Mailbag: Where is reliever Braun?
Royals beat reporter Dick Kaegel fields fans' questions
Against the Los Angeles Angels, when Billy Butler hit a pop-up to first base, why wasn't the infield fly rule called? The first baseman intentionally dropped the ball, so shouldn't that rule be enforced to protect the runner?
-- Brett L., Topeka, Kan.
That play came in the fourth inning on April 16 at Anaheim. With one out and Mark Grudzielanek at first base, Butler hit a high popup, and Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman settled under it for a catch. However, Butler stopped running, which Kotchman dutifully noticed. Alertly, he allowed the ball to drop, picked it up, touched first base and tossed to the shortstop. Grudzielanek, who held up in anticipation of the catch, charged off the base and was caught in a brief rundown for a double play.
Here's the rule: "An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out." In this case, only first base was occupied so the infield fly rule was not in effect.
If Butler had run out the ball, of course, there would have been no chance for a DP. That's standard operating procedure, so there's no need to protect the runner. When two or more runners are on, they have to hold on a pop fly and there'd be an easy time getting a double play with forceouts if the automatic out were not called.
Former umpire Steve Palermo, when consulted about the play, added some twists to the scenario. Grudzielanek did the right thing by breaking for second when the ball dropped safely because that, at least, forced Kotchman to make a throw. But what if Grudzielanek didn't run, instead staying on the base? He might have saved the double play by staying put, because when Kotchman touched the base, the forceout at second was removed and the bag again became an "island of safety" for Grudzielanek. On the other hand, Kotchman could have gotten the double play by tagging Grudzielanek first and then stepping on the bag. If Kotchman was smart enough to let the ball drop, he's probably smart enough to tag Grudzielank first and the bag second.
When was the last time, if ever, the Royals led either the American League or the Majors in pitching? Who was on that staff?
-- Michael B., Newton, Iowa
The Royals led the American League, but not the Majors, twice -- in 1977 with a 3.52 ERA and in '86 with a 3.82 ERA. In '77, 20-game winner Dennis Leonard led the staff with a 3.04 ERA, followed closely by relievers Steve Mingori, 3.09, and Larry Gura, 3.14. Others on the staff included Jim Colborn, Paul Splittorff, Doug Bird, Marty Pattin, Andy Hassler and Mark Littell. In '86, reliever Dan Quisenberry had the lowest ERA of 2.77 and Danny Jackson's 3.20 was best among the starters. Others included Charlie Leibrandt, Mark Gubicza, Steve Farr, Scott Bankhead, Leonard, Bret Saberhagen and Bud Black.
What has happened to Ryan Braun? I don't see him listed on Omaha's roster.
-- Justin B., Overland Park, Kan.
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Braun, a hard-throwing reliever, underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last week and is out for the season. In the previous two seasons, he appeared in 35 games for the Royals with a 6.66 ERA and 2-1 record. He was cut this spring and was assigned to Omaha, but never pitched before undergoing surgery.
I've followed Adam Greenberg since he played here with the Daytona Cubs. What's his status?
-- Ray M., Ormond Beach, Fla.
Greenberg, who was in Spring Training with the Royals' Minor Leaguers, got his free agency in what the club termed a mutual agreement. Greenberg, 27, wanted to play in Triple-A, but the Royals had no spot for him in their outfield at Omaha. At last word, he had not signed elsewhere.
An unfortunate accident vaulted Greenberg into prominence. Just called up by the Chicago Cubs from their West Tennessee club, he was sent out to pinch-hit in the ninth inning on July 9, 2005, at Florida. On the first pitch of his Major League career, he was struck in the back of the head by Marlins left-hander Valerio de los Santos. Greenberg suffered a concussion and later endured related problems, eventually returning to the Minor Leagues. Greenberg played in 2006 and signed with the Royals for 2007, batting .266 in 132 games for Double-A Wichita,
At the moment, he's just one of two players hit by a pitch in his only Major League plate appearance without playing in the field or getting another at-bat. Fred Van Dusen, an 18-year-old outfielder, was with the Philadelphia Phillies when he went to bat on Sept. 11, 1955, at Milwaukee. He was drilled in the left knee by Braves right-hander Humberto Robinson and was on first base when the game ended. He never got another chance. Greenberg undoubtedly hopes that he will.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.