A Season On The Brink? Royals Show Promise; Growing Pains At The Same Time

April 14, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; The benches clear after Kansas City Royals batter Mike Moustakas (not pictured) gets hit by a pitch against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

Kansas City fell 11-9 to the Cleveland Indians in extra innings on Saturday night, however the game showed the collective toughness of a young squad trying to break through.

Borrowing a title from the 1986 John Feinstein book, it appears we are in for what at times may be frustrating season with the 2012 Kansas City Royals. However even in the most recent loss to the Cleveland Indians, one can see the culture is still changing and will only continue to evolve.

I had the pleasure Saturday evening of taking in my first Royals game of the season in person. While it was mildly disappointing to see the announced crowd be just 21,788, it also should be noted that Sporting Kansas City had a home match against Real Salt Lake, and the weather forecast likely kept many folks at home as well.

Jonathan Sanchez was wildly ineffective, lasting just 2.2 innings and throwing just 38 of his 75 pitches for strikes out. His WHIP for the outing was 3.76 as he allowed six hits while issuing four walks.

The first time through for the rotation, fans started to dream big for the present. The first two home games of the season has quickly cooled such thoughts for the time being. Granted this pitching rotation still may be better than some recent Kansas City staffs, but there is still a long way to go. In a best case scenario, this group would be able to do just enough to allow the offense to carry the mail to a victory. However this group is what it is, as for all the good outings this rotation has, there will be a good share that are like that of the past two games.

Pitching depth has to be something Kansas City looks at throughout the year and more importantly during the next off season. For any chance to compete, the starting pitching staff needs to be reworked. It's been an ongoing issue with the Royals for several years and is currently the elephant in the room.

As for other pitching notes from the game, the Kauffman Stadium gun had Kelvin Herrera listed at 102 miles per hour during his time in the sixth inning. While the radar gun at The K is likely inaccurate, it was great to see the velocity.

Though he allowed four earned runs, Tim Collins had a sharp curve going at times on Saturday nights and it was nice to see Jonathan Broxton bounce back with a scoreless inning after his debacle in Oakland.

Moving to the offensive players, I don't know if I've ever seen a player lose confidence with their glove as quickly as Jarrod Dyson. It took Dyson roughly 30 hours to look so uncomfortable in the outfield that he was sent back down to the minors, and reliever Louis Coleman was recalled from AAA Omaha. The thing is, I don't know if we ever saw that from Dyson at any level previously.

On the plus side, how much longer will people continue to say Mike Moustakas isn't very good defensively? Sure he may not ever been among the elite, but for the second day in a row Moustakas had a gold glove type play on defense.

Along with that, it looks like Moose is becoming more comfortable at the plate as well. He was two-for-three at the plate and looked focus and ready to go.

Of course Moose was focused after being plunked by Jeanmar Gomez in a retaliation move for Sanchez hitting Shin-Soo Choo. It was great to see Moose stick up for himself and his teammate's come to his side. For a player who usually starts his season slow with the bat, this could be the wake-up that needed. Though the Royals lost, we know the beaning woke the Royals up after trailing 5-0 at the time.

Following that up, Indians reliever Chris Perez tweeted the following last evening:

Huge team win tonight; time for a sweep to tell the Royals it's not "Our Time", it's #TribeTime. P.S. You hit us, we hit you. Period.

Mr. Perez, you have just opened up a can of worms. The players on the Royals roster are obviously aware of it, and it will become bulletin board material. Jeff Francoeur was on Baseball Tonight early on Sunday and referenced the Indian players tweeting after the game and basically eluded to it being smack talk and the Royals would be ready on Sunday.

In a lot of ways the Indians and Royals are both young, talented teams fighting for their scraps in the American League Central. Obviously the Detroit Tigers are the power in the division, but with Cleveland and Kansas City mirroring each other in so many ways, Saturday night could have sparked a rivalry for many years to come. If you remember, the Indians took exception to Melky Cabrera standing at the plate to admire a home run on the road last season as well.

In the end this may not be the season we all hoped, much like that '86 Indiana basketball team who bowed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament to lesser Cleveland State squad. But you know what they did the next season? They won the NCAA Tournament.

With the right moves and growing passion from the young Royals, we are still in-line for many great things in the future.

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