In the past two weeks, the Burlington Royals have seen a lot of changes. Three-quarters of their infield and the two, three and four spots in their order have been shipped elsewhere in Kansas City’s organization. But, while Burlington misses the production of SS Ramon Torres (Low-A Lexington), 3B Mauricio Ramos (Rookie-level Idaho Falls) and 1B Sam Bates (High-A Wilmington), their absence has allowed a pair of Royals infielders to see more reps and appear more comfortable at the plate.
When Torres left for the South Atlantic League before a series against Danville on August 6, Andrew Ayers saw an immediate increase in his playing time. After spending most of his season splitting time at second base with Kevin Kuntz, Ayers found himself in the lineup every day at shortstop. The assurance of being in the lineup had a positive impact on Ayers’ bat.
Ayers hit safely in his first five games since Torres’ departure with a double and four RBI. Perhaps thrown out of his rhythm by a postponed game in Pulaski and the return of fellow-middle infielder Lewis Urena from Idaho Falls, Ayers’ hitting streak came to an end against the Mariners. But, even with Urena on the roster, Ayers is still seeing regular time at either short or second. That consistency has helped the Cal State Sacramento product manufacture his best month of the season, hitting .245 in August with three doubles and seven RBI.
The other Royals infielder who has benefitted from an everyday lineup spot is Bobby Brown. In the early weeks of the season, Brown and Bates split time between first base and designated hitter. When one left-handed power hitter was playing first, the other was the DH. In July, however, Brown slumped (.169/.269/.339)and Bates surged (.316/.405/.632). As Bates climbed to the league lead in home runs (10) and slugging percentage (.538), Brown saw his playing time slip. But, on August 16, Kansas City promoted Bates to the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Brown was given another opportunity.
The sample size is small, just two games, but already Brown is showing signs of comfort at the plate. He is 2-for-7 with three RBI since Bates was called up and is putting good swings on the ball. On Sunday night in Kingsport, one of Brown’s batted outs was a hard line drive to center field and he later showed good situational prowess with a sacrifice fly. The added playing time should prove beneficial in the long run for a guy who has hit 61 points better when he plays first (.208) versus when he is tabbed as the DH (.147).
When Burlington said goodbye to Torres, Ramos and Bates, it said goodbye to a sizable percentage of its offense. Those three men combined for a .291 average, 13 home runs, 76 RBI, 36 doubles and four triples. Before game time on August 19 against the Mets, the trio of former Burlington sluggers accounted for 41.8 percent of the team’s run production. Torres, Ramos and Bates were clearly vital to Burlington’s offense, but let’s take a quick look at how they have done since moving on.
Torres: 12 games, .216 AVG, 3 doubles, 2 RBI for Low-A Lexington
Ramos: 6 games, .231 AVG, 1 double, 1 triple, 2 RBI for Rookie-level Idaho Falls
Bates: 3 games, .250 AVG (2-for-8), 2 doubles, 1 RBI for High-A Wilmington
In addition to losing its middle of the order to other teams in the Royals’ organization, Burlington saw its wins-leader on the mound move on to Idaho Falls. Luis Santos was 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in seven starts for Burlington. He also pitched one of the Appalachian League’s three complete game shutouts this season when he shut down the Twins in July. Here are his numbers since joining Idaho Falls.
Santos: 1 start, 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
The last 10 days in Burlington, NC have been relatively standard. The Royals rebounded from a tough road trip at Bluefield with a 4-2 homestand against Pulaski and Bristol, then split a doubleheader at Danville and had their Saturday night game postponed. Again, nothing spectacular or mind-blowing. But, elsewhere in the Royals’ organization, former residents of Burlington Athletic Stadium were making headlines and highlight reels.
July 17: On the heels of Salvador Perez making history as the first Burlington Royal to play in the MLB All-Star Game, 2011 B-Royal Lane Adams took his next step toward Kauffman Stadium. The 23-year old outfielder earned his first promotion to Double-A by hitting .276 with High-A Wilmington. Adams led the Blue Rocks with 23 doubles and also contributed seven homers with 39 RBI.
