RC's Spring Training Notes: March 23

RC is in Surprise, and we caught Monday afternoon's A-ball games versus the Texas Rangers. The two squads split, as the Low-A (Burlington) club won while the High-A (Wilmington) squad fell. Inside are RC's notes from Monday's games.

Low-A Notes:

Bryan Casey got the start for the Low-A team, and he threw fairly well, despite surrendering a couple of home runs. His fastball had some movement, and he was showing at times a pretty good breaking ball. Casey missed the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the 2005 draft-and-follow rebounded in 2008 and was named the Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year.

Casey's fastball topped out in the low-90s on Monday

The starters were: Sean McCauley (C), Eric Hosmer (1B), Angel Franco (2B), Juan Rivera (SS), Antonio Jimenez (3B), Nick Van Stratten (RF), Patrick Norris (CF), and Carlo Testa (LF). In the 6th inning, a new group of players came in: Jose Bonilla (C), David Wood (1B), Fernando Garcia (2B), J.D. Alfaro (SS), Jason Morales (3B), Julio Aparicio (RF), Geulin Beltre (CF), and Shawn Griffin (LF). James Thompson, Ed Cegarra, and Justin Garcia all pitched in relief.

The biggest surprise of the afternoon was Beltre's appearance in center. Beltre, as you know, was signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic for $230,000 in 2007, one of the highest international bonuses in Royals history. He has been hampered by a sore elbow, however, since shortly after joining the organization. Royals Director of Minor League Operations Scott Sharp told RC that Beltre has been playing center for about 10 days, and that he's looked very good thus far. The Royals thought the move would take some pressure off the elbow, and so far Beltre has responded well to the new assignment.

Beltre is giving center field a shot

Eric Hosmer went 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs. He struck out in his first at bat, but in the third inning, he stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and shot a two-run single back up the middle. The first rounder's legend seems to be growing, as people in camp were still buzzing about a home run he hit on Sunday, which reportedly traveled over the batter's eye in dead center field on one of the back fields in Surprise.

Hosmer had the big hit in the Royals' four-run third inning

High-A Notes:

The starters for the High-A squad were: Kyle Crist (SP), Matt Morizio (C), Kyle Martin (1B), Johnny Giavotella (2B), Jeff Bianchi (SS), Mike Moustakas (3B), Wilson Tucker (RF), Allen Caldwell (CF), Alex Llanos (LF). We didn't take note of the subs, but Zach Peterson, Ben Swaggerty, and Carlos Fortuna also pitched in the game.

There were a couple of interesting positional notes. First, Kyle Martin's presence at first base was interesting because it could reconcile the conflict between the Royals' over-abundance of middle infielders and their desire to get Martin at least 300 at bats this year. Martin has played just six games as a professional at first base, all last year in Burlington. He looked reasonably comfortable there on Monday, and Jason Taylor's 50-game suspension figures to provide an opening at Wilmington, or at least a rotating 1B/DH platoon with Clint Robinson.

Playing first base could get Kyle Martin into the lineup more often in Wilmington

Additionally, Wilson Tucker's presence was good to see. Tucker left the Bees early last season to return home, and we had heard very little about whether or not he would come back. The outfielder out of Belmont University had a stellar 2007 debut with the Burlington Royals, but he struggled quite a bit in the 42 games he played with the Bees last year prior to his departure.

Tucker hit just .184/.204/.313 in 147 at bats for the Bees in 2008

As for the game, there was note much to note from the offense. The Rangers' pitching kept the High-A bats at bay most of the day.

Defensively, Allen Caldwell turned in a gem early in the game, chasing down a line drive in the gap at the warning track. Jeff Bianchi, on the other hand, had a rough game. He committed two separate fielding errors on routine plays while we were watching, although in his defense, the infield looked pretty hard and the hops didn't do him any favors.

Zach Peterson was one of the day's casualties. He was pitching pretty well when he was struck on the foot by a line drive. The Royals didn't think it was anything serious, but they removed him from the game as a precautionary measure.

Before he had to leave the game, Peterson was pitching well

Other Notes:

When the Royals selected Fernando Cruz as a 17-year-old in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, the club anticipated that he would fill out and get much stronger as he matures, and perhaps even develop plus power. The former certainly seems to be the case, as Cruz looks like he has added at least 15 pounds of muscle (by our guess) to his frame since we last saw him in August. Roving instructor Tony Tijerina, who managed Cruz last year in Burlington (N.C.), told us that he has indeed gotten stronger, and he said that the switch-hitting third baseman has also made a lot of progress at the plate, particularly from the left side.

Cruz is certainly filling out as expected

We learned that outfielder Hilton Richardson is out of action right now with some shoulder soreness and fatigue. The Royals recently changed the outfielder's throwing motion to add some quickness, and the new motion is causing the soreness in some previously under-utilized muscles. It doesn't sound like it's anything serious.

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