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Royals notebook | Bale reclaiming a role in club’s future as a power lefty reliever

DETROIT | Veteran left-hander John Bale has no hesitation now. He readily admits he belongs in the bullpen after a disastrous turn early this season in the rotation.

“I’m in a more comfortable zone when I’m coming out of the pen,” he said. “That’s where I think I need to be. I like to get ready quick and not thinking too much.

“When you’re starting, you’re thinking about it all week. I like having the chance to pitch every night.”

Bale, 34, worked another brisk one-two-three inning Monday in closing out a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. That makes 10 1/3 scoreless innings over nine appearances since returning Sept. 2 from the disabled list.

Overall, Bale has retired 18 straight batters in his last six outings.

“He’s been tremendously efficient,” manager Trey Hillman said. “Since he’s had an opportunity to come back, because of what transpired earlier in the season -- and as remorseful as he was about the situation -- he’s been on a mission.”

It’s been mostly a lost season for Bale, who pitched his way into the rotation with a strong spring before a sore shoulder robbed his effectiveness. Three dreadful outings -- three losses -- landed him on the disabled list.

Once there, frustration mounted.

Everything boiled over May 2 in Cleveland after a disappointing bullpen workout. Bale punched a hotel door with his hand -- yes, his pitching hand. That required several more weeks of rehab before initiating a slow grinding recovery through the minor leagues.

“There’s no doubt,” Hillman said. “In hindsight now, we’re all wiser. I don’t think that’s even going to be a consideration for us, moving forward, that we would try to put him back in a starting role.”

It’s notable, though, that in moving forward, the Royals appear interested in keeping Bale as a part of their future. Hard-throwing lefties with multi-inning capacity are rare creatures.

Bale is eligible for arbitration this winter after completing a two-year, $4 million contract that lured him back from Japan prior to the 2007 season.

“When you have someone who is going to consistently throw three pitches for strikes as effectively as he has,” Hillman said, “quite honestly, I’m not afraid to use him if it’s right-right-right.

“I’d like to have a left-hander mixed in there, but he’s been so effective with his command and his control, and in utilizing the changeup, that you know he’s going to have some effectiveness against the right-handers as well.” Callaspo hurting

A sore left thigh sidelined second baseman Alberto Callaspo just as he is starting to climb the Royals’ all-time chart with the 16-game hitting streak.

Callaspo didn’t start Tuesday and might not return until this weekend’s three-game series at Minnesota.

“I just don’t want it to turn into something more than it was (Monday) night,” Hillman said. “It was just a little tweak, which is why I got him out.”

Callaspo suffered the injury on a slide at the plate in the fifth inning. His streak matches a 16-game run earlier this season by David DeJesus and is tied for the 18th-longest streak in club history.

But here’s the catch: Major League Baseball limits hitting streaks to single seasons. There’s no carry-over. Even if Callaspo plays, and gets hits, in the final four games, he will top out at 20 games.

That’s still rare territory.

The club record is 30 games by George Brett in 1980, but only four other players have reached 20 games in the franchise’s 40-year history: José Offerman had 27 in 1998; Mike Sweeney had 25 in 1999; Brian McRae had 22 in 1991; and Rey Sanchez had 21 in 2001.

Brett had a 25-game streak that spanned two years with six games in 1982 and 19 in 1983.

Hosmer update

The Royals are still awaiting word from Major League Baseball regarding first baseman Eric Hosmer, the third overall pick in the June draft.

Testimony was postponed Tuesday in New York on a grievance filed by the players’ union alleging Commissioner Bud Selig improperly extended the Aug. 15 negotiation deadline to enable the Pirates to sign third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

The Royals and Hosmer were caught in the grievance because their deal wasn’t approved by MLB until after the Pirates’ agreement with Alvarez. All sides agree the Royals/Hosmer deal, while not approved, was completed before the deadline.

The Pirates and Alvarez reached a new agreement earlier this week, which accelerated efforts by MLB and the union to reach a negotiated settlement on the grievance. If no agreement is reached, the grievance hearing could continue today in New York.

Minor details

Third baseman Mike Moustakas was the best prospect this season in the Class A Midwest League in the annual rankings compiled by Baseball America.

The Royals also had two pitchers from their Burlington, Iowa, affiliate cited in the top-20 listing: left-hander Danny Duffy at No. 11, and right-hander Danny Gutierrez at No. 18.

Moustakas, 19, was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. A native Californian, he struggled in the through the early-season chill before recovering to bat .272 and lead the league with 22 homers.

Baseball America said Moustakas “has so much bat speed and strength that he can wait longer than most hitters to start his swing without compromising his power.”

Moustakas is the second player from the organization chosen as the top prospect in his league. The magazine previously cited left-hander Mike Montgomery in the Arizona Rookie League.

Duffy, 20, was 8-4 with a 2.20 ERA over 17 starts in his first full season after his selection in the third round of the 2007 draft. Gutierrez, 21, rebounded from an early elbow injury to finish 4-4 with a 2.70 ERA in 19 games.

Etc.

• Zack Greinke pushed his club-leading strikeout total to 183. That is the most by a Royals pitcher since Kevin Appier had 196 in 1997 and is tied for the 10th-highest total in club history.



• The Royals have nine quality starts from their rotation in their last 10 games. The rotation has a 2.90 ERA in that span while limiting opponents to a .209 batting average.



• David DeJesus’ 14-game hitting streak is two shy of his career high, set earlier this season.



• The Royals have two pitchers with more than 200 innings for the first time since 2002. Gil Meche has 204 1/3 and Greinke has 202 1/3. The 2002 pair was Paul Byrd with 228 1/3 and Jeff Suppan with 208. Meche and Greinke will each get one more start.



• The Royals hold a 10-7 advantage in their season series with the Tigers with one game remaining.



To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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