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A year after Ventura's death, KC still hurting

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Shock. Disbelief and denial. Overwhelming sadness.

One year ago today, Royals players, club officials and fans awoke to the tragic news, likely sifting through an array of emotions as they stared at their cell phones, trying to comprehend the words: Royals star pitcher Yordano Ventura was dead at the age of 25 after an auto accident in the Dominican Republic.

KANSAS CITY -- Shock. Disbelief and denial. Overwhelming sadness.

One year ago today, Royals players, club officials and fans awoke to the tragic news, likely sifting through an array of emotions as they stared at their cell phones, trying to comprehend the words: Royals star pitcher Yordano Ventura was dead at the age of 25 after an auto accident in the Dominican Republic.

Some Royals players got the news on Twitter. Some got the news through a group text from veteran Alex Gordon, who confirmed Ventura's passing through the club.

• Posnanski: Yordano left indelible mark in KC

"It was just so hard to comprehend," Gordon told MLB.com by phone. "It was so hard to grasp. Why did it happen? How could it have happened?"

Royals general manager Dayton Moore's cell phone began ringing that morning as he boarded an early flight from Kansas City to Atlanta. Friends and other club officials wanted to know if the news was true.

At first, Moore was convinced they were referring to Andy Marte, a former big leaguer whom Moore had known in the Braves' organization in the early 2000s. Marte, coincidentally, also had died in an auto accident in the Dominican several hours earlier.

But by the time Moore's flight landed, the commissioner's office had confirmed to him the awful truth.

"It's almost impossible to grasp right away," Moore said, looking back. "We signed Yordano as a kid and we knew him before he became a man. But as the day went on and the more calls we made, the more it became real to me."

In his role as general manager, Moore really had precious little time to grieve. Duty called. He had a job to do, phone calls and arrangements to make. And above all else, he had to lead the organization, almost as a paternal figure, through this sorrowful time.

Later that night, several players, including Gordon, Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and then Royals infielder Christian Colon, gathered at Kauffman Stadium for an impromptu vigil. As they neared the front doors, fans already had begun placing memorial flowers and tributes to Ventura outside.

"That night helped me a lot," Gordon said. "It helped to grieve with friends."

Two days later, Moore and other club officials, Royals players including Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, and other Major League players arrived in the Dominican for Ventura's funeral.

Tweet from @LasMayores: Miles de adoloridos seres humanos despiden a Yordano Ventura en la RD. Escriben @JesseSanchezMLB y @FlannyMLB: https://t.co/4dqkFPNpJF pic.twitter.com/WWa0fLqHye

Thousands of Ventura's fans attended and walked the progression through the streets of his hometown of Las Terrenas. And to this day, Perez still can't bring himself to speak of Ventura's passing publicly.

"Everyone grieves differently," Duffy said. "There's no playbook for it."

But an unexpected blessing soon would appear on the horizon. Just a few days later, the club's annual Fan Fest would take place.

"To be honest," Moore said, "it couldn't have come at a better time."

Indeed, there were several hallmarks of healing ahead.

First, there was a private memorial service for players and club officials just prior to Fan Fest. As players and coaches and officials eulogized Ventura, sadness began to be replaced by the joyful memories of Ventura's playful persona.

Tweet from @FlannyMLB: Pitcher's mound at the Yordano Ventura memorial tribute pic.twitter.com/QVOeJ71Mpr

"He may have rubbed some people the wrong way," Gordon said, "but if you knew him, he didn't mean anything by it. He was just passionate about everything he did. And the kid loved to have fun."

Thousands of fans poured into Fan Fest that weekend to see a special tribute to Ventura's career in a room on the top floor at downtown Bartle Hall -- the tribute was complete with a mound decorated by an "ACE 30" banner.

"As an organization, as a city, as a community, I couldn't have been more proud of how everyone came together and rallied around each other," Moore said. "I don't think I'll ever forget that. I was very honored to be part of this organization through it all."

The next stage of healing came on the first day of Spring Training when manager Ned Yost gathered his players around for his annual first-day-of-camp speech.

Tweet from @FlannyMLB: Yordano Ventura tribute here in Surprise pic.twitter.com/pBaHJDx8mO

"It was a great speech," Gordon said. "Ned talked less about the sadness and grieving and more about just celebrating the person Yordano was, feeling grateful for having known him, remembering his smile, his silly laugh, just the funny way he pronounced things even in his own language. The kid had charisma."

There were more tributes to come, such as the one prior to the first Spring Training game in Surprise, Ariz., and then on Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium.

