Notes: Many players impress Hillman
Manager feels his ballplayers have made strong impression
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Manager Trey Hillman has seen a lot of players in Spring Training who have impressed him on the Royals team he inherited.
Outfielder Joey Gathright, infielder Justin Huber and right-hander Luke Hochevar were three names that Hillman rattled off on Tuesday, but he said his ballplayers, as a group, have made strong impressions in camp.
What has impressed him most, however, has been their attitudes. They have put any egos in mothballs and come into Cactus League play intent to perform well.
"They seem to have bought into some things that I need 'em to buy in to, and that is, regardless of the experience level, we've got a long way to go," Hillman said before his team's 11-5 win over the Rockies. "We finished in last place."
He said the players know they must get better if they hope to compete in the American League Central. They've committed to improving, which has complicated Hillman's job.
"Right now, we've got the brewing of some good, difficult decisions," he said.
A star from afar: Hillman is a media star in Japan. No doubt about that. He's found himself as much in demand by Japanese journalists as ballplayers with names like Ichiro, Nomo, Matsui or Matsuzaka are.
Baseball fans in Japan want to keep up with Hillman's doings almost as much as they want to keep up with what the players they exported to America are doing.
In Japan, fans worship the players. In Japan, they revere the managers.
That's something that the 45-year-old Hillman, who managed the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan for five seasons, hasn't grown comfortable with -- the adulation.
"You're held in very high esteem," Hillman said. "It's nice, but with my personality, it's a little bit embarrassing to be honest with you."
He said when friends ask him about what stood out about his managing a baseball team in Japan, Hillman had no hesitation is providing the answer.
"The answer was the same for five years in Japan, and the answer is the same today," he said. "The most surprising thing to me about managing in Japan was the importance that they believed my position held while I was there."
Did you know: Hall of Famer George Brett has many team records that he's understandably proud of, but here's one he might like to see somebody else's name next to. With 235, Brett is the franchise's all-time leader in grounding into double plays. Hal McRae is No. 2 on the list with 165.
Webcasts available: Radio reports of Tuesday's game and all the Royals' Cactus League and regular-season games are now available as Web casts.
Fans can buy a subscription to hear live coverage of the exhibition season at royals.com. To sign up, click on Multimedia and then go to Gameday Audio. The multimedia feature costs $14.95, and the package includes broadcasts of the team's 162 regular-season games, plus the Major League Baseball postseason games.
Steve Stewart will provide play-by-play of the Cactus League games not carried on the Royals Radio Network. During the Web cast, Stewart will be joined by other broadcasters and Royals baseball operations officials. Fans can interact with the booth on the web at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in action, maybe: First baseman Ryan Shealy, who returned to camp on Monday after being bedridden with the flu, has ground to make up in his battle to win a spot on the Opening Day roster. Shealy is expected join his teammates on Wednesday for their road trip to Scottsdale, Ariz.
"I've got him on the travel list for tomorrow," Hillman said. "We'll see how he feels today and make a decision."
Odds 'n' ends: Pitcher Brian Bannister kicked off the first Web chat on royals.com on Tuesday. The Web chat will be a monthly feature for the Royals' site, and different players will be called on to share their thoughts with fans. ... The Royals will meet the Rockies just once more this spring. The teams play in Surprise, Ariz., on Friday. ... Right-hander Brett Tomko was the first Royals pitcher to bat this spring. He went hitless in the at-bat. Tomko was lucky enough to have a second at-bat, though he fared no better.
Quotable: "I don't think there's been a whole lot of games in my whole career that I haven't been nervous." -- Tomko, after his first Cactus League start
Up next: The Royals travel to Scottsdale Stadium to take on the Giants. Right-hander Gil Meche will start for the Royals, and Meche will face Barry Zito. Hideo Nomo, Jimmy Gobble and Chin-hui Tsao are also expected to take the mound for the Royals.
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.