Royals notebook: Season closing with no clear No. 1 choice at catcher

MINNEAPOLIS | After 161 games, Royals manager Trey Hillman remains undecided in choosing a No. 1 catcher between John Buck and Miguel Olivo.

“It’s just something we’re going to have to continue to massage through in the off-season,” manager Trey Hillman said, “after we have a little time to decompress and evaluate some things.

“Miggy has done a great job of continuing to improve his game management. Buck’s throwing has gotten better. His release times have improved, So I actually see improvement from both of them in the areas that they needed to improve.”

It was four weeks today that Olivo returned to the lineup after a clear-the-air meeting with Hillman that followed Olivo’s decision to vent his frustration to The Star over a lack of playing time.

The two have generally split time since then with Olivo starting 14 of the last 26 games.

“The offensive statistics are what they are,” Hillman said. “I don’t think John Buck is a .220 hitter, but that’s what he’s done this year. Miguel is hitting a little bit higher than normal for him. But you put those two guys’ numbers together, and it’s not bad.”

Buck is batting .226 after going two for four in Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the Twins. He has nine homers and 48 RBIs in 107 games. Olivo is batting .255 in 84 games with 12 homers and 41 RBIs.

Olivo has said he’s only interested in returning if he’s the No. 1 guy. The club and Olivo have a mutual option on a $2.7 million option, but the Royals could also choose to decline the option and offer arbitration.

Buck will be eligible for arbitration after making $2.2 million this season.

“I think both of them have the ability,” Hillman said, “if they put their skill set together more consistently, to be No. 1 guys. It’s just a matter of being more consistent with their skill set.”

DeJesus sits again

Outfielder David DeJesus again failed to take part in any pre-game drills because of a sore right hip flexor. That all but ensures he won’t be available for today’s season finale.

“I don’t project that he’s going to play (today),” Hillman said. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

DeJesus suffered the injury in the first inning of Wednesday’s 10-4 victory at Detroit on a swinging third strike against Nate Robertson.

If DeJesus doesn’t play today, he will finish the season with a career-high .307 average in 135 games. He also set career highs this season with 12 homers and 73 RBIs. His previous highs were .295 in 2006, nine homers in 2005 and 58 RBIs in 2007.

“He had a very good year,” Hillman said. “He was very productive offensively. We know he can play center field, but if we play him in right or left, I think it gives us a little more from the bat. We’ll see where that takes us.”

Happy for Rays

Outfielder Joey Gathright couldn’t be happier for his ex-Tampa Bay teammates, who continued their remarkable turnaround Friday night by clinching the American League East Division crown.

“I have a lot of good friends on that team,” said Gathright, who spent 4½ years in the Rays’ organization before coming to the Royals in a June 20, 2006 trade with infielder Fernando Cortez for pitcher J.P. Howell.

“I learned a lot about baseball being in that organization. I have nothing against them. I’m happy for them, especially B.J. (Upton), C.C. (Carl Crawford) and Kaz (Scott Kazmir).”

Looking back

It was 24 years ago today — Sept. 28, 1984 — that the Royals clinched their fifth American League West pennant in nine years with a 6-5 victory at Oakland.

Dan Quisenberry allowed three runs over the final three innings but still registered his 44th save by preserving a victory for Charlie Leibrandt. Frank White had three hits, including a homer, and drove in three runs.


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