"Opening Day, to see all those people with tears in their eyes," Gordon said, "that was something. And as each moment like that passed, you move on. You remember but you have to move on."

Video: OAK@KC: Royals have a moment of silence for Ventura

Still, now a year later, the healing is not completely over.

"I still miss the kid," Duffy said. "Always. All those tributes helped. But it didn't make it any more real for me."

Added former Royal Chris Young, who lockered close to Ventura for two years, "I really can't believe it's been a year since Ace passed away. He was such a youthful, passionate, vibrant person ... a big kid. He had a big heart and was always so outgoing to me and my family. It still saddens me to think about the unfulfilled potential of Ace, not as a baseball player, but as a person."

For some, there are lessons to be learned from the tragedy.

"So often we get so wrapped up in our daily lives, the day-to-day existence, that we don't stop to realize how short life is, how fragile it is," Moore said. "I think Yordano's passing was a reminder to all of us of that, to take the time to stop and appreciate."

For others, the Royals clubhouse will never be quite the same.

"I want to keep his spirit around," Duffy said. "Sometimes I really believe he is still around.

"But yes, he's gone. I know that. But I also know we'll see him again. Just not in this place."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Yordano left indelible mark in Kansas City

Late righty helped revive city, Royals in pennant-winning seasons
MLB.com @JPosnanski

As the years go on, and memory grows faint, it will be difficult to explain just what sort of impact Yordano Ventura made on baseball ... and an entire region of America. His back-of-the-baseball-card numbers -- 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA, 470 strikeouts, 211 walks, no All-Star appearances or American League Cy Young Award votes or seasons with even 200 innings pitched -- will not hint at it.

As we move farther and farther away from the Kansas City Royals' remarkable back-to-back pennants in 2014 and '15, those will lose much of their power. Already, everyone has moved on. In the intervening years, the Cubs won their first World Series in more than a century. The Astros won their first World Series ever. Time moves on. The Royals had their moment. And their moment is gone.

As the years go on, and memory grows faint, it will be difficult to explain just what sort of impact Yordano Ventura made on baseball ... and an entire region of America. His back-of-the-baseball-card numbers -- 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA, 470 strikeouts, 211 walks, no All-Star appearances or American League Cy Young Award votes or seasons with even 200 innings pitched -- will not hint at it.

As we move farther and farther away from the Kansas City Royals' remarkable back-to-back pennants in 2014 and '15, those will lose much of their power. Already, everyone has moved on. In the intervening years, the Cubs won their first World Series in more than a century. The Astros won their first World Series ever. Time moves on. The Royals had their moment. And their moment is gone.

But for a big chunk of the American heartland, in the cities and towns and farms across Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska that endure the scorch of summer and the chill of winter, Ventura meant much more than the numbers and baseball achievements, and a couple of dusty pennants he helped win. Ventura was a symbol of what was possible.

Royals mark anniversary of Ventura's death

The Royals signed Ventura for $28,000. He was 5-foot-6 and weighed 135 pounds … not coincidentally, the Royals at the time were also roughly 5-foot-6 and weighed 135 pounds. Kansas City signed him in 2007, the same year that it lost 93 games -- a quantum leap forward considering the club had lost 100 games each of the previous three seasons.

Hopeless? Yeah, it was hopeless in Kansas City.

Royals scout Rene Francisco liked the way that Ventura's arm worked. This is scout-speak for that difficult-to-find pitching rhythm that some gifted pitchers simply have. The ball seemed to jump out of Ventura's hand. Francisco recalls Ventura breaking 90 mph with the fastball even then, though others doubt that he was throwing that hard. Either way, he was a Royals kind of player -- too small, too scrawny, too many things had to go right for other teams to have much interest.

They signed him for peanuts and, strangely for the Royals, things started going right. Ventura grew. He gained weight. And his fastball took off. After just a couple of years, he had the club's attention.

"We've got a kid down in the Minors," I remember Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo telling me in 2011, "and he's just 20, so we don't know what he can be yet. But he's throwing 100 mph. He looks like a young Pedro Martinez."

It was easy to be skeptical throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The Royals had a lot of future Pedro Martinezes ... and George Bretts ... and Greg Madduxes … and Frank Thomases. Somehow, they never turned out quite that way. But Ventura kept getting better and better. Before the 2014 season, he was one of the better pitching prospects in the game.

Ventura showed up for Spring Training and he changed the complexion of the Kansas City Royals. They called him "Ace" after the Ace Ventura movies, but the name fit better than they expected because Ventura absolutely saw himself as the ace. He was bold and cocky and, as the club's coaches and management said time and again, utterly fearless. His calculation seemed simple: "I have a 100-mph fastball. Who the heck is going to hit me?"

