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Royals notebook | Brayan Peña appears in line for extended look at catcher

BALTIMORE | Four starts in the last six games suggest that, for the moment, Brayan Peña is no longer the Royals’ third-string catcher.

“We want to see more of what we’ve got,” manager Trey Hillman said. “He hasn’t really ever been an opportunity at this level to catch with any consistency. The biggest question mark is not whether or not it’s fundamentally sound. It’s just a matter of whether he gets the job done.”

The reason for Peña’s lack of big-league opportunities, despite a .303 average and .353 on-base percentage in 654 minor-league games, is because his execution of defensive fundamentals is, well, suspect.

“He’s not fundamentally sound, at times, in the blocking of the balls,” Hillman said. “Or in his footwork and the exchange in getting rid of the baseball. We just want to see the end result and whether or not he gets the job done.”

In short, the Royals know what they have in veteran catchers Miguel Olivo and John Buck. Peña, 27, is a far less known quality at this level. Tuesday marked his 25th career big-league start at catcher.

Peña, a switch-hitter, is batting .297 after going two for four in Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the Orioles -- with two homers and seven RBIs in 64 at-bats. It’s not much of a sample, but it compares favorably to Olivo (13, 36 and .233) and Buck (three, 22 and .223).

A better measurement might be OPS+ (on-base percentage and slugging percentage adjusted to the league and by ballpark). Peña entered Tuesday at 104, while Olivo was at 88 and Buck at 87. A rating of 100 is considered league average.

Even so, Peña’s defensive skills will likely determine his future with the club.

“I’m still going to mix Miggy and John in there occasionally,” Hillman said. “But for now, I want to see as much as we can with Brayan. Miggy’s deficiency has been blocking. Johnny’s deficiency has been throwing people out.

“The bottom line (with Peña) is I don’t really care what it looks like as long as the end result is good. If we don’t give him enough reps to see whether that plays out in competition, we’re really not going to know exactly what we’ve got.”

Meche update

It now seems only a lights-out, completely pain-free performance today by Gil Meche in a simulated game will prompt his immediate return to the rotation.

“You don’t want to lose him for the rest of this year,” pitching coach Bob McClure said, “and then, maybe, have to rehab him all winter. We want to get him to where he’s 100 percent. You know what? I’ll tell you this _ he would pitch.”

Meche hasn’t pitched since muscle spasms limited him to 3 2/3 innings July 11 at Boston. Continued soreness prompted an epidural injection and the decision to place him on the disabled list.

Today’s simulated game follows bullpen workouts Friday and Monday. Meche admitted he still felt sore after Monday’s 30-pitch session. July drought

It’s been a dry month for Zack Greinke despite the heat, humidity and rain throughout the Midwest and elsewhere.

Greinke is 10-6 and still leads the big leagues with a 2.04 ERA, but he is looking to break a four-start winless streak tonight when he faces Baltimore’s Chris Tillman, a highly-touted rookie making his major-league debut.

Greinke is 0-3 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts since beating the Pirates on June 28. He has quality starts in all four outings along with 32 strikeouts in 26 innings -- but no victories.

Tillman, 21, entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect behind catcher Matt Wieters. Tillman was 8-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 18 starts at Class AAA Norfolk.

The Orioles acquired Tillman, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, from Seattle as part of the February 2008 trade that sent pitcher Erik Bedard to the Mariners.

Watching the clock

Don’t think the Royals aren’t following the rumors as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

As Mark Teahen noted Tuesday afternoon on twitter.com: “Excited the trade deadline has almost passed, don’t want to have to change my collar, leash, jersey, and the rest of my Royals gear.”

Collar and leash?

“That’s not me (tweeting),” Teahen said. “It’s my dog, Espy.”

Espy is a 2-year-old female boxer.

Not so fast, Espy. Several teams remain interested in Teahen. The Giants had a scout tracking him at Tuesday’s game.

The non-waiver trading deadline is 3 p.m. Friday.

Minor details

Outfielder Jordan Parraz went zero for two with a walk in his first game at Class AAA Omaha after completing a four-game rehab assignment at short-season Idaho Falls as the final step in his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Parraz, 24, batted .358 in 64 games at Class AA Northwest Arkansas before the injury with seven homers and 42 RBIs. He continues to lead the Texas League in batting and with a .451 on-base percentage and a .553 slugging percentage.

The Royals acquired Parraz last December as the player to be named later in a trade that sent minor-league pitcher Tyler Lumsden to Houston.

Looking back

It was two years ago today -- July 29, 2007 -- that Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews was honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award during induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Matthews has served as a Royals broadcaster since the franchise’s inception in 1969 and was a 2004 inductee into the club’s Hall of Fame.

Etc.

•All three of Willie Bloomquist’s homers this season have been game-tying blasts in road games.



•Rehabbing reliever Kyle Farnsworth made his first rehab appearance in Omaha’s 5-4 victory over Iowa. Farnsworth retired three straight hitters in the eighth, including two by strikeout, and threw eight strikes in 10 pitches.



•Alberto Callaspo extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the fourth inning.



•The Royals are 4-1 in extra innings. That includes 3-1 in road games.



To reach Bob Dutton, send e-mail to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his news updates at Royals_Report@twitter.com.

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