Notes: Royals await Moustakas
Bell toying with lineup; Gathright continues to produce
ARLINGTON -- They don't know how long it will be until he dresses in their clubhouse, or what kind of impact he will have upon arrival. But the Royals were delighted Thursday to know they had reached a contract agreement with No. 2 overall Draft pick Mike Moustakas minutes before Wednesday night's deadline."From what we've heard about this kid, he can really hit," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "He'll obviously have a lot to learn, but everybody says he probably will come quick." Moustakas, a shortstop from Chatsworth (Calif.) High School, is a left-handed hitter who batted .577 with a California state-record 24 home runs last spring. He was named the 2007 High School Player of the Year by Baseball America magazine, and agreed late Wednesday night to sign for a $4 million bonus, $900,000 more than Major League Baseball had recommended for the No. 2 slot in the draft. As many feared with a player being advised by agent Scott Boras, there was no early conclusion to negotiations. The Royals made their final offer in the afternoon, and it wasn't accepted until about 11 minutes before the deadline of 10:59 p.m. CT. "When you know you have a deadline staring you in the face, it forces all parties to be very aggressive," Royals senior scouting director Deric Ladnier said. "Especially at the end." The Royals were making no apologies for exceeding the recommended spending limit in order to sign a player they deemed critical to their future. "The way we have do things, it's really, really important we sign all our Draft choices," Bell said. "Some guys slip through the cracks and you just can't sign them, for one reason or another. And this could have been a case of it. But, they got it done." Bell said he spoke with the player and his father Wednesday night. He described both as "really happy," and said the infielder was eager to start his professional career. A decision on where he will start is expected this weekend, and Bell did not rule out the possibility that Moustakas could join a Royals Minor League affiliate for the remainder of August before heading to the Arizona Instructional League. Royals infielder Alex Gordon, who received his own $4 million bonus as the second overall pick of the 2005 Draft, said he and his teammates were pleased with the signing. "Definitely," Gordon said. "When you have a pick like that, and can get that caliber of player, you want to get it done. I think everyone around here is glad he signed. ... High school kids, sometimes it takes them a while to develop. But, hopefully, he can get up here as quick as possible and help us out." Even the Royals' incumbent shortstop said he was pleased with the signing, though Tony Pena Jr. confessed he had not even heard of Moustakas or realized the second overall pick plays his position. "In baseball, there's always competition, so that's nothing new," Pena said. "It's good anytime you get a player with a chance to help your club. Getting good players like that is how you get your Minor Leagues set up." Following three consecutive 100-loss seasons, the Royals have had the first or second pick in the Draft for the past three years. They committed $13.3 million in signing bonuses and contractual guarantees to get top picks Gordon, Moustakas and pitcher Luke Hochevar into their fold. "Especially in our position, when you're drafting this high you're getting good players, and we need good players," Bell said. "So it's very important that they got it done." Bell juggles lineup: Having seen his team amass just 19 runs over the previous seven games, Bell shook up his lineup and batting order for Thursday's series finale at Texas. Esteban German started at third base and hit leadoff, bumping Gordon across the diamond for just his 11th start at first base, and nudging center fielder David DeJesus to the No. 2 spot in the batting order for just the 11th time this season. With Texas starting left-hander John Rheinecker, Bell also benched the hot-hitting Joey Gathright in favor of his right-handed platoon mate in left field, the .229-hitting Emil Brown. "As far as a consistent lineup against left-handers, it's hard to find one, because we just haven't faced that many," Bell said. "I'm trying to get Estie and Brownie some at-bats. And we're going to face two more left-handers in Oakland, so that will help out a little bit. We've done this before, with DeJesus hitting second and German leading off, so it's nothing new. We've got to figure out something offensively." Joltin' Joey: Gathright, who is batting .359 since being recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Aug. 1, still hasn't been able to change Bell's perception that he is best utilized as a platoon player who should sit against lefties. But Gathright believes he is a different player since reconstructing his swing during Spring Training and maintaining it during the year. "I worked on some things, and [hitting coach Mike Barnett] has helped me make sure I stay on top of it. But, yeah, I've changed a lot," Gathright said. "I've learned how to use my hands more, to be able to hit the inside pitch. I do crowd the plate now, so offense isn't just fastballs away and stuff like that. We worked on everything, my total game. Got rid of that old swing I had last year and just started new. "They know I can hit, I know I can hit. So it was just a process of finding what we could do so that I can hit consistently on a regular basis. We finally did that. I worked hard on it this year. I've felt comfortable all year at the plate at Triple-A." Gathright's Minor League numbers might warrant a second look from Bell. Gathright hit .341 in 60 games for Omaha, including a .403 average in 67 at-bats against the Minor League lefties he faced. "The only thing I was worried about here [back in the Majors] was making sure I played left (field) pretty good," Gathright said. "Hopefully, I'll do well enough at the plate that I don't have to worry about it too much. But I've worked hard, and it's paying off." More bashing from Brazell: First baseman/DH Craig Brazell smacked his 28th home run for Triple-A Omaha on Wednesday night. Coupled with the seven homers he slugged for Double-A Wichita, Brazell now has 35 home runs (in 474 total at-bats) this season to lead all Minor League players. Brazell played 30 games at Wichita, where he hit .349 with seven homers and 15 RBIS in 109 at-bats. In his first 88 games at Omaha, Brazell hit .312 with 28 doubles, 28 homers and 68 RBIS in 365 at-bats. The 27-year-old signed with the Royals as a Minor League free agent last December after spending most of his previous nine professional seasons in the Mets and Dodgers' farm systems. Brazell spent 24 games in the big leagues with the Mets in 2004, batting .265 with one home run and seven strikeouts. Despite his gaudy numbers this year, even a September callup is no sure thing. Brazell is not on the Royals' 40-man roster and a spot would have to be cleared to make room. Minor League report: Angel Berroa hit his seventh home run in Omaha's 6-3 loss to Iowa on Wednesday. ... Double-A Wichita reliever Gabe DeHoyos gave up a two-run homer in the ninth before retiring the final three hitters to nail down a 3-2 victory over Midland. DeHoyos picked up his third save. ... Chris McConnell slugged a two-run homer and Miguel Vega drove in three runs in Class A Wilmington's 8-1 victory over Potomac. Up next: Right-hander Brian Bannister (8-7, 3.41) is scheduled to face Oakland left-hander Dan Meyer (0-0, 0.00) in Friday's opener of a three-game series at McAfee Coliseum. First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. CT.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.