Notes: Riske eyes future
After solid season, reliever to become a free agent
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Sweeney is not the only player who could be playing his final game with the Royals on Sunday. Several players, most notably David Riske, are not currently under contract for 2008.
Riske, one of the key pieces of the Royals' rebuilding process this season, has a 2.45 ERA in 65 games, the best mark by a KC pitcher. He has also served as a mentor for the young staff, especially Zack Greinke.
"He has been a wonderful guy this year," general manager Dayton Moore said. "He has impacted our bullpen in a very positive way with his approach and his success on the mound. We want to have a good baseball team, and in order to have a good baseball team, you have to have people like him on it."
Riske, who has a $2.9 million player option for 2008, is examining all options before making a choice.
"I am enjoying myself here tremendously and all of the guys on the team and the front office," he said. "I know that I have had a pretty good year. I know that it is business. It is kind of nice that you had a good year and you are a free agent and you want to see what other teams think about you and what's it's like."
Riske's help to Greinke has proven especially beneficial.
Greinke was moved to the bullpen after a rocky six weeks in the rotation at the beginning of the season. Riske became Greinke's daily card-playing partner in the clubhouse and helped him improve his craft.
Under Riske's help, Greinke posted a 3.54 ERA as a reliever. Moved back to the rotation in late August, Greinke had a 1.81 ERA in six starts to finish the season.
"Riske was the first one who has taught me anything about pitching," Greinke said. "I have learned the simple things from some people like keep the ball down, but he is the first person to actually help me out. ... He is not the only reason, but without him, I don't think I would have pitched as good as I did this year. He had by far the most impact on me."
Jason LaRue, Reggie Sanders, Odalis Perez, John Thomson and Sweeney are the other players who can file for free agency. Emil Brown is also an arbitration-eligible player.
Sanders, a 17-year veteran, is contemplating retirement and has said he will not return.
Perez posted a 5.57 ERA in 26 starts this season and missed the final six weeks with a left knee sprain. The club has a $9 million option or a $1.5 million buyout for 2008.
LaRue, paid $5.2 million this season, is batting .148 as the team's backup catcher and Thomson made two starts before he missed the second half with several injuries. Sweeney, the Royals' captain, would like to return as a Royal, but that is contingent on several factors, including Billy Butler's play at first base in the Dominican Winter League. Sweeney received a standing ovation in his first at-bat Sunday.
Teahen's season Mark Teahen didn't match his 2006 Royal Player of the Year numbers in 2007, but he called his season "solid."
After slugging 18 homers and posting a .517 slugging percentage in 2006, Teahen entered Sunday with seven homers and a .411 slugging percentage. However, Teahen's average (.285) and on-base percentage (.353) were better than league average and similar to his '06 figures.
Teahen's shoulder surgery at the end of the 2006 season sapped a little bit of his power.
"I am looking forward to being able to lift in the offseason and have all of the strength that I have," he said. "I never got into the groove where I was trusting myself and was completely locked in like I did at certain times last year."
Teahen, though, did play very well in right field. The team's third baseman in 2006, Teahen finished with 17 assists, third in the Majors.
"I think overall the move out there was successful," he said.
Teahen will also be eligible for arbitration in the offseason and should see a significant jump from his current salary of $416,000.
"I hear it is a fun process. They kind of rip you," he said with a laugh. "I have never really played for the money. I have believed that will take care of itself."
Another option? John Bale, who has posted a 4.06 ERA in 25 games this season, could be an option for the rotation next season. Bale has started and relieved in his career. In his last three seasons (all in Japan), Bale made 30 starts and 76 relief appearances.
"[Pitching coach Bob McClure] has been speaking to me about it on and off the last month or so," Bale said. "I am going to do a lot of shoulder strengthening and things like that this winter."
Honoring Bell: Manager Buddy Bell received a standing ovation from the crowd in a pregame ceremony before Sunday's game. Moore and Sweeney presented Bell with a framed jersey.
While the ovation continued, all of the Royals coaches, players and personnel came out to the field to express their gratitude for the manager. Sunday marks the final game for Bell as manager. He will step down to spend more time with his family.
Singing a hit: Charlotte Smith, wife of Royals infielder Jason Smith, was the designated singer for Sunday's seventh-inning rendition of "God Bless America."
She's an accomplished singer who has cut a demo CD of country tunes.
"She can only sing country because of her accent, her Southern drawl," Jason Smith said.
Charlotte has done the national anthem at some of her husband's Minor League stops.
"One of my goals in high school was to sing in every Major League park," she said.
This was her first.
O'Neil seat: JoAnn Colbert sat in Buck's seat for the regular season finale Sunday afternoon. Colbert has been welcoming fans to Kauffman Stadium with her big smile, impossibly optimistic disposition and well hugs. O'Neil was one Royals fan who enjoyed a Colbert hug. He would seek out Colbert before every game.
Colbert marks the 81st consecutive O'Neil recipient this season -- no O'Neil honoree has missed a game. The Royals will continue the O'Neil seat in 2008 and fans can issue nominees on Royals.com.
Coming up: The regular season concludes Sunday. KC's first game of the 2008 season will be March 31 against the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.