The promotion also has a geographic benefit for Adams. Arvest Ballpark, the home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, is only two hours and fifteen minutes from Adams’ hometown of Talihina, OK. That makes Northwest Arkansas the closest team to Adams’ home in the entire Kansas City Royals’ organization. The next closest stop is five hours and 28 minutes away at One Royal Way in Kansas City, MO.
July 23-24: Tuesday was awfully kind to Brian Fletcher and the Naturals. Fletcher, a member of the 2010 B-Royals, hit a pair of home runs against the Arkansas Travelers. But, Northwest Arkansas still trailed, 8-7, heading into the ninth. So, Manager Brian Poldberg called on a pinch hitter to lead off the ninth. Orlando Calixte, the number eight prospect on the Royals’ farm, hit a solo home run to knot the score and send the game into extra innings.
But, the teams could not play their extra frames on Tuesday night. After Calixte’s dramatics in the ninth, the game was suspended and play resumed on Wednesday in the top of the 10th. The game remained tied until the bottom of the 11th, when Fletcher stepped up with the winning run on third and two outs. Fletcher only needed a single, but he belted his third home run of the game to give the Naturals a 10-8 walk-off win.
July 24-27: The last week, as a whole, has been pretty good for 2007 Burlington Royal David Lough. The Kansas City right fielder had a hit in six straight games coming into Saturday and has played a key role in the Royals’ five-game winning streak. But, certain games have been particularly exceptional for the rookie.
We will start on Thursday, when Lough’s speed helped Kansas City edge the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals and O’s were tied, 3-3, when Lough singled to begin the ninth. He led off first with one out and Alcides Escobar drilled a high fly ball to deep left center field. Orioles’ left fielder Nate McLouth raced back to the wall and leaped, but the ball hit off the wall and bounced away from him. Lough raced around the bases, the relay throw came home, but Lough was just too fast. He easily beat the throw to give Kansas City a walk-off win on Escobar’s double.
Lough’s next big offensive contribution came on Friday, when he went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBI in the opening game against the White Sox. The right fielder also played an important role in the ninth inning, when Kansas City tacked on some important insurance runs. The Royals only led by one run, but scored three runs in the inning, including one on a sacrifice fly by Lough.
For all the offense Lough showed over the last week, his defense was the key on Sunday in Chicago. Kansas City had scored just one run off White Sox left-hander Chris Sale on a sixth-inning double by Lorenzo Cain. Fortunately for the Royals, Wade Davis had been more than equal to the task. He tossed 7.1 scoreless innings on four hits and Kansas City took a 1-0 lead into the ninth.
Greg Holland was in search of his 26th save of the season, but ran into trouble. Alex Rios singled and Adam Dunn walked, then a fielders’ choice at second put runners on the corners with one out. The Sox had the tying run on third and the winning run on first with Jeff Keppinger at the plate. Keppinger took Holland’s 1-0 offering and slapped a sinking line drive to right. But, Lough charged in, laid out and made a sprawling catch for the second out. Lough popped up and fired home, but Rios was not tagging from third base. The runner expected the ball to fall in front of the Royals’ right fielder, but Lough’s diving catch and Rios’ baserunning mistake saved the game for Kansas City. Holland struck out pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie to end the game and secure a 1-0 Royals’ win.
Salvador Perez stood on the third base dugout steps at New York’s Citi Field: His catcher’s gear strapped on, glove on his left hand and his mask tucked under his left arm. He waited with everyone else as Mariano Rivera threw his final warm-up pitch and emerged from the right field visitor’s bullpen. The 13-time All-Star and five time World Series champion stood alone on the mound. His American League teammates, National League opponents and 45,186 appreciative fans applauded. Then, finally, Perez joined him.