The analysts, the computer simulations, the projection systems predicted another lost season for the Royals. But they won anyway. Ventura was very good in 2014. He won 14 games with a 123 ERA+, had a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.3 to 1) and he allowed only 14 homers all season. But as mentioned, numbers do not explain him or what that Royals team meant to so many. They made Kansas City and towns 100 miles or more in every direction fall in love with baseball again.

Video: AL WC: Royals advance to ALDS on Perez's walk-off hit

That team was young and energetic and unflappable. They didn't mind people doubting them; they loved it. They put the ball in play, were aggressive on the bases, played otherworldly defense and closed the door in the late innings. And, they never really stopped believing they would win. When they were down, 7-3, in the 2014 AL Wild Card Game against the A's -- a game in which Ventura surprisingly had been brought in for relief and gave up a three-run homer -- Royals manager Ned Yost said, "I wasn't worried. I knew they'd find a way. I know people say that kind of thing all the time, but I'm serious. That group, I just knew they'd find a way."

They found a way. They made it to the World Series and all the way to Game 7, when a superhuman pitcher named Madison Bumgarner beat them almost singlehandedly. Then came 2015, and the Royals from Opening Day knew they were destined to win it all.

Video: Royals beat Mets in five games to win World Series

The team had leaders in every direction -- Mike Moustakas led with unfailing optimism, Alex Gordon led silently, Eric Hosmer led by just having more fun than anyone else, Lorenzo Cain led by running down fly balls no one else could reach.

Ventura was the fury. Away from the field, he was the nicest kid in the world, but on the mound, he was dangerous, and he wanted to be sure everyone knew that. "Fear and arrogance," Crash Davis said was the secret in the movie "Bull Durham." Ventura walked that tightrope. Some days he was unhittable. Other days, he got beat up. He was involved in bench-clearing incidents in three consecutive starts in 2015. He never doubted.

A championship team, especially a surprising one like the Royals, needs to have everything in balance. For two years they did, and Ventura was a big part of that. He made some mistakes, sure, and he had some great moments, sure, but more than that, he left his imprint. When he died a year ago, the Royals and baseball surely lost a good young pitcher, a 25-year-old young man with a 102-mph fastball and a bright future.

Video: CLE@KC: Royals' organization pays tribute to Ventura

But more than that, Kansas City lost a part of itself. Yordano Ventura's Royals took the region on the ride of a lifetime. Suddenly, everyone wore Royals hats. Suddenly, there were blue Royals flags waving on every street. Suddenly, the talk of just about every office building was, "Did you see what Yordano did in the game last night?"

The ride ended when Ventura died in a one-car crash in the Dominican Republic. People still love the Royals as much as ever, and they will stick with the team through its seemingly inevitable rebuilding process, and they will hope for success on the other side. But it will never be the same again, never like it was when everyone was young, and Hosmer and Moose and the rest were clowning around in the clubhouse, when Wade Davis was a late-inning terminator, when Yordano Ventura took the mound and threw harder than seemed reasonable, and Kansas City was on top of the baseball world.

Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.

 

Joel booked for first show at The K since '79

Royals Hall of Famer Brett announces Sept. 21 concert
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- For the first time in 39 years, Kauffman Stadium will host a concert not associated with a baseball game.

Royals legend George Brett made the announcement at a news conference inside Kauffman Stadium on Friday, revealing that another legend, Billy Joel, will perform at The K on Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.

KANSAS CITY -- For the first time in 39 years, Kauffman Stadium will host a concert not associated with a baseball game.

Royals legend George Brett made the announcement at a news conference inside Kauffman Stadium on Friday, revealing that another legend, Billy Joel, will perform at The K on Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.

"When I was playing," Brett said, "there wasn't a single act that was bigger than Billy Joel. I'm really excited about this. This is going to be something."

Tickets will go on sale to the public starting Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. CT at royals.com/billyjoel.

The most recent concert at Kauffman Stadium was in 1979 and featured REO Speedwagon.

Joel, who has sold over 150 million records, is the third-largest selling solo artist of all time.

The stage for the concert will be on the field in deep center beneath Kauffman Stadium's 84-by-104-foot scoreboard.

Dave Gerardi of Live Nation Entertainment, which is producing the event, joked that Royals groundskeeper Trevor Vance, "Shouldn't be nervous. We'll have it all under control."

After Brett finished speaking at the news conference, Toby Cook, Royals vice president of publicity, shared some remarkable similarities and coincidences between Brett's career and Joel's:

• Brett started his pro career in 1971. Joel released his first album "Cold Spring Harbor" in 1971.

