NEW YORK -- On Wednesday night, left-hander Will Smith became just the second Royals pitcher to make his Major League debut with a starting assignment in the daunting environment of Yankee Stadium. The first was little-remembered right-hander Eduardo Villacis, who started at the original Yankee Stadium on May 1, 2004, making a spot start in place of injured lefty Darrell May.
Villacis was a surprise choice, plucked from Double-A Wichita with a 2-0 record, a 2.41 ERA and a knack for throwing strikes. He had pitched just five games above the Class A level in his career.
"Coming up to the Major Leagues is the dream of every baseball player, so I'm going to enjoy it and have fun with it," the 24-year-old product of Venezuela said with confidence after his arrival. "I'm expecting the best of myself."
A crowd of 54,103 roared when Derek Jeter welcomed Villacis with a line-drive single. The righty's debut was brief, 3 1/3 innings in which he gave up five runs -- three on a Ruben Sierra homer run -- in a 12-4 loss. Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams also got hits off Villacis, who said he tried to blot out the famous names.
"When I saw all of the players come up to the plate, I just wanted to get them out and forgot about who they were and just threw the ball," Villacis said after the game. "I never felt afraid or anything."
Villacis gave up six hits and four walks, threw a wild pitch and made an error on a pickoff attempt. Sent back to Wichita after the game, Villacis later that month was claimed off waivers by the White Sox. By 2006, his pro career was over.
And that one bright, sunny afternoon at Yankee Stadium marked the only Major League game he played.
Falu driven to make promotion last
NEW YORK -- When you're in your 10th Minor League season and finally get called up to the Majors, it's imperative to make a good first impression.
"For sure, I want to stay here; I don't want to go back," Royals rookie Irving Falu said. "That's why I'm working every day on how to play the game and stay here."
Falu entered Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees with a .400 average (14-for-35) and having hit safely in his first nine games to tie a club record. With starting second baseman Chris Getz on the disabled list due to a left ribcage injury, Falu is being platooned with Johnny Giavotella at second, which Falu considers his best position.
From Puerto Rico, Falu was drafted out of Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa, in the 21st round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. He's been in the Royals organization since, never electing for free agency.
"They know me; they know I can play everywhere," Falu said of the Royals. "If I go with another team, maybe I'd have to start all over. Here I'm comfortable."
After all those years in the Minors, didn't Falu sometimes think of giving it up and going home?
"Yeah, sometimes I thought about it," Falu said. "Right now I'm 28; next month I'll be 29. But I thought all the time that I'd make it -- one day I knew I'd make it. With what team, I didn't know, but hopefully here with Kansas City, because this was my team my whole career."
So when Triple-A Omaha manager Mike Jirschele told Falu earlier this month that he was going to Kansas City, the second baseman leaped on his roommate, fellow infielder Tony Abreu, in sheer joy.
"I jumped on Abreu," Falu said. "I was happy, like a little kid getting candy."
Falu is here, and he's confident he'll stay for one reason.
"I know I can play this game," Falu said.
Royals skip Adcock, but only once
NEW YORK -- Right-hander Nate Adcock is being bypassed in the current turn of the Royals' starting rotation because of Thursday's off-day. But he'll return to start against the Indians on Monday afternoon at Cleveland.
Adcock made his first start of the season on Sunday and went five innings, giving up one run, in a 2-0 loss to the D-backs.
Will Smith will start on Tuesday night and Bruce Chen will go on Wednesday at Cleveland, Royals manager Ned Yost said.
When the Royals leave for this weekend's three-game series at Baltimore, infielder Yuniesky Betancourt will head for Springdale, Ark., to join the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals and continue his rehab from a sprained right ankle.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.