The Royals begin a three-game series in Seattle on Thursday, the first trip back for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt since being traded to Kansas City last month.
“I’m just thinking about playing baseball, just like I’d play (in Kansas City),” Betancourt said, with assistant coach Eddie Rodriguez translating. “Normal, just like any other city.”
Betancourt is a .289 career hitter at Safeco Field, which is 14 points above his career average. He credits that in part by being more comfortable in what used to be his home park, but also because the field’s big dimensions and quick infield grass played to what he likes to do as a hitter.
It’s been about six weeks since Betancourt joined the Royals, and Hillman said hitting coach Kevin Seitzer continues to work with Betancourt on some mechanical issues, while praising the player’s aptitude and willingness to learn.
Hillman also likes Betancourt’s self-evaluation, noting to the coaches that he needs to improve his range going to his left before it was ever mentioned to him.
“Part of it’s a footwork issue, more of it’s an angles issue,” Hillman said. “(The) angle he takes off the bat, it’s a flat angle he takes right now, more toward second base and not back toward center field.”
Indians' bus in accident
One of the Indians’ buses to Kauffman Stadium was delayed an hour or so Wednesday after being hit by a hydroplaning car. There were no injuries, and an Indians staff member was able to call some cars to bring the players to the ballpark.
Apparently, the car bounced off the bus and then off the road, narrowly missing a telephone pole. Once the Indians made sure the driver wasn’t hurt, the focus turned to getting to the game in time for normal preparation.
“The one thing that stressed me out a little bit,” said Indians starting pitcher David Huff, “when I got here, I kind of had to rush a little bit. Normally I show up three hours before game time, relax, get something to eat, then get going. Today it was eat real quick, grab something in the training room real quick, and let’s get after it.”
Jacobs vs. lefties
Mike Jacobs will take the signs where he can get them, and Wednesday morning, he got another one: seeing his name in the starting lineup against a left-handed starter for the first time July 3.
Jacobs went 0-for-4, but is still batting .353 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 15 games since Aug. 2.
This comes directly after a .165 stretch over 43 games, an improvement that Jacobs credits with a growing comfort hitting in the American League.
Even with the improvement, Jacobs is batting just .236, though his 16 homers and 48 RBIs make it possible the Royals will bring him back next season.
“I don’t want to say I’ve figured the league out, but I have a better idea what they’re trying to do to me,” he said. “It’s kind of an adjustment that’s a day late, dollar short. You hope when you come over to a new league you can make the adjustment quicker. It’s taken longer than I wish it would’ve.”
Royals manager Trey Hillman said he gave Jacobs the start because Indians starter David Huff is less effective against lefties (.370 batting average) than righties (.299) and because he sees Jacobs putting together tougher at bats.
“His at bats have been a lot better recently,” Hillman said. “He’s more balanced, utilizing the whole field. That’s what went into ithe’s doing a better job of staying on the ball. That usually tells you they’re more balanced, he’s staying back a little longer.”
Mitch Maier’s first big league home run brings some wonder whether there is more to come from the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Maier.
“I think he’ll develop more power,” Hillman said. “But he’s still gotta stay focused on driving the ball opposite field and the pull stuff will happen with his continuing education where the bat head needs to be on contact.”
Hillman not buying it
As miserable as this season is for the Royals, Hillman dismisses any thoughts that his team has quit.
“That’s usually the first thing people jump to when a team’s struggling to win ballgames,” he said after the game. “(It’s) ‘Well, they quit.’ I get questions trying to lead me into that all the time. I don’t buy it.”