the third inning got away from him. Nolasco faced nine batters, allowed four hits, issued two walks and got two outs. Peralta came in to clean up a bases-loaded jam and escaped after allowing two inherited runners to score. In all, Nolasco was charged with eight runs on five hits.

The Royals could get nothing going against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. Jon Jay was the only one to log a hit. Humberto Arteaga also reached base, but it was on an error in the fourth inning.

Kershaw faced 21 batters, struck out four and induced 11 ground-outs in 6 2/3 innings.

In Scottsdale

Junis tossed 4 1/3 innings, struck out six batters and allowed one run on four hits, one of them a game-tying solo homer to Pablo Sandoval in the second.

But the Royals’ offense was quick to make up for it the following inning. Cheslor Cuthbert, who led off the second inning with a home run to give the Royals their first advantage, drove in Whit Merrifield and Ryan O’Hearn on a single up the left side of the infield to give the Royals a 3-1 lead in the third.

Later, Adalberto Mondesi hit a ball that got lost in the sun in left-center field and dropped onto the warning track for a two-run triple.

Cuthbert went 4 for 4 with three RBIs and is now 15 for 24 in his last seven games. Michael Saunders and Drew Butera also logged RBI singles.

Merrifield went 2 for 3 with an RBI of his own. One of his singles was lined up the middle and hit Giants starter Madison Bumgarner in the left hand, fracturing his pinky.

Junis, who is cracking his first major-league opening day roster, finished the spring with a 1.88 ERA and 20 strikeouts.

Up next

The Royals (16-12-2) travel to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale for a 3:10 p.m. game Saturday against the Diamondbacks.

The Royals almost drafted this Rule-5 pitcher in 2013. Now he might join their bullpen

March 23, 2018By Maria Torres/KC Star

A cellphone repeatedly buzzed in the car, an intermittent series of vibrations distracting Royals' Rule-5 acquisition Brad Keller as he navigated morning traffic on busy highways in metro Atlanta.

It was a Thursday in December. The pitcher was driving from his home in Flowery Branch, Ga., to a training facility about an hour away in Norcross.

Business as usual.

Until congratulatory messages began to flood his phone. Keller had almost forgotten it was Rule 5 draft day.

Some 500 miles south at a Disney World resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., baseball executives had not forgotten. Keller was available to them as part of a draft that was put in place to protect minor-league players from being stashed away in a team’s farm system, like Keller had been after five years with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If selected in the major-league portion of the draft, Keller would be required to be on his new team’s 25-man roster for the entire 2018 season or be offered back to the Diamondbacks.

The odds seemed long. Keller had never even received an invite to major-league spring-training camp before.

Then began a long game of telephone.

“My first thought was, ‘No way this happened,’ ” said Keller, originally selected out of Flowery Branch High School by the Diamondbacks in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. “My agent called me and was like, ‘Yeah, the Reds picked you up.’ ”

Keller called his parents and his brother as he veered into the slow lane, trying to be a responsible driver as his career shifted gears for Cincinnati.

His phone rang again. It was his agent. Again.

“He said, ‘Oh, just kidding, you got traded (to the Royals),’ ” Keller said. “And so I had to pick up the phone and call them all back again.”

So it was that the Royals wound up with a player who’s surpassed even their expectations this spring. Keller has struck out 12 batters in eight innings spanning seven appearances. The three earned runs on his stat sheet were given up in just one game against the Diamondbacks on March 10, when he allowed four straight two-out hits in his second inning on the mound that day.

With less than a week left for manager Ned Yost and the Royals to set their opening day roster, Keller, one of two Rule 5 acquisitions in camp, seems to be a near lock for the big-league bullpen.

And the funny thing is, Keller might have had a similar opportunity if he had fallen to the Royals five years ago during the 2013 first-year player draft.

Missed opportunity

Back then, the scouts didn’t flock to the northeastern suburbs of Atlanta for the 17-year-old Keller.

He’s from a town in Georgia known as the headquarters for the Atlanta Falcons. Flowery Branch High School is a four-mile drive to the NFL team’s training complex.

“That’s what everyone knows (it for),” said Keller of his hometown, which at the 2010 census had fewer than 6,000 residents. “There ain’t much there.”

And in the spring of 2013, they only ventured out for guys like Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier, who was selected fifth overall by the Indians that year, and Braves minor-leaguer Travis Demeritte, the Rangers’ first-round pick in the same draft.