• Brett made his Major League debut in 1973, the same year that Joel's first hit, "Piano Man," cracked the Billboard Top 100.

• Brett became the first Major Leaguer to win batting titles in three different decades -- the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Joel had No. 1 singles and albums in all three decades.

• Brett retired in 1993. Joel released his last album of original songs in 1993 ("River of Dreams").

• Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. Joel was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

"And we'll both be at The K on September 21st," Brett said.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Pratto draws flattering comparisons to Hosmer

Royals' 2017 first-round pick named No. 4 first-base prospect by MLB Pipeline
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have tried their best to shy away from making any comparisons of Nick Pratto, their first-round pick in the Draft in 2017, to another first baseman and former first-round pick, Eric Hosmer.

But from the moment Pratto was selected, the comparisons nonetheless leaped out. Both were high school players drafted at 18 years old. Both bat left-handed and throw left-handed. Both were known as gap hitters with high defensive ceilings.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have tried their best to shy away from making any comparisons of Nick Pratto, their first-round pick in the Draft in 2017, to another first baseman and former first-round pick, Eric Hosmer.

But from the moment Pratto was selected, the comparisons nonetheless leaped out. Both were high school players drafted at 18 years old. Both bat left-handed and throw left-handed. Both were known as gap hitters with high defensive ceilings.

And like Hosmer was at the time, Pratto now is one of the top prospects at his position in all of baseball. In fact, Pratto is the No. 4 prospect at first base, per MLB Pipeline.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

The top three are Tampa Bay's Brendan McKay, Colorado's Ryan McMahon and Arizona's Pavin Smith.

Pratto impressed the Royals in his first season as a pro. In 52 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Pratto slashed .247/.330/.414 with 15 doubles and four home runs and 10 stolen bases.

"We were very pleased with what he did," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "We liked his swing and we liked his approach at the plate. He has a very good awareness of the strike zone, very advanced for his age."

Pratto's defense also caught the Royals' eyes.

"You know, we don't like making comparisons [to Hosmer]," Picollo said, "but it's really eerie how similar they are when you look at them defensively. Nick has soft hands, he has the footwork around the base, a strong arm. It's definitely a little eerie."

Video: Callis on potential of the Royals' prospects

That would be high praise, given that Hosmer has accumulated four Gold Glove Awards -- only eight first basemen in history have garnered more.

The Royals would expect Pratto to start this season at Class A Lexington.

"We haven't set anything in stone," Picollo said, "but there's no reason he can't start there."

And if all goes well, perhaps Pratto will follow a similar path to the big leagues as Hosmer, who debuted by his fourth professional season.

"All players develop a little differently," Picollo said. "But certainly he has the skill set to move through the system quickly.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Royals hire Lamont as special assistant to GM

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Now that former Major League manager and Tigers coach Gene Lamont is officially a special assistant to the general manager of the Royals, there are a few people he'd like to meet.

Namely that would be comedians Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle -- all from Kansas City -- and Will Ferrell.

KANSAS CITY -- Now that former Major League manager and Tigers coach Gene Lamont is officially a special assistant to the general manager of the Royals, there are a few people he'd like to meet.

Namely that would be comedians Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle -- all from Kansas City -- and Will Ferrell.

See, it was several years ago at an annual Big Slick charity event at Kauffman Stadium when Rudd and Ferrell began endlessly -- and good-naturedly -- heckling Lamont at a game when Lamont was the third-base coach for the Tigers. The comedians were seated in a nearby dugout suite.

Later, Rudd and his comedic pals even incorporated Lamont's name into the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Funny thing is, Lamont had no idea until recently.

"I keep reading about this," Lamont told MLB.com by phone. "But the funny part is that I never heard them. Honestly. Once the game starts, a third-base coach just blocks everything out. You hear so much from the fans, you tend to block everything out.

"I wish I had heard them. I would have thrown them a ball or something. The charity thing is pretty neat, and maybe this year I can help them out and participate."

Video: TOR@KC: Rudd, Sudeikis, Riggle, more talk Big Slick

Lamont, 71, joins the Royals after 12 seasons as a coach with the Tigers. He will assist general manager Dayton Moore.

"What strikes you about Dayton is he is a good baseball man and a good person," Lamont said. "I'm not sure what my duties are yet, but I think I'll be looking over some of the Minor League players and maybe some of the big league guys, too."

Lamont said part of him will miss the Tigers but that it was time to move on and leave the field.

