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Royals notebook: Hochevar, Gordon retain warm memories of draft day

CHICAGO | It was three years ago on draft day that Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon was on the practice field in Lincoln, Neb., — the Huskers were preparing for a NCAA Super Regional matchup against Miami — when his brother stood in the stands, hollered and held up two fingers.

That’s how Gordon learned he had been picked by the Royals with the second overall pick in the 2005 draft.

“I wasn’t thinking about the draft as it was happening, really,” Gordon said. “I had a lot of other things to think about. Then my brother put two fingers in the air. It was surprising because I didn’t think I was going to get drafted by the Royals.

“I thought it was going to be Seattle (with the third pick). They were talking to me pretty heavily. When I learned it was Kansas City, I was pumped. I had a party that night with friends and family and celebrated.”

Major League Baseball held the first day of its annual first-year player draft Thursday in Orlando, Fla. The Royals used the third overall pick to select first baseman Eric Hosmer of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.

“It’s exciting,” pitcher Luke Hochevar recalled. “You’re in a situation where you know you’ve done everything you can to prepare and to prove yourself. When the day comes, it’s exciting to just sit back and let it happen.”

It happened twice for Hochevar.

Generally viewed as the top pitcher in the 2005 draft after a standout career at Tennessee, he slipped to the 40th overall pick, by the Dodgers, because of concerns over signability issues.

Those concerns proved valid. Hochevar and his agent, Scott Boras, never reached a deal with the Dodgers. Hochevar re-entered the draft in 2006, and the Royals chose him with the first overall pick.

“Awesome moment,” he said. “Everything goes through you mind in about five seconds. Kansas City, that’s the organization that I’m with now. It’s going to be awesome. How is their minor-league system? Where are their minor-league affiliates?

“After that, it’s just a circus. You have phone calls — I think I was on the phone all day after the draft.”

The Royals and Boras wrangled for two months before reaching agreement on a four-year deal for a guaranteed $5.3 million. Boras also represents Hosmer.

“It’s funny,” Hochevar said. “You get so fired up when you’re taken. Then it’s like, OK, just hang out. It’s business. A lot of stuff has to happen. So just relax. But it’s tough because you want to get out there and get going.

“You have to realize there is a business side to it. It’s not like when you sign up for your Little League team and you start tomorrow. There’s a lot of excitement, then some slow time. Then when you sign, the excitement starts all over again.”

BACK AT SHORT

Esteban German started at shortstop for the second consecutive game despite some defensive lapses in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the White Sox in 15 innings.

“Up and down,” Hillman said. “That may be something we need to re-address again. We’ll keep evaluating it as we go.”

German committed an error Wednesday by kicking a double-play grounder and later was slow to cover the base for a potential force out.

SILENT BATS

The Royals entered Thursday’s series finale averaging just 3.66 runs per game, which was not only the worst among all 30 teams but also put them well on pace to become only the eighth American League club since 1990 to average less than four runs a game.

The previous seven clubs averaged just 62 victories. None finished with more than 77 victories.

The less-than-super seven: 1991 Indians averaged 3.56 runs a game and finished 57-105; 2002 Tigers, 3.57 and 55-106; 1992 Angels, 3.57 and 72-90; 2003 Tigers, 3.65 and 43-119; 1990 Yankees, 3.72 and 67-95; 1998 Rays, 3.83 and 63-99; and 1990 Mariners, 3.95 and 77-85.

NO KNOCKS ON WOOD

Right-hander Blake Wood turned in perhaps the best game of his brief professional career Wednesday when he threw a three-hit shutout in Class AA Northwest Arkansas’ 3-0 victory over Arkansas. He struck out 10 and walked none in a 99-pitch outing.

“Dominating performance,” farm director J.J. Picollo said. “Exactly how the line read. Faced one over the minimum. Over 80 percent strikes. Dominating curveball.”

Wood, 22, was a third-round pick in the 2006 draft. He began the season by going 2-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts at Class A Wilmington. He has made two starts at Northwest Arkansas.

MINOR DETAILS

Class A Burlington placed two players on the Western Division All-Star team in the Midwest League: center fielder Adrian Ortiz and right-hander Joe Augustine.

Ortiz, 21, was the organization’s fifth-round pick in 2007. He carried a .295 average in to Thursday’s game at Cedar Rapids. He had two homers, 16 homers and 21 steals in 58 games.

Augustine, 23, was signed last June as a free agent. He is 1-0 with four saves and a 2.15 ERA in 11 appearances.

ETC.

Gordon served as the DH for the first time in his 210-game career. Hillman said, “We’ll try to get Alex off his feet a little bit. I think the schedule is getting to him a little bit. We’ll give him a little (break) and put him in the DH slot.” Gordon was zero for seven in Wednesday’s loss.

Alberto Callaspo played third in Gordon’s absence. It was Callaspo’s first appearance this year at third, but he played there in 20 games for Arizona over the two previous years.

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