- Denny Bautista can pitch. No, he didn't have the prettiest line ever yesterday (5 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, all earned). But these were the New York Yankees, in the Bronx, getting every close call from the umps as they always do, and he still walked just one man and struck out seven. Over the long haul, that kind of ratio will serve him well. More importantly, he didn't look to be intimidated at all, a wonderful sign for the future.
- The team shows signs of being decent offensively. Not great, and maybe not even good, but decent. They averaged five runs per game against the Yankees, and while it's true that New York's pitching is simply not that good, it's also true that the Royals played most of the series without either of their two best hitters, David DeJesus or Mike Sweeney. Two of the new additions, Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek, are playing as advertised, and I also like what I've seen from Esteban German. Get everyone healthy and in the lineup at the same time, and I'll be somewhat hopeful that they won't embarrass themselves this year.
- Elmer Dessens is special. That guy is a lock-down middle reliever, and Lord knows he's needed in the Royals' bullpen given the way most of those guys have looked. He looks to be a nice signing by Allard Baird this off-season.
Now for the anti-highlights.
- There are at least two, and possibly as many as four, pitchers on this staff who do not belong in the major leagues. The two I know about are Jimmy Gobble and Steve Stemle, as I've written before, but at least we know that there are options in the minors who can replace Stemle (Joel Peralta, Steve Andrade), and Gobble will soon be gone once Mark Redman is ready to go. That appears to be scheduled for this weekend, when Redman returns, Jeremy Affeldt moves to the pen, and Gobble goes bye-bye. The other two who might not belong are Luke Hudson, who I'm giving a pass to since he looked good before the Yankees series, and Joe Mays, who is having a really hard time pitching with that giant fork sticking out of his back. Please, Runelvys, narrow down that wide keister of yours and give the team an excuse to let Mays wander off into the sunset.
- Speaking of Affeldt, he's got to be just about the most disappointing Royals prospect in recent memory. I've seen his stuff, and there's just no way he should be getting tattooed as badly as he has the past couple of years. Sure, sure, the Royals have played yo-yo with his role, and I'm sure that didn't help. But he wanted to be a starter this year, the club gave him every opportunity to do just that, he broke camp in the rotation and promptly bombed. Just a terrible waste of talent to this point in his career.
- Mike Sweeney and David DeJesus are the most fragile S.O.B.'s in baseball. I swear, at this point I think all it would take is a menacing look to keep Mike Sweeney on the bench, and DeJesus seems to have no concept of how to take care of himself at all. At his age and experience level, not to mention his injury history, you'd think the last thing that would sideline him is a hamstring pull, since he should be spending about 45 solid minutes before each game loosening up his easily-damaged muscles. I can't help but wonder if he's the latest victim of the Royals suspect training staff.
- Buddy Bell isn't a big outside-the-box thinker. His stated reason for pulling Elmer Dessens out of Tuesday's game was that Dessens is a two-inning pitcher, period. He had pitched two innings already, ergo he had to be removed. It's as if he has no idea or interest in the fact that Dessens threw a total of just 19 pitches in those two innings, and as a former starter could have easily gone out for the eighth inning. Maddening.
All in all, we got definite confirmation that the Royals are nowhere near the Yankees' class, the front office mistakes in putting together the bullpen are terribly, terribly real, the injuries to the rotation are showing the club's overall lack of pitching depth, the manager isn't a real deep thinker and no amount of veteran presence from the Sanders' and Grudzielanek's of the world can make this team competitive.
In other words, same old Royals.