RC was in Omaha on Tuesday, where we saw the O-Royals take on the Albuquerque Isotopes in the rubber match of a rain-shortened three-game series. Omaha ultimately lost the game, 3-2, in 10 innings. Inside, read our notes and brief reports on several of the O-Royals' players.
RC spoke with Mike Aviles after the game. The 29-year-old infielder has been out of action since being struck on the left elbow by a pitch on Saturday. Sporting a large bruise, Aviles reported that he was ready to play on Tuesday but was withheld from the lineup for one more day. As for his other wing, Aviles told us his right arm is "pretty much" back to full strength. He underwent Tommy John surgery last season but has made a remarkably fast recovery.
Catcher Edwin Bellorin is back with the club after missing 10 days while on leave tending to family matters. The O-Royals cleared space on the roster by shipping Jeff Howell back to NW Arkansas.
The newest O-Royal, Jai Miller, was scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon, and once activated he will be put into action quickly. The 25-year-old will likely see considerable time in center field, which David Lough has been handling while Jarrod Dyson recovers from a back injury.
RC last saw Irving Falu in 2008, but we got a good look at the 26-year-old infielder on Tuesday. Falu started at shortstop for the O-Royals and batted leadoff. At the plate, he finished the game 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored. Falu's hit was a hard first inning single to center off of the ‘Topes' Josh Towers, a big league veteran. With the O-Royals trailing by two in the bottom of the 10th inning, Falu came up with one out and was determined to get on base. He worked an outstanding nine-pitch at bat against Albuquerque closer Luis Ayala and drew a walk, later coming around to score on a Scott Thorman RBI single.
In the field, Falu had three balls hit to him, and he handled all three flawlessly. In the fourth inning, he made one of the best plays we've seen in awhile. Albuquerque's Nick Green hit a shot headed to the hole on the left side, but Falu snared it with a full extension backhanded dive. From his knees, Falu then turned and threw a strike to first baseman Kila Ka'aihue, nailing Green at first by half a step.
Falu turned in a defensive gem on Tuesday
A switch hitter, Falu is a contact hitter with good plate discipline, and he rarely strikes out. On the season, he is now hitting .291/.349/.342 in 79 at bats. He doesn't have much power, but runs well and has no trouble reaching the gaps. Defensively, Falu is a versatile player (he can play SS, 2B, 3B, and even OF) who plays a legitimate shortstop. He's got good hands and range and a strong enough arm to play anywhere. He's close to Kansas City, and it's not hard to envision him filling the same role on a big league ballclub that Willie Bloomquist currently serves for the Royals.
Chris Getz made his Omaha rehab debut, playing second base and batting second in the O-Royals' lineup. He went 2-for-4 in the game and showed no signs of any lingering problems with his oblique. His first hit was a fifth inning infield single hit weakly up the middle, but in the eighth, he lined a hard single to center. Having played a full nine innings, Getz gave way to Marc Maddox, who took over as a defensive replacement in the tenth.
Kila Ka'aihue was 2-for-5 with a pair of singles. Albuquerque employed an extreme shift every time the big Hawaiian came to the plate, moving the shortstop over to the second base position while placing the second baseman roughly 30 feet from the first baseman. Ka'aihue's sixth inning single found the hole between the first and second baseman, simply because he hit the ball so hard. He went the opposite way with his single in the eighth inning, another hard ground ball.
In the bottom of the tenth, Ka'aihue had an opportunity to be the hero, but he came up short. With the tying run on third base and one out, he fell behind 0-2 and popped out to shortstop Chin-lung Hu.
David Lough missed an identical opportunity in the eighth. With men on the corners and one out, the 24-year-old outfielder grounded into an inning-ending double play. Prior to that at bat, he'd had a nice day at the plate, launching hard line drive singles off Towers in his first two at bats. In the sixth, he laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. He finished the day 2-for-4. On the season, Lough is now hitting .244/.289/.346 in 78 at bats, but he's still adjusting to the more advanced pitching at the Triple-A level.
Lough lines one of his two singles on the day
Tuesday was the first time in a couple of years that we had the opportunity to see Lough play in center field, and he was busy, making five putouts. He looked very comfortable out there, as he got good jumps, his routes were clean, and he flagged down a pair of balls in deep right-center. It was just a one-game look, but he looked fine in center.
Federico Castaneda made his Triple-A debut, and he picked up where he left off in NW Arkansas. The 27-year-old righthander tossed a perfect inning in relief, and between Double-A and Omaha, he has yet to allow a run in 10.2 innings of work. We didn't get a great look at Castaneda on Tuesday, but we can report that his fastball was sitting between 90-93 mph. He doesn't have much experience in the American minor leagues, but the Royals surely must be interested in a pitcher who has issued just one walk this season while fanning 12 batters. Indeed, the club could be eyeing Castaneda as a candidate for the big league bullpen at some point this season, particularly if he keeps throwing strikes.
We had heard that Blake Wood was now running his fastball up to 97 mph, but we had never seen it for ourselves – until Tuesday. The big righthander pitched the final two frames for the O-Royals, and although he got the loss after a shaky tenth, his performance in the ninth inning was spectacular. Wood entered the game throwing gas, his fastball sitting at 95-96 mph. He threw 12 pitches in the ninth – nine for strikes – while retiring the Isotopes in order on a groundout and two strikeouts. He fanned Prentice Redman on a dandy 87 mph slider, and then he blew away Russ Mitchell with a 97 mph heater.
Things fell apart for Wood in the tenth, however, after he issued a leadoff walk. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second, and Wood then walked Nick Green to put men on first and second with one out. Albuquerque then called for a double steal, and the lead runner scored when catcher Cody Clark threw the ball into left field, with Green advancing to third. A weak groundout to first then scored Green, and Wood ended the inning by coaxing another ground out to second.
Wood could be in Kansas City soon
It was a tough loss for Wood, but with the exception of the two walks, he pitched well. The runs were the first he's surrendered since April 10th, and he currently owns a 3.27 ERA with seven strikeouts and four walks in 11.0 innings pitched. Wood is on the Royals' 40-man roster, and if the big league club's bullpen woes continue, he could be among the next couple of pitchers summoned to Kansas City.