After a relaxing off-day Monday, the Rays are back in action today to begin a quite-anticipated series versus the Kansas City Royals. Not only are they 13-10, just half a game back in the AL Central, but they feature former Rays James Shields and Wade Davis (and also Elliot Johnson). I talked with Mike Vamosi of the Royals site Kings of Kauffman about the Royals time that the Rays will be seeing, and to see my answers to Mike about the Rays, you can head here.
Robbie Knopf: Last year, the Royals went 6-15 in April and everyone knew they were dead in the water from the start. This year, Kansas City is 13-q-, down in the AL Central by just half a game, and has certainly looked formidable so far. How exciting has it been to watch the Royals start like this and do you think this team is good enough to push for a postseason berth?
Mike Vamosi: As a life long Royals fan I’ve been tried to remain cautiously optimistic with this start and who they’ve beat. But you’re right compared to previous starts to the season. Being above .500 after this month is encouraging for sure especially given how much this fan base wants to win.
If the first month is any indication I think that Kansas City can push Detroit for the AL Central title which hopefully means the record is good enough to be in the wildcard conversation. The Royals have the pitching, it’s just can the offense come around to support that staff during the course of the season. Something that should help the team is that near midseason, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy will be back from the DL which will only help. And if they are still in the race I’d hope the front office will address the offense if it’s still scuffling along.
RK: James Shields has come into Kansas City and certainly been ace-caliber so far, managing a 3.09 ERA and a 21-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 35 IP, but he’s from alone is the Royals’ top four starters all have ERAs 3.20 or below. What are your thoughts on that? Is Shields a real ace? Has Ervin Santana returned to form? Can Davis continue to be effective in his return to the rotation?
MV: Shields has been an ace both on and off the field which I think has changed the clubhouse so far this season. Seeing the comments from Royals players and fans it’s been worth it so far. Other guys in the rotation have been equally as good which has resulted in the team’s record so far in 2013. Santana has been a pleasant surprise as he’s piling up the innings while not allowing opponents to hit the long ball on him. One of the local radio guys in KC has called Davis “Wildcard” but for the most part I think most fans have liked what they’ve especially the gem in Atlanta. Jeremy Guthrie also needs to be given credit as he’s been beyond surprising since coming over last summer.
RK: Much has been made of the development of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas as a major reason why the Royals were going to improve significantly this season. But to begin the year, the two still have not hit a home run. How worried are you about them moving forward? Do you think they will right themselves by the time the season is through?
MV: I’d be lying if I told you the two are disappointing right now on offense in terms of power and production, but for the most part they continue to play good defense to keep them on the field. If the next few weeks and months they are at the same point, something has to be done even if that’s sending them to Omaha like the organization did for Alex Gordon and even Billy Butler. Long-term both should be good to go but in the present both are HUGE cogs for where this team wants to go.
RK: Plenty of people laughed when the Royals decided to tender Luke Hochevar a contract, but he’s been excellent to begin the season out of the bullpen, managing a 1.23 ERA and a 10-3 K-BB in 7.1 IP. Bruce Chen is another starter-turned-reliever who has been money, not allowing a run in 7.2 innings, striking out 8 while walking none. Hochevar and Chen won’t keep this up, but do you think they can be effective parts of the Royals bullpen?
MV: With Dayton Moore going out and revamping the rotation having Chen and Hoch in the ‘pen has worked out so far. I think both have deceiving stats given how little they’ve been needed with the starters being so good so far this year. I’ve got more trust in Chen during the season as he has been better statistically when he enters at the start of an inning over coming in with inheriting runners. We’ll see but the team is no doubt better with each coming in out of the bullpen.
MV: Frenchy moves around the outfield like he’s got a piano on his back if the ball isn’t hit to him. Any other team would’ve got rid of him but GMDM (Dayton Moore) signed him out of high school in Atlanta so I think it’s sentimental. Yost also seems to love penciling him in over putting Jarrod Dyson in center and Lorenzo Cain in right to see if that work. But yes, each mistake brings up Wil Myers name but if he’s in the OF the rotation takes a hit as you’d still have Shields so yeah…
Thanks to Mike for answering my questions. Should be an exciting series between the Rays and Royals and we’ll have to see who will come out on top.