Even if you were paying attention, you might have missed Perez jogging toward home plate. But, the former Burlington Royals catcher was the first to join Rivera on the field and the last to catch Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader in an All-Star Game.
The tandem worked well together, despite their evident differences in experience. Perez, 23, was born in Venezuela the same year Rivera signed with the Yankees out of Panama. And while Rivera was pitching in his final All-Star Game, Perez was appearing in his first. But, the pair combined to retire the N.L. in order in the eighth inning on two ground outs and a line out to Royals left fielder Alex Gordon.
Perez may not have been the focal point of history on Tuesday night in New York, but he made some of his own. When he was announced to the All-Star team earlier this month, Perez became the first Burlington Royal to make an All-Star roster. Numerous former Burlington players had been named to All-Star teams when the North Carolina city was home to a Cleveland Indians affiliate. C.C. Sabathia, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon are among the notable former Burlington Indians who became MLB All-Stars. But, Perez was the first All-Star to come out of Burlington since the Royals took over in 2007.
The catcher got his first taste of All-Star action in the bottom of the seventh when he entered defensively for Joe Mauer. In that seventh, Perez caught his Kansas City teammate Greg Holland and Toronto relievers Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar, allowing no runs and striking out a pair.
After working a scoreless seventh, Perez was scheduled to lead-off the eighth against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Perez did not waste any time. He swung at the first offering from Kimbrel, a 98 MPH fastball, and singled down the right field line for his first All-Star hit. He later came home to score an insurance run for the A.L. on a ground-rule double by Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.
After Perez and Rivera worked a perfect eighth, the Royals’ catcher remained in the game to catch Rangers’ closer Joe Nathan. The right-hander gave up one hit, but struck out two and secured the save and the win for the American League. Perez’s first All-Star game came to a close with a hit, a run, three scoreless innings behind the plate and a win. But, most memorably, it featured a notable footnote on the careers of a former Burlington Royal and a future Hall of Fame closer.
After playing a grand total of four innings in the last four days thanks to severe rain, it looks like we will finally have Burlington Royals baseball on Sunday. The past four days have featured three postponements, one suspended game and even a helicopter hovering over Burlington Athletic Stadium to dry the drenched playing surface. In short, we have had just about everything, except baseball.
But, after endless frustration and fruitless efforts by a diligent Royals staff to combat Mother Nature, the Royals will entertain the Kingsport Mets on Sunday at noon… In Winston-Salem, NC. Burlington will play the Mets at the all-turf surface of Wake Forest Baseball Park to ensure that the teams complete the first nine-inning game of the day. Then, the teams hope to return to Burlington Athletic Stadium for a nightcap at 6 p.m.
In case you have not been following the Royals in July, you have not missed much. Burlington has played in six of the first 13 days of the month. One of those days, the Royals played four innings before the rain descended upon Burlington Athletic Stadium harder than it had all season.
Roughly a week ago, Burlington manager Tommy Shields said he was not going to worry about things he could not control (i.e. the weather). Still, it must be frustrating when your week has been this devoid of baseball. Luckily the wait is over.
First pitch for Sunday’s first game in Winston-Salem is scheduled for noon. Coverage on BurlingtonRoyals.com starts with the Best Western Pregame show at 11:30 a.m. You can listen to the game here.
On Friday night against the Rays, Bobby Brown entered as a defensive replacement for Sam Bates in the sixth, with the Royals leading 4-2 in the second game of a doubleheader. The Royals gave up the lead in the top of the seventh, but Brown came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh and hit a solo home run over the right field wall to win the game for Burlington.
Brown’s walk-off home run came in his first plate appearance of the game, but it was not the only time he has made a difference coming off the bench. The first baseman/designated hitter has only come off the bench three times for Burlington this year. In those games, Brown has hit a game-tying home run, a walk-off home run and a go-ahead triple.
