Tony Pena wasted little time in getting Mike Tonis some action at the Major League level. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Talk about a bad year. How about Mike Tonis' 2002 season?
Tonis had offseason surgery on his right knee. He got to Spring Training and had surgery on his right shoulder. When he finally got back in August, he was hit by a pitch that fractured his jaw.
"I was rehabbing in rookie ball," he said. "And in my fifth or sixth game, I was DHing and I got hit right in the jaw and broke it and it was wired shut for three weeks. I lost about 30 pounds."
His wisdom teeth were knocked out and he had to undergo root canals.
"It was pretty bad," he said.
Tonis is healthy now and he's finally made it to the Major Leagues with the Royals, as backup catcher to Kelly Stinnett. The move was necessary after regular catcher Benito Santiago's left hand was broken when he was hit by a pitch.
Called up Saturday, manager Tony Pena thrust Tonis into the lineup Sunday for his debut against the Philadelphia Phillies. There would be no lengthy homework session for Tonis on the bench.
"If you buy new clothes, what do you do? You want to wear them," Pena said. "If you buy a new car, you want to use it. So let's go right away."
In his first at-bat against Brian Powell, Tonis rapped into a double play in the second inning and had a passed ball in the bottom half.
Tonis, 25, was a second-round draft pick in 2000. He's known primarily for his work done in the dirt behind home plate, not his hitting.
In five minor league seasons, Tonis had a .242 average and 17 homers in 962 at-bats and 269 games. From Elk Grove, Calif., he played at the University of California where he hit .384 as a sophomore and .329 as a junior. He's fourth on Cal's all-time home run list with 40.
"He's a good defensive catcher, a good prospect and we need to see what he can do," Pena said.
Tonis has caught several of the Royals' pitchers in the minors and caught others on the current staff in Spring Training.
Mike Tonis / C
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"That's the reason you have to catch these kids in Spring Training," Pena said. "You never know when you're to going need them."
Tonis, "shocked" when he was called up, was ready to go.
"I haven't lived up to my expectations or to what the Royals wanted me to do," he said. "I just kept working and tried to call a quality game and catch good. Because I know that's worth a lot, too, knowing how to handle a pitching staff. Hopefully my hitting will kind of come along with experience."
And so far this year he's avoided injury, surgery and hasn't been cracked in the jaw.
"I'm as healthy as probably I've been so far in my career," he said.
No fear: Ken Harvey, playing left field for the first time, did well enough in Atlanta and Philadelphia to satisfy Pena.
"I would not be afraid anymore to play Harvey in left field," Pena said.
Not that it would be a regular thing for Harvey, a first baseman and designated hitter.
"If you have to do it, you will," Pena said.
Harvey banged into the wall Saturday night chasing a double hit by Bobby Abreu and went down for a couple of minutes. He hit his knee but was OK.
Here's the catch: Pena is calling infielder Damian Jackson his emergency catcher. Well, Jackson has played every infield and outfield position but he's never caught. "He will," Pena said. "If not, I'm going to make a comeback."
Prostate Cancer awareness: Major League Baseball, joining the battle against prostate cancer, put the emphasis on blue on Father's Day. Players were given blue wrist and head bands, blue eye glare and temporary blue tattoos.
Pena put on a headband and blue stripes under his eyes in the clubhouse. "You look like Pocahontas," pitcher Jason Grimsley told him.
Tie that binds: Mike Sweeney proudly showed off the Father's Day tie that his wife Shara gave him. The tie pattern was composed of a photo of their baby son, Michael, dressed in Royal blue.
"That's great. I was pumped," Sweeney said. "I asked her where she had it made. She said, 'That's my secret.'"
Appier A-OK: Right-hander Kevin Appier pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up three runs, in a rehabilitation outing Saturday for Double-A Wichita against El Paso. He threw 46 pitches and had no problems with his strained right forearm, trainer Nick Swartz said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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