Royals notebook: Mahay drawing interest as trade deadline creeps closer

BALTIMORE | Lefty reliever Ron Mahay is drawing plenty of interest from contenders seeking to bolster their bullpen before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

No surprise there.

Mahay continues to undergird the Royals’ bullpen with remarkable consistency. He improved to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.13 by pitching two scoreless innings Monday night when the Royals rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Orioles in 11 innings.

For now, the interest is mostly a low-level buzz among scouts. Nobody has called yet with a firm offer. That figures to change, although the Royals seem disinclined to deal unless overwhelmed.

“Ron Mahay has done a terrific job,” general manager Dayton Moore said, “and we expect him to continue to do a terrific job. He’s a big part of our team now and for next year.”

Mahay, 37, is signed through next season at $4 million a year.

“He’s just been a fix-all guy ever since we lost (Leo Nuňez),” manager Trey Hillman said. “His biggest asset is the way he changes speeds and throws strikes. He’s also able to read swings and throw that split out of the zone. It looks just like a fastball.”

The Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Marlins and Rays are all known to be shopping for relievers. The Yankees made a strong run last winter to sign Mahay as a free agent before he chose the Royals.

Mahay’s reliability has allowed the Royals to weather a miserable season from lefty Jimmy Gobble, who has slipped to mop-up status because of a 7.40 ERA in 27 appearances.

Other clubs also have interest in Gobble, although his struggles have also dropped his trade value to an all-time low. That makes a deal unlikely.

A deeper look at Mahay’s numbers show a 199 ERA+, which measures a pitcher’s performance by adjusting it to his ballpark and his league’s average. The average is set at 100. Anything higher is better; anything lower is worse.

Mahay’s 199 ranks third among American League setup relievers who have pitched at least 35 innings behind Baltimore’s Jim Johnson (355) and Tampa Bay’s Dan Wheeler (216).

Mahay’s teammate, Ramon Ramirez, ranks fourth at 158.

This is nothing new for Mahay, who has been at 117 or better in nine of his 12 seasons. His 132 mark since 2001 ranks ninth among setup relievers with at least 300 innings.

Back with a bang

David DeJesus hit a homer in his first at-bat upon returning to the lineup after missing the last two games because of a bruised rib cage suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium.

DeJesus lined a 2-2 fastball from Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera over the center-field wall for his ninth homer of the season. That matches a career high set in 2005.

It was also the homer to open a game by a Royal since DeJesus went deep against White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle on Aug. 17, 2006 in Chicago.

Award also-rans

José Guillen and DeJesus were among four players to receive votes as the American League player of the month for June, but the award went to Boston outfielder J.D. Drew.

Reliever Joakim Soria was among those receiving votes as the AL pitcher of the month. Los Angeles right-hander John Lackey won the award after going 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA in five starts.

Drew batted .337 in 26 June games with 27 runs, 12 homers and 29 RBIs.

Guillen batted .345 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 27 games, while DeJesus batted .361 with 18 runs and 19 RBIs in 26 games. Soria was 0-1 with a 1.42 ERA and 10 saves in 11 opportunities over 12 appearances.

Minor details

Right-hander Blake Wood, one of the organization’s top prospects, continues to struggle since his promotion to Class AA Northwest Arkansas.

Wood allowed three runs and seven hits in four innings Tuesday night but escaped with a no-decision when the Naturals rallied for a 6-5 victory at Corpus Christi. Wood is 1-3 with a 6.39 ERA in seven starts since arriving from Class A Wilmington.

Looking back

It was 21 years ago today — July 3, 1987 — that the Royals held Dick Howser Day at then-Royals Stadium. They posthumously inducted Howser into the club’s Hall of Fame and retired his No. 10 in a ceremony between games of a double-header sweep against Toronto.

Howser served as manager from midway through 1981 through 1986 and compiled a 404-365 record. He succumbed to a cancerous brain tumor on June 17, 1987.

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