On June 22 against the Pulaski Mariners, Brown also entered defensively for Bates in the sixth. In his first at-bat of that game, Brown hit a solo home run to tie the game in the sixth. His next time up, he hit a triple to give the Royals a 2-1 lead. Burlington won by that score, with Brown driving in both runs in his only two at-bats.
Brown will get the start at first base for Burlington tonight (Saturday, July 6) against Princeton, but his numbers off the bench are notable. He is 3-for-4 with two home runs, a triple and three RBI.
The game may have been shortened to seven innings because of a doubleheader, but 2012 Burlington Royal Daniel Stumpf pitched a no-hitter yesterday for the Low-A Lexington Legends. Stumpf struck out three, as Lexington defeated the Greenville Drive, 1-0. The left-hander’s only baserunners came on a second-inning walk and a fourth-inning error.
Stumpf’s no-hitter was the second by a Kansas City minor leaguer this week after Brooks Pounders tossed one for Double-A Northwest Arkansas last Thursday. Pounders never played for Burlington, but his catcher did. Juan Graterol played for the B-Royals in 2007, Burlington’s inaugural year as a Royals’ affiliate. Incidentally, Stumpf’s catcher last night was his 2012 Burlington teammate, Cameron Gallagher.
But, Stumpf, Gallagher and Graterol are not the only former B-Royals to be part of a no-hitter battery. On July 20, 2011, 2008 Burlington Royal Kelvin Herrera was one of two pitchers to throw a combined no-hitter for Northwest Arkansas. Will Smith (not a Burlington alum) pitched the first seven innings and Herrera cleaned up the final six batters in order. Smith and Herrera were caught that day by another 2008 B-Royal, Salvador Perez.
Roughly two months before Herrera helped out in a combined no-hitter in Double-A, one of his 2008 B-Royals teammates was involved in one in Low-A. Pitching for the Kane County Cougars, a Midwest League club that was formerly a Kansas City affiliate, Sugar Ray Marimon hurled 7.2 hitless frames before Chas Byrne (not a Burlington alum) finished the job. Marimon struck out seven and walked two, as he and Byrne blanked the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
The Royals’ road game on Wednesday against the Danville Braves was postponed due to rain. It will be made up in Danville as part of a doubleheader on July 26, beginning at 5 p.m. Burlington’s next game is on Independence Day against the Princeton Rays. First pitch is at 7 p.m. You can listen to the game live HERE.
Kansas City: The Royals lost to the Twins last night, by a score of 6-2. Salvador Perez (2008) went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
**Wil Myers: The Rays’ right fielder went 2-for-5 last night in a 4-3 win over the Tigers.
Omaha: The Storm Chasers fell to the Iowa Cubs, 8-5. Buddy Baumann, who pitched in Burlington in 2009, made a relief appearance. Unfortunately, it did not go well for the left-hander. He gave up four runs in 1.1 innings.
Northwest Arkansas: The Naturals lost to Frisco, 10-7. Brian Fletcher (2010) went 2-for-5 in the game.
Wilmington: The Blue Rocks played a doubleheader (7 innings regulation for each game) against the Potomac Nationals thanks to a rain out the previous day. Former B-Royal Lane Adams (2011) hit a solo home run in game one, as Wilmington won, 2-0. The Blue Rocks lost game two, 6-5, but Kenny Swab (2011) went 2-for-3.
Lexington: The Legends and the Hagerstown Suns were suspended due to rain in the top of the fourth. The game will resume Sunday afternoon with Lexington leading 5-0 in the top of the fourth. Lexington has runners on second and third with two outs. Before the rain halted play, three 2012 B-Royals already have RBI. Mark Threlkeld and Kenny Diekroeger are each 1-for-2 with an RBI. Alex Hudak is 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Hudak has also stolen two bases in the game, including a double steal, in which Hudak took home. Terrance Gore (2012) stole a base as well. He is now tied for second in the South Atlantic League with 36 steals.
Usually on this blog, we spend our time talking about the current Burlington Royals. We focus on recent games and recurring trends. But, today we will start expanding.
Burlington became a Kansas City Royals affiliate in 2007. Since then, four men have graduated to the major leagues from the Royals’ Appalachian League club and many others are impacting teams at higher levels of the minor leagues. Beginning today, we will keep you up-to-date on B-Royals alumni from Low-A Lexington to Kansas City.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals feasted on Twins pitching, hitting four home runs to beat Minnesota, 9-3. Two former B-Royals were in the starting lineup: Catcher Salvador Perez (2008) and RF David Lough (2007). Lough went hitless in four trips to the plate, but Perez singled to finish 1-for-4.
Salvador Perez: Perez is beginning his first full season as the Royals’ regular starting catcher. Last year, he came up to the big club in late June and was more or less a regular starter from then on. He played in 76 games in 2012, finishing with a .301 average, 11 home runs and 39 RBI. The 2008 Burlington catcher has been the starter since opening day this season and is approaching his numbers from last year. While his power through 64 games in 2013 (4 HR) is not where it was last year, Perez has been productive (30 RBI) and consistent (.303 AVG) hitting in the middle of Kansas City’s order.
David Lough: Lough made his major league debut last September as a late-season call-up. He began 2013 where he began 2012, at Triple-A Omaha. But, the 2007 Burlington alum has been steadily in the majors since mid-May. In his first half-month in Kansas City this year, Lough hit .294 and he carried that into his first full big league month in June. Lough has hit .289 in June to give him a season average of .291. He has not had many RBI opportunities hitting largely in the bottom third of Manager Ned Yost’s order, but he has done a pretty good job getting on base with a .314 OBP.
**Wil Myers: The Burlington Royals have one current major leaguer who is no longer with Kansas City’s organization. Wil Myers, who played for the Appalachian League club in 2009, was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. Myers made his major league debut in a June 18 doubleheader at Boston’s Fenway Park and has adjusted nicely to the majors. In 11 games with the Rays, Myers has hit .289 with three home runs and 9 RBI.
Last night, Myers hit his third home run of the year in a 6-3 Rays loss to Detroit. Myers’ homer was a solo shot off Tigers starter Max Scherzer in the fifth inning. He also singled in the game and finished 2-for-4.
Omaha Storm Chasers: The Storm Chasers could not muster enough offense to beat the Iowa Cubs last night. Omaha finished with just six hits to Iowa’s 16 in a 5-1 loss. No former Burlington Royals played in last night’s game.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals: Northwest Arkansas beat the Midland RockHounds, 7-3, thanks in part to 2011 Burlington grad Andy Ferguson. The starting pitcher hurled six strong innings, holding the RockHounds to two runs on five hits. Ferguson did not factor in the decision, as the Naturals needed a late rally to earn a comeback win.
The Naturals overcame a one-run deficit with a five-run eighth inning and a 2010 Burlington alum had a big part in the comeback. Brian Fletcher led off the eighth with a sharp single and eventually came around to score the tying run. He was 1-for-3 in the game with a walk and two runs scored.
Wilmington Blue Rocks: Wilmington’s game against the Potomac Nationals was postponed due to rain last night. They will make up the game today, as part of a doubleheader.
Lexington Legends: Three members of last year’s Burlington Royals combined for a three-run ninth inning rally, as the Legends came from behind to beat Hagerstown, 3-2. Trailing 2-0 on the road, Mark Threlkeld hit a two-run home run to tie the game. Fred Ford followed up Threlkeld’s homer with a triple and Bubba Starling drove him in with a sacrifice fly to give Lexington its first lead of the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, another 2012 Burlington Royal came in for the save. Right-hander Mark Peterson walked one, but induced a game-ending double play to seal the win for the Legends.
