Notes: No worries for second base
German's versatility makes Grudzielanek's loss manageable
PHOENIX -- It was not necessary for Royals general manager Dayton Moore to start burning up his cell phone minutes to trade for a second baseman when Mark Grudzielanek had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.Esteban German, who hit .326 last season, was already wearing Royals blue. "It takes a lot of sting away from losing Grud," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "We're deep at that position because we've got Estey there. I think he's very capable, but at the same time, you lose a Gold Glove second baseman, and that is not ideal, either. But if something like that does happen, at least you have somebody like Estey to go there and give you what you need." The Royals are optimistic that Grudzielanek will miss no more than two weeks of the regular season. In his absence, German will be the primary second baseman. "It is a position I played all my life before I came to the big leagues," German said. German, who was signed in 1996 by the Athletics, started at third base on June 4, 2004, when Eric Chavez was placed on the disabled list. It was German's first start at a position other than second base. He has moved all over the field since then, playing all four infield positions and even 25 games in the outfield last season with the Royals. Bell said that German is probably better at second than any other position. In 26 games there last season, German committed one error in 78 chances. "We really don't know how good he is defensively because we really haven't seen him there much," Bell said. "So this will be good to see him as much as he is going to play there." Once Grudzielanek and his Gold Glove return, German will go back to being the quintessential utility player. "Hopefully, he will get back soon," German said of Grudzielanek. "We need him here. He's a good player and a good teammate. I don't want anybody to get hurt. I don't want anybody to be in that situation. I just have to be ready for any chance that I get." German's most comfortable spot on the diamond is in the batter's box. His .422 on-base percentage last season topped the Royals. "I had a great year," German said. "It was my first full year in the Major Leagues. I think I proved myself last year, but I have to continue to work so I can stay here. What I do is be patient at home plate, wait for my pitch to hit. I try not to swing at a lot of bad pitches and wait for a good pitch to hit, no matter what is the count. I'm a contact hitter. I try to hit the ball where the pitcher throws it. If it is middle-away, I try to go the other way. That is what I do." Bell said that Grudzielanek was to fly back to Phoenix on Tuesday and would be in camp on Wednesday. "I was kind of surprised, because it is kind of tough to maneuver your way through an airport on crutches," Bell said. Bannister's success: In his second Spring Training start, Brian Bannister allowed one unearned run over three innings in the Royals' 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Athletics on Tuesday. Banister gave up two hits, walked one, struck out one and hit Mike Piazza with a pitch.
"I got a little tired," Bannister said in the third inning. "I was sick all of last week. I didn't get in the cardio I wanted to. I'm not worried about today. I'll take three innings and no earned runs any day.""My first eight outs, I was hitting all my spots. I think I broke five bats. My ball was moving real well. I was pitching with my new two-seamer. It is something I've never thrown before." Bannister hit Piazza, who had doubled in the first, in his left elbow with the bases loaded in the third. "He is one of my favorite players," Bannister said. "I met him in 2003 in my first year with the Mets. That is one of the ramifications of pitching inside. I threw him a good sinker in his first at-bat, and he just barely kept it fair. I was just trying to go tighter that second at-bat. He likes to dive. If he gets those arms extended, the ball can go a long way." LaRue bombs: Jason LaRue hit two home runs, the first off right-hander Joe Blanton to lead off the second, and another in the sixth off Shane Komine. "It was good, I guess," LaRue said, downplaying his offense. "I don't know a whole lot about myself. I'm not a guy that sits around and looks at a stat book and counts how many two-home run games that I've had. I know I've had them. I'm not a guy that checks myself out." For the record, LaRue has six two-homer games in the Majors, the last on July 28, 2005, against the Dodgers. "I don't particularly look back at an average in Spring Training," LaRue said. "Spring Training for me is just to get my timing down to see a lot of pitches. For me, I just want to make solid contact. If I do that and see a lot of pitches, that is what I'm looking for in spring, so when game situations that mean something come along, starting in April, I know I'm ready." De La Rosa update: Jorge De La Rosa, who was struck by a line drive on his pitching (left) hand on Monday, showed no ill effects on Tuesday. "He's fine -- no problems today," Bell said. "No problems with his next appearance, which would be four days from [Tuesday]." Coming up: Dewon Brazelton will start for the Royals at 2:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Tucson Electric Park. Jose Contreras will get the start for the White Sox. In a "B" game at Surprise, Gil Meche will start against the Rangers, who will send Kevin Millwood to the hill.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.