CLEVELAND | A chance visit to Operation Breakthrough in January touched a soft spot in first baseman Mike Jacobs before he took his first swing in a Royals’ uniform.
“During FanFest,” he said, “that was one of the trips they put me on. I went over there and, having two small ones as it is now, just seeing all of the kids over there who were either without parents or just in bad situationsto see what they’re doing for them over there is something pretty special.”
The organization seeks to aid children living in poverty from its headquarters near 31st and Troost. Jacobs looked for a way to help not just financially but also in publicizing the organization.
His solution was to donate $500 for every homer he hits.
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That makes $2,000 so far _ and Jacobs is well ahead of last year’s pace when he hit a career-high 32 homers for the Florida Marlins.
“I wanted to be able to just do something,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve been blessed to be able to play baseball and make some money. You go over there and see what it’s all about, and you want to help out.
“There are ladies who have been working there for 20-something years, who had kids in there who were four or five months old who have grown up and now have kids themselves.”
The disappointment Sunday of seeing a late lead slip away in a loss to Texas overshadowed an encouraging development for the Royals’ struggling offense.
David DeJesus had his first three-hit game of the season.
“It felt better,” he admitted after raising his average to .234. “I was more relaxed especially on my last one. It was against a lefty, and I kind of just hands-ed it up the middle. I’ve just got to keep staying positive.”
That’s easier said than done when mired in an early slump and seeing the grim numbers shining out from the scoreboard during every at-bat. Encouraging words from hitting coach Kevin Seitzer only help so much.
“Seitz tells me all of the time, `You know you can hit,’” DeJesus said. “It’s one of those things. You know you’ve just got to stay with it and get your work in but, when it’s early, you press a little bit. Any player would.
“It’s like, `Dang, where are the hits?’”
The Royals exited the weekend ranked 12th in runs scored among the 14 American League teams. A productive DeJesus could be a major boost.
“I’ve been putting the bat on the ball before (Sunday),” he said, “but just not the way I want to do it. So this was definitely a positive step.”
Nearly ready to return
Outfielder José Guillen expects to step immediately into the lineup Saturday when he becomes eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list.
“What do you think?” he parried. “You’ve watched me swing (in batting practice). No, I’ll tell you: I’ll be ready.”
A partially torn right hip flexor forced Guillen to the DL, over his objections, after he went two for 12 in the first three games of the season.
Manager Trey Hillman is more hesitant in targeting Guillen’s return.
“I’m not sure how that is going to work yet,” Hillman said. “His rehab has gone well. He’s feeling better. We’ll see.”
It’s getting harder for the Royals to keep right-hander Luke Hochevar at Class AAA Omaha after his latest performance: one run and five hits in eight innings Monday in a 7-2 victory over Albuquerque.
Hochevar improved to 3-0 through three starts and lowered his ERA to 1.89. He also threw 72 strikes in 107 pitches.
What about Banny?
Right-hander Brian Bannister pitched just two innings _ two shutout innings _ Sunday in a pre-determined decision in Omaha’s 3-0 victory over Albuquerque. Such limits often precede a trade or a recall to the big leagues, but the Royals have yet to make any such announcement.
For now, Bannister is listed as Omaha’s projected starter Friday at Oklahoma City. He has pitched nine shutout innings in his last two starts after getting roughed up in his first outing for five runs and nine hits in four innings.
It was 26 years ago today --April 20, 1983 -- that George Brett hit three home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs in an 8-7 victory over Detroit at Tiger Stadium.