Giavotella gets another shot at full-time duty
Second baseman promoted from Omaha with Royals seeking offensive help
MINNEAPOLIS -- Johnny Giavotella was one of the first players in the visitors' clubhouse on Sunday morning. He was ready to go and manager Ned Yost's posted lineup had him at second base and batting ninth for the Royals against the Twins.
A third chance to make his mark -- and earn some permanency -- as Kansas City's second baseman had arrived to Giavotella. He was recalled on Saturday when right fielder Jeff Francoeur was designated for assignment.
Giavotella's average for Triple-A Omaha was up to .287 after a 10-game hitting streak in which he was 17-for-36 (.472). In two previous seasons with Omaha, he hit .338 and .323. In two previous turns with KC, however, Giavotella's averages were a modest .247 (2011) and .238 (2012).
"I was feeling good at the plate down in Omaha. Just getting back to what I do best, staying in the middle of the field, working the count and having competitive at-bats," Giavotella said.
Oddly enough, Giavotella had to get a crash course back at second base at Omaha before being recalled because, in order to improve his versatility, he's been playing at third base and left field.
"He's been moving around," Yost said. "That's why [Chris] Getz hasn't played, because like three or four days ago, they said put Johnny back at second."
Getz, optioned to Omaha last Saturday, reported last week. Also, prospect Christian Colon has been getting the most playing time at second base for the Storm Chasers.
"I haven't been playing too much the last month or so. I've been playing a lot of third base and left field, mixing in some second base every once in a while," Giavotella said. "But I think playing third base just makes second base a lot easier. It's a lot harder position to play third in my opinion. It's something I'm not used to. The ball comes a lot harder so you really have to have confidence in your hands, stay soft and relaxed and try not to panic."
When Getz was optioned, Yost intended to give Elliot Johnson the majority of time at second base with Miguel Tejada playing occasionally. However, neither one of them hit well enough.
"I needed some offense," Yost said.
Johnson, who hit well in a recent series at Tampa Bay, was stuck in a 0-for-19 slide going into Sunday's series finale at Target Field.
"If I wanted to play every day, I needed to be most consistent at the plate. That's just the way it is," Johnson said. "What am I going to do? Complain? I have nobody to blame but myself. They gave me an opportunity and the only real emotion is gratitude that I had an opportunity to do it."
Johnson, however, has been excellent on defense which, past history has shown, is not Giavotella's strong suit. So, Yost expects to use Johnson at second as a late-inning defensive replacement.
"I imagine with Elliot's defensive prowess, we'll be able to defend for Johnny," Yost said. "That keeps Elliot playing every day if we have the lead. It gives me more options off the bench."
Tejada will be used as a right-handed pinch-hitter for a left-handed-leaning lineup and occasionally spell Mike Moustakas at third base.
Royals value playing time with Francoeur
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeff Francoeur's teammates regretted the veteran right fielder's departure after 2 1/2 seasons with the Royals.
"I spent the last three years with him. He's like a brother," said designated hitter Billy Butler. "You feel like you lost your brother, but he'll land on his feet somewhere. He was one of the best guys I've played with. Same thing as Mitch Maier. It was tough to see Mitch go, it's tough to see Frenchy go."
Mitch Maier, a former Royals outfielder, is now with Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston organization.
"Anything that happened on the field, I'd talk with Frenchy or talk with Gordo [Alex Gordon] about it," Butler added. "He's just one of the best guys you'll meet in baseball. He's always having a good day. He always made my day better. It's awesome to have him as a friend."
Francoeur was a team leader who often encouraged young players such as third baseman Mike Moustakas.
"Frenchy's a great teammate and a great player. It's always tough to see one of your friends, one of your teammates leave but, at the end of the day, hopefully it turns out to be a great deal for him and he ends up somewhere great," Moustakas said. "He's got a lot of talent and he's going to be fine wherever he goes."
Francoeur was losing playing time to up-and-coming outfielders David Lough and Jarrod Dyson.
"Friends come and go in this game, but it's part of the business," left fielder Gordon said. "I think in his case, it's probably better that he gets another shot somewhere else because he wasn't playing here. He's not really a bench guy, he needs to be a guy that's playing a lot of the time. And carrying five outfielders is not easy and you kind of had the feeling something might happen. It's not easy to swallow, but it's probably for the best.
"Even when he wasn't playing, you never heard a peep from him which really showed his true character. We all knew he was a great guy, but that proved it even more."
Pitcher Luke Hochevar counted Francoeur as one of his best friends in the game.
"The game is just crazy sometimes and you just can't predict any of it, but he'll definitely be missed -- his personality, the way he went about his business. He was definitely a pro's pro," Hochevar said.
"He came up on a club that was a veteran club with [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz and [Greg] Maddux and Chipper [Jones], and those guys so he kind of carried that persona about him. He was a real pro and respected the game, and played the game right. He was a good leader for a lot of young guys."
Brett still deciding on role as hitting coach
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Hall of Famer George Brett took over as the Royals' interim hitting coach, he said he'd give it a try for at least a month and then talk it over with general manager Dayton Moore.
Well, Sunday was the one-month anniversary of that day.
"Really," Brett said. "Well, I'll probably meet with Dayton when I get home."
So has Brett made a decision on continuing?
One-word answer: "No."
Is he having fun in the job?
"When we win," he said. "When you score runs and we win, it's always fun."
So, Brett's future as a hitting coach is still uncertain.
"You never know," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.