Lamont has served as a coach with the Pirates (1986-91, 1996), Red Sox (2001), Astros (2002-04) and Tigers (2006-17). From 1978-85, he was a manager in the Royals' farm system, at the helm for the Class A Fort Myers Royals from 1978-79, the Double-A Jacksonville Suns from 1980-83 and the Triple-A Omaha Royals from 1984-85.

"I had some great pitchers during that time with the Royals," Lamont said. "I had [Mark] Gubicza, [Danny] Jackson, [David] Cone and [Bret] Saberhagen. Those are some good arms."

Lamont led the White Sox to an American League West title in 1993, and he was named AL Manager of the Year that season. Overall, he managed Chicago from 1992-95 and Pittsburgh from 1997-2000.

The 2018 season will mark Lamont's 54th year in professional baseball.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Royals avoid arbitration with Herrera, Karns

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore never has had one of his players go to arbitration since he took over the job in 2006.

That impressive streak again will be on the line this year as the Royals now have just one arbitration-eligible player: right-hander Brandon Maurer, who filed a $3.5 million offer, while the club countered with $2.95 million on Friday.

KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore never has had one of his players go to arbitration since he took over the job in 2006.

That impressive streak again will be on the line this year as the Royals now have just one arbitration-eligible player: right-hander Brandon Maurer, who filed a $3.5 million offer, while the club countered with $2.95 million on Friday.

The arbitration hearings are scheduled to run from Jan. 29-Feb. 16, though teams are free to sign deals before the hearing dates. The Royals have settled with right-hander Nate Karns for $1.375 million and right-hander Kelvin Herrera for $7,937,500, according to a source. The club does not disclose terms of agreements.

Both players will have incentives. Karns will receive $12,500 if he starts 15 games and $25,000 if he starts 20. Herrera will earn a $50,000 bonus for making the All-Star Game.

The closest call in terms of going to an arbitration hearing for Moore came in 2015, when first baseman Eric Hosmer was within a couple of hours of boarding a flight to his hearing when the sides settled on a two-year deal.

Karns, who made $571,000 last season, was in his first year of arbitration. Karns was 2-2 with a 4.17 ERA in nine games, eight of them starts, before his season was shelved in May. He later had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training, where he'll compete for a rotation spot.

Herrera, who had a base salary of $5.325 million in 2017, was in his final year of arbitration. Herrera was 3-3 with a 4.25 ERA last season and was 26 of 31 in save opportunities before losing his closer's role in September. He also has been the subject of numerous trade rumors as the Royals engage in a rebuild.

Maurer, acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline from the Padres, is in his second year of arbitration and had a base salary of $1.9 million in 2017. In 26 games for the Royals, Maurer had an 8.10 ERA with a 2.25 WHIP.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Kelvin Herrera, Nate Karns, Brandon Maurer

Royals will have new-look bullpen in 2018

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Just as is the case with the Royals' lineup and rotation, the potential bullpen heading into 2018 surely will undergo more changes.

The club already has traded left-hander Scott Alexander and right-hander Joakim Soria, and lost closer Mike Minor to free agency. Expect more deals to come that could involve right-hander Kelvin Herrera, who was the closer last season before being demoted in September.

KANSAS CITY -- Just as is the case with the Royals' lineup and rotation, the potential bullpen heading into 2018 surely will undergo more changes.

The club already has traded left-hander Scott Alexander and right-hander Joakim Soria, and lost closer Mike Minor to free agency. Expect more deals to come that could involve right-hander Kelvin Herrera, who was the closer last season before being demoted in September.

Herrera made $5.325 million last season and is in his final year of arbitration -- general manager Dayton Moore would certainly view trading Herrera as an important step in his goal this offseason of trimming payroll and restocking the farm system.

Duffy, Kennedy atop projected Royals rotation

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Royals might stack up:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Kelvin Herrera, RHP (closer)
Brandon Maurer RHP
Wily Peralta, RHP
Kevin McCarthy, RHP
Ryan Buchter, LHP
Miguel Almonte, RHP
Andres Machado, RHP
Burch Smith, RHP

Video: KC@OAK: Herrera K's Pinder to earn the save vs. A's

STRENGTH
There are some power arms here even if the Royals do trade Herrera. Peralta, acquired from the Brewers, can bring it at 96-98 mph, as can Maurer. McCarthy (3.20 ERA in 33 games) and his heavy sinker could be a quality setup guy. Buchter offers the same type of production from the left side (2.67 ERA in 29 outings with a 0.89 WHIP). Almonte and Machado also bring it at 95-mph-plus, and Smith, acquired in a trade through the Rule 5 Draft, has touched 100 mph. The Royals do love power arms in the 'pen.

