RC Interview with Dean Taylor

RC's Bryan Cisler recently sat down with Dean Taylor, Royals VP of Baseball Operations and Assistant General Manager, to discuss some of the pressing issues facing the club as it heads into 2007. What's the status of Zack Greinke? Will Justin Huber have a shot at making the team out of spring training? Which free agents are the Royals targeting? Dean Taylor answers those questions and more inside.

Royals Corner: What is the possibility of Zack Grienke making the big league team out of spring training next year?

Dean Taylor: There is a possibility that Zack starts here next year. Obviously one of our primary needs is pitching, both starting and in the bullpen. Zack came up at the end of last year and proved to be effective at the major league level, and he will compete for a spot, although it remains to be seen if he starts or relieves. That will obviously be affected by what we do this winter in terms of getting pitchers, but hopefully Zack can move forward as a pitcher in 2007 and beyond.

RC: What are the plans for Luke Hochevar for 2007?

DT: The possibility still remains he can pitch here in KC in 2007, but as you know, he had a little bit of arm tenderness in the Arizona Fall League and we have decided to shut him down and let him rest. It shouldn't be a big deal with his arm, and we expect to come to spring training 100 percent healthy. He is somebody who we think can compete for a spot next year, and he is somebody we don't expect to be in the bullpen, obviously. In terms of a time frame, it remains to be seen how he progresses throughout the year – he spent the better part of last year off. He still needs some outings, some innings, and hopefully he can be somebody we can look toward, if not on opening day, then at some point throughout the season.

RC: Who are some minor league pitchers in the Royals' system that not a lot of people know about but might surprise some people?

DT: In terms of organization itself, we have a lefty named Neal Musser who pitched very well in the Arizona Fall League, and many people in the organization are talking about him. He might come onto the scene sooner than people think. Kenny Ray is a pitcher we claimed off waivers from the Braves, and we think he can contribute right away in the bullpen. So there are a couple guys right there – not household names, but they could impact our bullpen in 2007.

RC: How is Mark Teahen coming along with his rehab, and will he be ready for spring training?

DT: He's doing very well, right on schedule. We are fortunate we had the surgery when he did, so it gave him a couple more weeks, and Teahen should be perfectly well when we report to spring training in mid February.

RC: Have the Royals finalized what they want to do with Alex Gordon and Mark Teahen yet?

DT: Nothing is finalized yet, but we have discussed with Mark about the idea of moving to the outfield, and I believe he made that comment public. He is athletic, and he has a strong throwing arm that we have all seen from third base. We first obviously have to wait until Gordon is ready for the big leagues, and whether that is opening day or later in the season remains to be seen, but when he arrives, we will probably make the move of Teahen to the outfield. It's a good problem to have – a lot of clubs in baseball would like to have both Teahen and Gordon playing third base.

RC: What do the Royals expect from Angel Berroa this year?

DT: Hopefully we can expect a better year for Angel. We have spoken to him since the end of the season, and he is aware for the Royals to be successful in 2007, we need more production out of the shortstop position than what we got in 2006. Angel is taking this more seriously – he hired a personal trainer, and is staying in Kansas City.

RC: We have a crowded outfield, but what is the likelihood of Justin Huber making the club?

DT: It's a possibility, but like you mentioned, we have a lot of prospects in the outfield in front of him such as Teahen, Butler, Gathright, Costa, Lubanski and Mitch Maier. Huber is still a player we like, and hopefully part of the future, but him making the club next year remains to be seen.

RC: Again with the crowded outfield, have the Royals thought of maybe trading some outfielders to a different team to get back some pitching?

DT: Absolutely, we need pitching and we are ready to deal an offensive player if we need to. We are dealing from a position of strength in the outfield, and I think something you are suggesting might come to pass. We will just have to wait and see.

RC: What are the chances of Billy Butler coming to the big leagues this year?

DT: He's still not polished defensively, but he is making progress, and nobody questions his hitting ability. Some people in the organization think offensively he could be better than Alex Gordon. Could it be this year? Possibly, but we will wait and see. If Sweeney had an injury, we could use Butler as a DH. Butler is very highly thought of in the organization, and there's no interest in trading him at all.

RC: What are some of the Royals' goals in the free agency period?

DT: Obviously, like we have been talking about, pitching is a huge need. We would like to pick up a few middle of the rotation guys, and maybe some veteran guys in the bullpen. That's not to say we wouldn't try to improve ourselves offensively – we are always looking to upgrade our club, but pitching is the main focus.

RC: Is there any chance that the Royals might go after a big free agent?

DT: I can't say any names right now, but we have definitely targeted some guys who are some household everyday players. But as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Just because we are interested in them doesn't mean they are interested in the Kansas City Royals, but hopefully we can get a few arms to the staff.

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Bryan Cisler is a host for Friday Night Lights, which airs Friday nights at 6:15pm on KJHK 90.7FM. Todd Gold also contributed to this interview.

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