The KC Royals went 4-2 last week to pull within 3.5 games of first place Chicago in the American League Central. The Royals continue their road trip to Minnesota for three games beginning tonight.
In Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Royals saw two players make their Major League debuts. First it was Whit Merrifield, who was called up for the very first time (Christian Colon was optioned to Triple-A and Jose Martinez was designated for assignment). Merrifield started in left field in the second game and collected his first hit, a single off Boston ace David Price (2-for-8 with three strikeouts so far). Then right-hander Alec Mills, called up as the 26th man for the DH, entered in relief in the 8th inning of Game 2. He allowed a run on a hit and two walks over 2/3 of an inning.
On Saturday, infielder Cheslor Cuthbert was optioned to Triple-A as starting third baseman Mike Moustakas returned from the DL. Moose went 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in his return.
Triple-A Omaha went 3-3 last week and are 24-18 overall. The Storm Chasers return home for eight games beginning tonight against Albuquerque.
I mentioned above that Colon was optioned to Triple-A. In two games (one at shortstop and one at second base), he went 1-for-9 with a run scored and two strikeouts. Cuthbert has yet to return.
Carlos Diaz made his season debut on Thursday (he had yet to play above rookie ball since signing in 2013). Playing both second base and shortstop, he has gone 2-for-9 with a run scored. Fellow infielder Dusty Coleman was placed on the DL.
Mike Minor made his first rehab start with the Storm Chasers on Friday night in Reno (his third overall). He allowed four runs on five hits and three walks over five innings. Minor struck out five, throwing 82 pitches.
Double-A NW Arkansas went 3-4 last week and are 20-22 overall. The Naturals finish up their homestand this afternoon before heading out on the road for six games beginning Tuesday night in San Antonio. Pedro Fernandez was scratched from his first Double-A start on Friday with shoulder soreness. We will see if he is okay to make a start this week.
The Naturals added five pitchers, four of which made their NWA debuts. Kyle Zimmer made his first start with NWA this season, but lasted just one inning on Tuesday due to a shoulder issue. He is supposedly day-to-day as the Royals have no idea if his shoulder will EVER hold up.
Lefty Tim Hill, promoted from Wilmington, made his Double-A debut on Thursday night, allowing two hits in a scoreless inning of relief. Hill took the loss on Sunday, allowing a two-run homer in the 11th inning and an inherited run in the ninth.
Right-hander Evan Beal, dropped from Omaha (he has now been at three levels this season), pitched on Friday night, allowing three hits over three scoreless innings of relief. Friday night also brought the return of lefty Kyle Bartsch to the Royals organization after being released by San Diego earlier in the week (he was traded back in 2014 to the Padres for Reymond Fuentes). Bartsch allowed three hits and a walk over one inning of work.
Right-hander Ashton Goudeau, promoted from Wilmington, made his Double-A debut on Saturday night, throwing two scoreless innings of relief. He allowed two hits.
High-A Wilmington went 3-4 last week and are 13-29 overall (15.5 games back in the Carolina League Northern Division). The Blue Rocks finish up their homestand tonight before heading out on the road for seven games beginning Tuesday night against first place Lynchburg.
Right-hander Jacob Bodner, promoted from Lexington, made his Blue Rocks debut on Monday. In two relief appearances (4.2 innings), he has allowed an unearned run on three hits and four walks while striking out seven. Lefty Luis Rico made his season debut on Sunday after a broken hand forced him to miss spring training. He allowed one hit, walked one, and hit one over 2.1 scoreless innings of relief. Rico struck out four.
Right-hander Corey Ray was promoted from Lexington and will make his High-A debut on Tuesday night in the start against the Hillcats.
Low-A Lexington went 3-4 last week and are 18-25 overall (9.5 games back in the South Atlantic League Southern Division). The Legends begin a three-game homestand tonight against Kannapolis. Gerson Garabito will make his season debut in the start.
Right-hander Matt Ditman made his season debut on Tuesday and took the loss. In two appearances with the Legends, he allowed two runs on four hits (a homer) and one walk while striking out two. Fellow righty Gabriel Cramer also made his debut on Tuesday night. In two games with the Legends, Cramer allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks over four innings. He struck out five.
Now to the awards…
Royals Hitter of the Week: Right fielder Paulo Orlando has been on FIRE. He went 9-for-14 with two doubles, a triple, and a home run. Orlando scored three runs and drove in seven.
Royals Pitcher of the Week: Dillon Gee made the start over the weekend in Chicago and picked up the victory on Friday night. He allowed a run on four hits and a walk over five innings while striking out three.
Minor League Hitter of the Week: Blue Rocks left fielder Alfredo Escalera has found a home in the leadoff spot, a spot he feels most comfortable in. “…since I got moved back to 2 and 1 I was like, “this is more like the old days.” It definitely feels good and I’ve hit there before so I’m more comfortable,” Escalera said following Wednesday afternoon’s game.
Last week, Escalera went 11-for-26 (.423) with a double and two runs scored. He drove in three runs and walked twice compared to four strikeouts. Oh and he is in the midst of a six-game hitting streak.
Minor League Starter of the Week: I did not mention him above, but right-hander Christian Binford earned a much-deserved promotion to Omaha. He made two starts for the Storm Chasers, going 1-0. Over 14 innings, he allowed three runs (two earned) on 12 hits (one homer), a hit batter, and two walks. Binford struck out 11.
Minor League Reliever of the Week: It is rare this time of year to see a reliever pitch three times in a week, but that is exactly what lefty Eric Stout did last week for NWA. In five scoreless innings, he allowed just three hits. Stout struck out five.