How Royals' 2018 starting lineup looks today

QUESTION MARK
Who will close in 2018? Minor took over the role in September and went 7-for-7 in save opportunities, but he is now with the Rangers. Two other candidates -- Soria and Alexander -- have been traded. Herrera, if he is still here, would assume the role again, though he seems more comfortable as a setup man. If Herrera is traded, perhaps the Royals try Maurer, who closed for the Padres (33 saves over two seasons), or even Peralta, who has terrific stuff, but he has been an enigma in terms of production. The Royals do have a history of converting starters to late-inning guys (Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar).

Video: Royals sign Wily Peralta to add pitching depth

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Stop me if you've heard this before: A lot could change. Moore and his staff are in rebuilding mode, so more deals could be on the way, starting with Herrera. The guess here is Maurer would get first crack at the closer's role, but don't be surprised if Peralta gets a chance to show his talent in that role come Spring Training. The Royals also are hoping some prospects (right-hander Josh Staumont) can emerge in Spring Training and claim a bullpen role. And the club is bullish on Smith as a late-inning guy.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB and listen to his podcast.

 

Kansas City Royals, Ryan Buchter, Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Maurer, Kevin McCarthy

Duffy placed on probation for DUI

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Danny Duffy pled guilty to driving under the influence in a Kansas City suburb last summer, and he has been placed on probation, according to a report in The Kansas City Star on Tuesday.

A city official in the suburb of Overland Park, Kan., told the newspaper that Duffy entered the plea last Thursday, was fined $1,220 and must avoid alcohol for a year, per the probation.

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Danny Duffy pled guilty to driving under the influence in a Kansas City suburb last summer, and he has been placed on probation, according to a report in The Kansas City Star on Tuesday.

A city official in the suburb of Overland Park, Kan., told the newspaper that Duffy entered the plea last Thursday, was fined $1,220 and must avoid alcohol for a year, per the probation.

Duffy was cited for DUI on Aug. 27 in the drive-through lane of an Overland Park restaurant.

Duffy, 29, has four years left on a five-year, $65 million deal and has been the subject of several trade rumors this offseason as the Royals look to conduct a rebuild.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy

Royals' Watson honored with scouting award

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- When Royals director of pro scouting Gene Watson got the call that he was receiving the Legends in Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, he joked that there must be a mistake.

"I'm not that old, am I?" asked Watson, 49.

KANSAS CITY -- When Royals director of pro scouting Gene Watson got the call that he was receiving the Legends in Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, he joked that there must be a mistake.

"I'm not that old, am I?" asked Watson, 49.

But the PBSF assured him that the award was not age-related and was instead a tribute to those scouts who exemplify a love for the game and a passion for scouting. Watson certainly qualified.

Watson received the award at the 15th annual PBSF Awards Dnner in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Saturday. The event always brings out an array of stars across the baseball and entertainment fields, from George Brett to Tommy Lasorda to Larry King to Robert Wuhl.

"It was a very humbling experience," Watson said. "I was very honored. Scouting is my life, my passion."

The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation was founded in 2003 by White Sox executive Dennis Gilbert, D-backs executive Roland Hemond and big league scouts Dave Yoakum (White Sox) and Harry Minor (Mets), primarily as a way to provide financial assistance to scouts who have fallen on hard times due to job loss, illness or retirement.

Watson is in his 12th season with the Royals after coming from the Marlins' organization, where he worked as a pro scout covering the American League Central and the National League Central from 2002-05.

Watson began in the Padres' system in 1997 before joining the Braves and working under Royals general manager Dayton Moore there from 2000-02.

Watson played college baseball at the University of Texas at Arlington from 1989-91.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

KC taps Rojas to manage Double-A squad

Son of Royals Hall of Famer takes over after Wilson's promotion
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals announced their Minor League coaching staffs for 2018, and they will welcome a familiar name to manage their Double-A Northwest Arkansas affiliate: Mike Rojas, son of Royals Hall of Famer Cookie Rojas.

Rojas will replace Vance Wilson, who was promoted to bullpen coach on Kansas City's Major League staff.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals announced their Minor League coaching staffs for 2018, and they will welcome a familiar name to manage their Double-A Northwest Arkansas affiliate: Mike Rojas, son of Royals Hall of Famer Cookie Rojas.

Rojas will replace Vance Wilson, who was promoted to bullpen coach on Kansas City's Major League staff.

Other notable changes: Brian Buchanan, who was the Royals' assistant hitting coach under Dale Sveum, was reassigned to be Triple-A Omaha's hitting coach; and Doug Henry, who had been the Royals' bullpen coach, was reassigned to be Class A Advanced Wilmington's pitching coach. Both moves were expected.

