Rookie catcher Brayan Peña was certain his teammates were playing a joke on him Thursday when informed he would be batting cleanup for the first time in his big-league career.
By the time it happened again in Friday’s series opener against the A’s, Peña had acquired the nickname “Cuatro” -- four in English.
How long will it last?
“Until we get (Mark) Teahen a little more productive,” manager Trey Hillman said. “He had a good night (Thursday), but typically he’s more productive in the five or six slot."
Never miss a local story.
With José Guillen sidelined by a sprained right knee and Mike Jacobs yet to show the anticipated production, Hillman had no obvious alternatives when Teahen plunged into a four-for-29 slump.
Enter Peña with his .325 average and .365 on-base percentage.
“I’m just looking for the best guy to put a good at-bat together,” Hillman said. “Maybe not a guy who is going to thump for you right there. With the potential production of one through three, leaving Brayan there, I think he’ll continue to give us good at-bats.”
Peña went two for four and fueled two multi-run innings in Thursday’s 8-2 victory over the Mariners. That earned another night in the four hole for Cuatro.
“He continues, both left-handed and right-handed, to give you good at-bats,” Hillman said. “That’s why he’s hitting over .300. Obviously, I’d love to see him maintain that pace when he is getting to play (more regularly).”
Peña went one for five with a double in Friday’s loss.
The Royals reached an agreement with left-hander Crawford Simmons, their 14th-round pick, by shelling out a slot-busting $450,000 signing bonus. Baseball America reports bonus is the highest this year for a player taken after the sixth round.
Simmons, 18, had signed with Georgia Tech after graduating from Statesboro (Ga.) High School. He is 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds with reports of an average fastball but potential plus pitches in his curve and changeup.
The bonus can be spread over four years under rules covering two-sport players. Simmons is also a golfer. One club official said Simmons projected as a likely second- or third-round talent in three years when he would be eligible for the draft as a college junior.
The Royals have yet to sign any of their top-three picks: pitcher Aaron Crow, catcher Wil Myers and pitcher Chris Dwyer. The club’s other 19 picks through the 23rd round are now under contract.
Club officials decline to confirm reports that Myers and Dwyer have reached agreements in principal. Those agreements are believed to be $2 million for Myers, a high school player chosen in the third round; and $1.5 million for Dwyer, a college left-hander taken in the fourth round.
The Royals lost their second-round pick to Arizona as compensation for signing free-agent reliever Juan Cruz.
The deadline for reaching agreements with Myers and Dwyer is Aug. 17. The Royals have until a week before the 2010 draft to negotiate with Crow, the 12th overall pick, because he was pitching for an independent league team when selected.
The A’s plan to recall right-hander Clayton Mortensen from Class AAA Sacramento to start tonight’s game. They will make a corresponding roster move later today.
Mortensen, 24, was part of the return the A’s extracted last month in the trade that sent outfielder Matt Holliday to St. Louis. Mortensen was the 36th overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Lefty Brett Anderson, who had been scheduled to start tonight, is being pushed back to Sunday’s series finale.
Mortensen is 7-6 with a 4.11 in 19 starts this season for Sacramento and Class AAA Memphis. He made one appearance this season for the Cardinals, when he allowed two earned runs and five hits in three innings on June 29 against the Giants.
Treat for troops
Tonight’s game between the Royals and A’s is being around the world through a collaborative effort between the American Forces Network and Fox Sports Kansas City. The effort is in conjunction with the annual Salute to Uniformed Heroes at Kauffman Stadium.
“There are a lot of kids out there,” manager Trey Hillman said, “without dads and some of them without moms at home because they’re out there serving the world and serving the county.”
FSKC plans to show a live satellite link of the Missouri National Guard Agri-Business Development Team, which is currently deployed in Jalalabad in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.
Many of the Agri-Business Development Team’s 58 members are from western Missouri. They plan to watch the game live at 3 a.m. in Jalalabad.
Meche to Omaha
Gil Meche is scheduled for 80-90 pitches tonight in a rehab assignment for Class AAA Omaha against Las Vegas. If all goes well, he should rejoin the rotation at some point next week on the upcoming road trip.
Meche threw 67 pitches Monday for Omaha in his first live action since July 11, when muscle spasms in his lower left back forced him to exit a start in Boston after 3 2/3 innings.
•Guillen apparently won’t require surgery on his injured right knee after undergoing a second-opinion evaluation. A final decision isn’t expected for roughly another week. Guillen is recovering in the Dominican Republic with plans to return next week to Kansas City for treatment.
•Reliever Kyle Farnsworth will test his strained right groin again today in a bullpen workout. If no complications arise, he will then depart on a minor-league rehab assignment.
A’s release Giambi
Oakland released first baseman/DH Jason Giambi prior to the start of the weekend series. A five-time All-Star, Giambi has been sidelined since July 20 by a strained right quadriceps muscle.
Giambi, 38, struggled this season after returning to Oakland following seven seasons with the Yankees. He was batting just .193 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 83 games prior to his injury.
The Royals won’t miss him. Giambi batted .328 in 113 career games against the Royals with 30 homers, 99 RBIs and a .455 on-base percentage and a .638 slugging percentage. His average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are his highest totals against any American League opponent.
Lefty Mike Montgomery allowed just one run and five hits in seven innings Thursday as Class A Wilmington won its 11th straight game with a 5-1 victory at Potomac.
Montgomery, 20, was the 36th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He has allowed four runs in 16 innings in three starts for the Blue Rocks since his promotion from Class A Burlington. He has a 2.19 ERA overall this season in 15 starts.
It was 26 years ago today -- Aug. 8, 1983 -- that a crowd of 42.039 watched the Royals split a double-header against the Milwaukee Brewers at then-Royals Stadium. That remains the largest regular-season crowd to watch a home game in franchise history.
Pat Sheridan and John Wathan each had three hits in helping the Royals win the opener 5-4. The Brewers, behind lefty starter Bob McClure, gained a split with an 8-5 victory in the second game.
•Former head groundskeeper George Toma occupied the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat. Toma served as the Royals’ groundskeeper until 1997 and held the same role with the Chiefs until 1991.
•The first 20,000 fans through the gates for tonight’s game receive a Frank White Hall of Fame figurine.
•David DeJesus’ triple in the fourth inning was his seventh of the season. That matches his total from last season and leaves him two shy of his career-high nine in 2007.
To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his news updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.