Royals Wrap: Hope you enjoyed the first installment of the Burlington Royals alumni report. We’ll continue to keep you updated on former B-Royals as they climb the organizational ladder. This year’s installment of the Burlington Royals returns home tonight to start a three-game series against the Greeneville Astros. Burlington has dropped its last three games to fall to 5-4, but the Royals are still only one game behind Bluefield for first place in the east. First pitch tonight is at 7 p.m. Listen to the game HERE.
In the first three days of the Appalachian League season, no team has had more impressive pitching than the Burlington Royals. The Royals’ staff powered through the Mariners, finishing an opening series sweep with a minuscule ERA of 0.58.
Though it is early, Burlington pitchers lead the league in almost every major category. They have the best ERA by 42 points and the best WHIP at 0.71. The Royals staff also had a streak of 18 consecutive inning scoreless innings before giving up a run in the second inning on Saturday.
Those pitching numbers have been necessary for a Burlington team that has struggled to hit in key spots. Royals hitters stranded five runners in scoring position on Saturday night and 14 in total during the opening series*.
Luckily for the Royals, their pitching only surrendered 2 runs in 31 innings. Burlington also got a little offensive help from Bobby Brown in game 3 against the M’s. Brown homered to tie the game in the sixth and hit a triple to put the Royals on top in the eighth.
*The 14 runners left in scoring position statistic excludes the runners who were on base when the Royals won on a 13th-inning walk-off on opening night.
Mauricio Ramos and Alex Newman gave Burlington the bulk of its offense on Friday in a 4-0 win over Pulaski. Ramos scored twice and Newman drove in a pair, as each went 3-for-4. So, why does the headline of this post imply that the pair was both good AND lucky?
Ramos’ three hits were certainly not products of good fortune. He struck two solid singles up the middle and one through the left side on Friday. But, the Royals’ third baseman has seemingly been in the right place at the right time on the basepaths. In the first two games, Ramos has scored three of Burlington’s six runs. Two of those runs were scored on Mariners’ fielding errors. So, while part of Ramos’ production can be attributed to timely hitting behind him, his scoring prowess is also a byproduct of fortunate circumstance.
Luck aside, you cannot overlook Ramos’ heads-up baserunning to put himself in position to score. In the fourth inning of game two, he came home all the way from first on an error by the centerfielder. Ramos’ second-inning run in that game was also the result of sound, aggressive baserunning.With runners on first and third, Newman hit a dribbler up the third baseline. Ramos was not forced to go home with less than two outs, but he was decisive and broke for the plate immediately. He scored without contention from M’s pitcher Luiz Gohara, who fielded the ball and knew his only play was to first.
Newman’s 3-for-4 night is another example of both luck and skill, offensively. That RBI grounder along the third base chalkline was the first hit of the game for Newman, as he easily beat Gohara’s throw to first. In the eighth, Newman again did not square up the ball, but got an RBI single on a blooper to right field. But, before you write those hits off as luck alone, consider both plays again.
Though Newman hit a swinging bunt in the second, he put his head down and hustled down the first base line. He earned that infield single with his legs. The flare into right may not have been well-struck either, but Newman fought off a tough pitch to put the ball in play. Those two hits were, of course, not his only knocks on the evening. Newman also put good wood on a ball in the fourth, earning a hard-hit single up the middle. As mentioned earlier, Ramos scored from first on that play when the ball was misplayed in centerfield. So, Newman had a hand in driving in three of Burlington’s four runs, though he only received credit for two RBI because of the error.
Newman and Ramos’ Friday night performances may give a good indication of what the Royals need to do to succeed offensively. Burlington has only scored six runs over the first two games and two of those were unearned. The Royals have relied on quality pitching and defense to win their season openers. On the offensive end, singles, plate discipline and baserunning have helped Burlington scrap across runs. In short, small ball has supplemented the Royals’ pitching. It is likely going to take a combination of cerebral baseball, skill and luck that drive Burlington’s offense. Performances like those from Ramos and Newman on Friday are exactly what the Royals need.