Henry's manager will be Darryl Kennedy, who previously managed Wilmington in 2008 and '14. Kennedy takes over for Jamie Quirk, who left for unspecified reasons after two years at the helm.

Rookie-level Surprise will have a new manager in Tony Pena Jr., whose father, Tony, managed Kansas City from 2002-05.

Rojas, 54, joins the Royals after spending last season as the manager at Toledo, the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate. Rojas previously served as the Major League bullpen coach with the Mariners from 2014-15 and with the Tigers in 2011-13.

Brian Poldberg returns to Triple-A Omaha as the manager for the fifth straight season. He will be joined by pitching coach Andy Hawkins and Buchanan.

Rookie-level Burlington (N.C.) will have a new manager in Brooks Conrad, who played parts of six seasons in the Majors with Oakland (2008), Atlanta (2009-11), Milwaukee ('12), Tampa Bay ('12) and San Diego ('14). Carlos Martinez, in his 17th year in Kansas City's organization, will serve as Burlington's pitching coach for the seventh straight season. Nelson Liriano returns for his second stint as hitting coach in Burlington, where he previously held that position in 2014 and served as manager there from 2009-11.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Duffy, Kennedy atop projected Royals rotation

KC could deal veterans for younger arms before season opens
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- As it stands, left-hander Danny Duffy would be the Royals' Opening Day starter and the leader of the rotation going into 2018.

But the Royals are in rebuild mode, and general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear that virtually everyone on his roster is a potential trade asset to help restock the farm system.

KANSAS CITY -- As it stands, left-hander Danny Duffy would be the Royals' Opening Day starter and the leader of the rotation going into 2018.

But the Royals are in rebuild mode, and general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear that virtually everyone on his roster is a potential trade asset to help restock the farm system.

And Duffy, predictably, received plenty of interest in terms of trade talks at the Winter Meetings last month and ever since.

So what will the Royals' rotation look like come March 29? Well, right-hander Ian Kennedy and his seemingly unmovable contract seem a lock. So do right-handers Nate Karns and Jakob Junis, whom the Royals consider part of the youth movement.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Royals might stack up:

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Danny Duffy, LHP
Ian Kennedy, RHP
Jason Hammel, RHP
Nate Karns, RHP
Jakob Junis, RHP

Video: KC@CWS: Duffy allows two through six innings of work

STRENGTHS
If the Royals don't trade Duffy, this could be a decent rotation. Duffy returns from an injury-plagued year but still has dynamite stuff, everyone knows that. Kennedy was excellent in 2016 (3.68 ERA in 195 2/3 innings) but never seemed to recover from a May hamstring injury last season. He should bounce back. Hammel had a solid post-All-Star break stretch (nine out of 12 starts giving up three runs or fewer) but struggled before and after. Before a thoracic outlet syndrome injury ended his season in May, Karns was a strikeout machine (51 K's in 45 1/3 innings with a 1.19 WHIP). Junis had a solid rookie year (9-3, 4.30 ERA), even better than his numbers suggest.

QUESTION MARKS
Can Kennedy and Hammel bounce back? Will Karns be ready for Opening Day and can he stay healthy? Will big league hitters adjust to Junis in his second year? Where is the depth outside of recently acquired Trevor Oaks?

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Duffy and Hammel still could be dealt before Opening Day. Someone else in the Royals' system could emerge, such as hard-throwing right-hander Josh Staumont or lefties Foster Griffin, Eric Stout or Eric Skoglund, and maybe even right-hander Brad Keller, whom the Royals got in a Rule 5 Draft trade.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Nate Karns, Ian Kennedy

Recovered from fall, Yost to attend FanFest

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- If you know Royals manager Ned Yost, you would expect nothing less.

Yost said he will attend Royals FanFest on Jan. 26-27, despite suffering a serious fractured pelvis in late November after a 20-foot fall from a tree stand.

KANSAS CITY -- If you know Royals manager Ned Yost, you would expect nothing less.

Yost said he will attend Royals FanFest on Jan. 26-27, despite suffering a serious fractured pelvis in late November after a 20-foot fall from a tree stand.

In fact, Yost told MLB.com that he has recovered enough to be back up hunting in the trees surrounding his Georgia farm ground.

"I'm ready to go," Yost told MLB.com. "I've been back up [in the trees stands]. Just didn't see anything."

Yost also said he is ready for Spring Training to start.

"I'll be ready to go," Yost said. "I'm going around just like I used to do. I don't use the wheelchair anymore. I can move. I'm mobile.

