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Cooper
03-23-2010, 09:13 PM
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don't fill out the Royals' lineup on your Opening Day scorecard just yet. Manager Trey Hillman is still fiddling with it.

Just when you thought that it'd be maybe Scott Podsednik, Alberto Callaspo (or Jason Kendall) and David DeJesus in the 1-2-3 spots ahead of Billy Butler, think again.

"I'm going to start tinkering with that a little bit," Hillman said.

In coming Cactus League games, he plans to try it this way: DeJesus, Podsednik and Callaspo, in that order, ahead of Butler.

"I'm going to look at Dave one and Pod two," Hillman said. "Neither one of those guys care.

"I like Callaspo in a position to drive in runs. I don't like waiting until the sixth or the seventh slot to get his bat back up there because of the slug, the on-base percentage, the batting average -- the whole package. So I'm going to look at him [at No.] 3."

Last year, Callaspo most often batted fifth, sixth and seventh and had the biggest offensive year of his career.

DeJesus has a long history as the Royals' leadoff man, and he's been effective in 607 games in that spot with a .297 average and .367 on-base percentage.

"I think Pod is more of a prototypical leadoff guy because of his stolen-base totals," Hillman said. "But you can't argue with what history has told us about what David's numbers are in leadoff and what his numbers aren't in the No. 2 slot, although it's a much smaller sample."

Podsednik, in 637 games as leadoff batter, has 237 stolen bases, compared to DeJesus' mere 39 in almost as many games. And Podsednik's No. 2 average/on-base figures are .296/.344 in 78 games, compared to DeJesus' .245/.319 in 88 games.

2010 Spring Training - Kansas City Royals
News & Features

* Hillman plans to tinker with lineup
* Royals reassign three to Minors camp
* Pena tags first spring homer
* Meche's uncertainty creates questions
* DeJesus jump-starts Royals

Sights & Sounds

* Meche on his shoulder stiffness
* Hochevar after solid start
* Callaspo's game-tying single

Spring Training Info

* Schedule
* Ballpark
* Tickets

Numbers, numbers. And Hillman believes they can make a difference -- in a player's mind, at least.

"I really want to try to stay away from guys getting mental," Hillman said. "Quite frankly, [reporters] write about it, and these guys hear about it."

"If these guys hear about it, they're going to get more mental with it. So, honestly, I really don't want to put David in the No. 2 slot. I think he would slot there just fine, but he doesn't have a history there, and he's going to read about it, he's going to hear about, and I don't think that's a good combination."

Behind Butler, Hillman sees Rick Ankiel and Jose Guillen in the Nos. 5-6 slots or vice versa. Ankiel is a left-handed batter and Guillen is right-handed, so it could depend on the pitcher.

Ankiel has been out since March 12 with a sore right ankle, which he'll continue to test in Minor League games at the complex. If that goes well, he's expected to return to Cactus League play on Saturday against the Oakland A's as the designated hitter.

"His first game back with our Major League team in these 'A' games I want it to [be as] DH instead of throwing him right back into the fire in center field," Hillman said.

The manager didn't get into the lower-third of the lineup in his musings, but presumably those slots would be filled by Kendall, Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz, in some order. Kendall has often been used in the No. 2 slot this spring.

Against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, DeJesus wasn't in the lineup, so Getz was in the leadoff spot, but Podsednik, Callaspo, Butler and Guillen were lined up two through five.

It worked well with Callaspo, who banged a triple and an RBI single to raise his average to .475, and Guillen, who smacked two doubles and upped his mark to .296.

And still ahead were 12 games in which Hillman could experiment.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cooper
03-23-2010, 09:15 PM
I would have thought Hillman learned last year that Dejesus is a better leadoff hitter. :facepalm:

Mandrew
03-29-2010, 02:37 AM
Awesome. Callaspo would become the world's worst number 3 hitter.

Cooper
03-29-2010, 10:22 PM
Hold the phone....Callaspo is injured!

Cooper
04-02-2010, 07:29 PM
As Trey Hillman goes into his third season as the Royals' manager, his history is two fourth-place finishes in the American League Central. His first club improved six games to 75 victories in 2008. But last year, the Royals dropped to 65 wins to tie Cleveland in the standings, 21 1/2 games behind champion Minnesota.

The offseason emphasis was improving the club's defense and speed. We talked with Hillman toward the end of Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz.

Opening Day 2010
Opening countdown
Opening Day starters
Club Q&As
Season preview
Division analysis
30 Clubs in 30 Days
Organization preview
10 prospects to watch

Opening Day links
• Probable pitchers
• Schedule | Tickets
• Watch on MLB.TV

MLB.com: What was the most satisfying development of Spring Training?

Hillman: The focus and intensity and desire that I see on these guys' faces to want to win baseball games.

MLB.com: In Spring Training, what is your most difficult task as a manager?

Hillman: Trying to make the right decisions on the pitching staff because that's what it starts with. You've got to have quality pitching and get the guys slotted right depending on how the schedule falls at the first of the season with the days off. We've got one on the second day and one on the 15th and you've got to get them slotted right to maximize your best pitchers. And you've got to try to determine, as much as you can, how your bullpen matchups are going to go.

MLB.com: What did Zack Greinke's great year mean to Kansas City baseball?

Hillman: I think it put 'em back on the map. We didn't put ourselves on the map as a team collectively in having a 97-loss season but Zack Greinke brought a lot of quality attention back to a franchise that has not had that for too many years.

MLB.com: Can Zack possibly repeat that 2009 season?

Hillman: I'll tell you, if he even comes close to it, it would be outstanding. But my gut tells me with his drive and his ability level, he's just going to continue to strive to get better and better. He's worked on things every day. I think he can get better and he has the desire to be better.

MLB.com: How much better will the defense be this year?

SHAPING UP THE SCHEDULE
Early schedule
Are the Detroit Tigers better than the club that took Minnesota to the wire last season? The Royals will find out early because six of their first nine games are against the Tigers, starting with the home opener on April 5 at Kauffman Stadium. In between are three home games against the tough Boston Red Sox.

The first road trip includes a stop at Minnesota's new ballpark, Target Field, on April 16-17-18. The Royals probably won't miss the Metrodome where they were 90-113 from 1982-2008. Although they might miss the dome's warmth in April. The Royals were just 6-12 against the Twins last year and they meet them six times in April.

Interleague Play
There's only one part of the I-70 Series being played this year and it's in Kansas City on June 25-27, when the St. Louis Cardinals come in for the weekend. There's no series in St. Louis this year. Instead the Royals will visit Cincinnati, Atlanta and, for the first time, Washington. The other KC visitors will be the Colorado Rockies on May 21-23 and the Houston Astros on June 15-17.

Key home dates:
• April 9-11, Boston Red Sox . The first weekend series at home features the Red Sox, always a big draw, in their only visit.
• June 25-27, St. Louis Cardinals . KC product Albert Pujols and the World Series rival of 25 years ago always pack Kauffman Stadium.
• Aug. 12--15, New York Yankees . The heated feeling in this rivalry dates to the playoff showdowns of 1976-77-78 and 1980 (the good one).

Hillman: It should be much better. If it's not, provided we stay healthy, it's going to be more of a matter of intensity and focus rather than athletic skill to perform the right things.

MLB.com: Do you consider Billy Butler the most important cog in the lineup?

Hillman: Offensively, he will become the important cog along with [Rick] Ankiel and [Jose] Guillen driving in runs in the middle. But if those other guys are not doing their job in front of and behind Billy, he doesn't get pitches to hit. So it's all predicated off the strength of the whole group.

MLB.com: With the added speed, will the Royals be running more and stealing more bases this year?

Hillman: I certainly hope so. Right now, I've got three green-light candidates. I like the improved speed of Yuniesky Betancourt and Mike Aviles is running better than he ran two years ago. With the addition of [Scott] Podsednik and on any date [Willie] Bloomquist may be in the lineup and of [Chris] Getz, I would predict at the end of the year we'd have more stolen bases than we've had at least in my time here.

MLB.com: Will Joakim Soria be put in a lot of two-inning save situations this year or will you try to avoid that?

Hillman: Preferably not. But not having a crystal ball, if we're in need of a big win and I'm sure that it's not putting him in harm's way, I'm not saying that it won't be done. But the objective will be to stay away from five and six outs. I'm still not concerned, as efficient as he is, in asking him to get four outs. But there's a big difference, for me, between four and six.

MLB.com: This is your third year as manager, do you feel any particular pressure to win?

Hillman: Anymore so than I have in past years? No. I know where a lot of people might go with that. I'm wired the same way as I've always been. I don't do this to lose, I never have. It's do the best you can as long as you can. I have a strong desire to be here for a long time but, you know what, at the end of the day all I really care about is that I know it's going to click here. I'm not so selfish that I have to be here -- I desire to be here -- but I don't have to be here. The bottom line is I just want it to happen.

MLB.com: Can the team win the division this year?

Hillman: To be determined, but that's our expectation and that's our intent. And that's how we're preparing.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.