Obviously, the big news out of Surprise on Sunday morning was the decision to option Johnny Giavotella to Omaha. Ned Yost said that Giavotella didn’t lose the second-base job; Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz just played better than expected. Yost thought that Getz looked like a different hitter this spring, and both Betancourt and Getz give the Royals better options on defense.
Yost said he wouldn’t name a starting second baseman, nor is it a platoon situation. Yost won’t paint himself into a corner by making that kind of statement. It will be a day-by-day, mix-and-match process. We’ll see how that plays out in reality, but, like the closer situation, I’m guessing Yost wants to keep all of his options open — who wouldn’t?
Later, Doug Sisson said that unless you’ve seen Getz play every day, you just won’t get it. There’s just too much that Getz does to help a team that doesn’t show up in any number. The Royals have made a commitment to defense, and the feeling is Giavotella would be better off working on his in Omaha while getting at-bats every day.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t just end the Chris Getz debate, but it’s clear that the people who play the game tend to hold a higher opinion of him than the people who don’t.
So what about Yuni? I got a chance to talk to infield coach Eddie Rodriguez and asked about Betancourt’s defense. When Yuni was here in 2010, he had the tendency to take his shuffle steps forward and wind up with his left foot ahead of his right. (Watch infielders as a pitch is delivered and you’ll see them shuffle forward to bring their weight to the balls of their feet.) Rodriguez said it was like Yuni was facing the third base dugout instead of home plate.
Then, when Betancourt had to go to his left, he’d basically run around his left hip. (Try putting your left foot in front of your right and then take a crossover step to your left and you’ll see what I mean.) Eddie is solving this by starting Yuni with his left foot behind his right. It’s like a hitter who strides too far toward the plate and compensates by starting with an open stance. The object is to end up in a balanced position.
Rodriguez also wants Betancourt to position his feet wider. If an infielder has his feet too close together, he’ll stand upright—a poorly balanced position.
The other moves: Vin Mazzaro and Jarrod Dyson were also optioned to Omaha. Yost said if Dyson stays in the big leagues, he’d be a pinch runner and defensive replacement—and the Royals think he can be more than that. They want him to work on his offense and become the everyday player the Royals think he can be.
Yost said Dyson needs to use his legs more on offense. Translation: hit line drives and grounders, bunt for hits and keep the ball out of the air.
The lineup: If you want to speculate (and what baseball fan doesn’t?) try figuring out who hits second in the Royals’ lineup. It would be a bit unusual to have three lefties in a row (Gordon, Getz, Hosmer) — it makes it too easy on the other team’s bullpen. Even so, Yost says he’s got no problem with having those three at the top of the order.
You could try to figure out who has number two-type bat-handling skills or you can just decide which five hitters you’d want to have an extra at-bat. Most nights, the top of the order gets one.
Moustakas’ glove: Mike Moustakas was using a very small glove while taking grounders Sunday morning. It was a “training glove” and the fingers were about three inches shorter than his regular model. The smaller glove forced Moose to keep his head down all the way through the catch—there was no room for error with such a tiny piece of leather. Catch the ball clean or you don’t catch it at all.
Mike was also working on the angle of his wrist. Apparently, Moose has the tendency to flatten out his palm (which means it’s facing the sky). The correct angle is to have the palm facing the hitter—which increases the area of the glove presented to the ball and that increases the chances of fielding the ball cleanly.
The scoop: Saturday night against the Diamondbacks, first baseman Eric Hosmer made a terrific scoop to save an infielder an error. Later in the game, Hosmer made one of those giant scoops on a throw from Alcides Escobar, didn’t catch the ball cleanly and knocked it almost all the way back to second base. Sunday morning I asked Hosmer if the ball hit him in the palm, and he said he just got a little carried away with the scooping motion. Watch to see what adjustment he makes this season.
Mirror image: If they’ve been there the entire time, I don’t know how I missed them. Today I noticed the Royals had fashioned crude mirrors (some type of film stretched over sheets of plywood) and positioned the mirrors next to the batting cages. While standing at the plate, a hitter could look up and see a full-length image of himself. There were mirrors on both sides of the plate, so it didn’t make any difference if the hitter was right or left-handed. Pros don’t hit too many balls sideways, but the “mirror” materials used make sure if it does happen, nobody has to pick up shattered glass.
No early work: Day game after a night game means no early work and no team fundamentals. The Royals did their usual stretching, throwing and batting practice, then got ready for the 1:05 game against the Milwaukee Brewers.