"I know what the doctors said, but hey, I'm good. I'm back to what I used to be. People that didn't know what happened won't know what happened to me."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

How Royals' 2018 starting lineup looks today

Hosmer's decision in free agency to determine KC's outlook
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- There likely are plenty more changes coming to the Royals' roster over the next weeks leading into Spring Training.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear his team is in the beginning stages of a rebuild.

KANSAS CITY -- There likely are plenty more changes coming to the Royals' roster over the next weeks leading into Spring Training.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear his team is in the beginning stages of a rebuild.

How severe will the rebuild be? That is unknown, and it may depend on if they can re-sign first baseman Eric Hosmer. With Hosmer back, the rebuild might not be as dramatic. Without him, Moore may decide to purge almost every player who is desirable to other teams, knowing that the Royals aren't likely to compete for the postseason for several years.

Video: Flanagan on potential Hosmer, Royals reunion

In the midst of all of this uncertainty, if the season started today, this is what the Royals' lineup might look like come March 29 at Kauffman Stadium.

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Whit Merrifield, 2B
Paulo Orlando, CF
Salvador Perez, C
Brandon Moss, 1B
Jorge Bonifacio, RF
Alex Gordon, LF
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B
Jorge Soler, DH
Raul Mondesi, SS

STRENGTH
If the Royals don't trade Merrifield, he proved last season to be a proven dynamic hitter at the top of the lineup. He slashed .288/.324/.460 with 19 home runs and 34 steals. Orlando is a speedy No. 2 hitter who can slash to all fields. The Royals are hoping Gordon continues to utilize the opposite field as he did during a 20-game stretch in September when he hit .317 with a .990 OPS. Soler could present some pop at the bottom of the order, and Mondesi has the speed and occasional pop to inflict some damage at the bottom of the order.

QUESTION MARK
Perez and Moss are not reliable run-producers and strike out too much. Bonifacio could be headed toward a sophomore slump. Orlando took a nose dive in 2017 after a quality '16 season. And no one knows if Gordon will return to his 2011-15 form, or if Soler can consistently hit big league pitching, or if Mondesi will turn the corner and realize his potential.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Everything. The Royals could re-sign Hosmer, which would secure the first-base spot and then create a desirable DH platoon of Moss/Soler. Also, Merrifield could be dealt, which would mean the Royals would be looking for a second baseman and leadoff hitter when the season starts. Almost anything could change as Moore looks to rebuild the farm system, meaning any player with value could be dealt. Stay tuned.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

KC names non-roster invitees, ST report dates

Seven of Royals' Top 30 Prospects get call to big league camp
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' list of 19 non-roster players who will be invited to Spring Training includes seven on the team's Top 30 Prospects list, per MLB Pipeline.

Included on the list: left-hander Foster Griffin (No. 6 prospect), right-hander Josh Staumont (No. 9), infielder Nicky Lopez (No. 11), catcher Chase Vallot (No. 12), first baseman Ryan O'Hearn (No. 14) outfielder Donnie Dewees (No. 18) and left-hander Richard Lovelady (No. 25).

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' list of 19 non-roster players who will be invited to Spring Training includes seven on the team's Top 30 Prospects list, per MLB Pipeline.

Included on the list: left-hander Foster Griffin (No. 6 prospect), right-hander Josh Staumont (No. 9), infielder Nicky Lopez (No. 11), catcher Chase Vallot (No. 12), first baseman Ryan O'Hearn (No. 14) outfielder Donnie Dewees (No. 18) and left-hander Richard Lovelady (No. 25).

Other non-roster invites: right-handers Glenn Sparkman, Mike Broadway, Kevin Lenik and Seth Maness, catchers Nicholas Dini and Parker Morin, infielders Cody Asche, Jack Lopez, Humberto Arteaga, Erick Mejia and Frank Schwindel and outfielder Terrance Gore.

Video: KC@SD: Staumont fans five over three scoreless frames

Maness was in the Royals' organization last season and was recently re-signed to a Minor League deal.

Pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The remainder of the squad will report on Sunday, Feb. 18.

FanFest appearances

The Royals released a tentative list of the players scheduled to appear at the Royals FanFest on Jan. 26 and 27 at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City: Scott Barlow, Ryan Buchter, Billy Burns, Drew Butera, Hunter Dozier, Danny Duffy, Brian Flynn, Cam Gallagher, Alex Gordon, Jakob Junis, Nate Karns, Ian Kennedy, Kevin McCarthy, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Moss, Salvador Perez, Eric Skoglund and Kyle Zimmer.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals