Notes: Bell considering batting order
Top four spots seem easy, but rest has plenty of options
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Whenever manager Buddy Bell jots down potential lineups, he reaches the cleanup spot and hits a little snag."I played with a few lineups this morning," Bell said on Sunday. "I had [David] DeJesus leading off, then [Mark] Grudzielanek, [Mark] Teahen and [Mike] Sweeney. That's about as far as I got. After that, there are a lot of things we can do. I'm just not sure what the best lineup is right now." Bell has the remainder of Spring Training, which includes a 30-game Cactus League schedule that begins Thursday afternoon in Tempe against the Los Angeles Angels, to figure it out. By the time the Royals break camp on March 29 for a two-game exhibition series in Houston against the Astros, the batting order for the regular-season opener against the Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium on April 2 will have been settled. Bell said he likes to alternate right- and left-handed batters, which can force opposing managers to use their bullpen more often than they would like. It would be nice to have a couple of switch-hitters at his disposal, but infielder Andres Blanco is the only player in camp that bats from both sides of the plate. And he isn't a starter. Bell has an opportunity to select a military lineup, going left-right-left-right from one-through-seven in the regular-season opener. Rookie third baseman Alex Gordon bats from the left side, as does first baseman/outfielder Ross Gload. One of them could bat fifth behind Sweeney, and the other hit seventh. Bell could opt to start incumbent Ryan Shealy at first base in the opener against projected Red Sox starter Curt Schilling, a right-hander. If Gordon proves during Spring Training that he belongs in the Opening Day lineup, Bell might decide to bat him sixth or seventh to reduce some of the pressure. The No. 5 hole is regarded as an RBI spot and Gordon might benefit better, in the long run, to bat lower in the lineup at the beginning of the season. That leaves left fielder Emil Brown, either John Buck or Jason LaRue at catcher and shortstop Angel Berroa to complete the first-game lineup. Play ball: The last few days leading up to the first Cactus League game usually seem to be the longest, especially for young players eager to play some games and make an impression. "We have talked about that every spring the past few years," Bell said. "These guys spend their winters getting in shape, as opposed to starting in January and finishing here. Most of the guys are ready to [play] right now, and our biggest concern right now is slowing them down. "We have to make sure they realize we are opening the season on April 2, not March 2." Teahen is among the group of youngsters chomping at the bit to play a game.
"I'm looking forward to the first game because it has been extra long for me," he said. "I missed the last three weeks of the season, so I'm ready to get out there and get some competition."Teahen, who led the Royals in home runs last season with 18, underwent surgery on Sept. 8 to clean up a partially torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff on his right [throwing] shoulder. He also faces the challenge of learning a new position, moving from third base to the outfield. Veteran second baseman Grudzielanek, on the other hand, is in no hurry to play games. "There's a process you have to get through in Spring Training, and you just bite your tongue the first week and-a half and do the work until games start. "For the guys who have been around for awhile, they know that it's a long process and understand how important it is to pace yourself. I'm not ready for a game yet, but I have plenty of time to get ready [for the regular-season opener]. More than a number: The uniform number (55) pitcher Gil Meche wears on the back of his Royals jersey has some family history. Meche said he was given that number by the Seattle Mariners midway through the 1999 season when he was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma. He thought nothing of it at the time. But when he returned home following the season, he told his parents about the number and his mom, Linda, went to a place in the house where she had saved numerous items from their son's young life. <'p /> "She brought out this zip-lock bag with a tiny, red and white baseball jersey that I had worn as a newborn," he recalled. "She took it out of the bag, held it up and the number was '55'. Then she brought out another zip-lock bag, a little bigger, and it was my first beach blanket. "There was a pitcher on the mound with the number '55' on his back. It was kind of weird, actually," he said. "She still has them put away in the same zip-lock bags. I might have to get it, frame it and put it alongside the jersey I have now." The number became even more noteworthy last December when Meche signed a five-year, $55 million contract with the Royals. Derby day: Billy Butler hit three home runs during his five-swing second round to capture top honors in a Home Run Derby held prior to Sunday's Legends Game at Surprise Stadium. Butler finished with four home runs, two more than runnerup Russ McGinnis, who played for the Royals in 1995 and Rangers in '92.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.