ARLINGTON -- Brian Bannister had a very rough time on Wednesday night at Chicago, pitching badly and mysteriously almost missing the start of an inning. But now we know what happened.
Bannister gave up four runs in the first inning.
"I was struggling with my grip on the ball," he said. "No excuses but when I went to throw the ball, it was slipping out of my fingers. I was really, really battling out there."
Funny thing because he felt great warming up in the bullpen. But when he switched from the Royals' baseballs to the game balls, it was like grabbing an eel.
"Every team rubs 'em up differently," Bannister said.
He tried to make an adjustment in his grip.
"There was no humidity, it was a windy night and the ball felt very glassy to me," he said. "I just really battled it. That's all it was."
So Bannister, hoping to get some sweat in his hands for a humid feel, ducked out of the dugout and up into the visitors' clubhouse to run his hands under hot water and use handwarmers. Turned out that the TV feed of the game against the White Sox had been blocked off and playing in the clubhouse instead was the Chicago Blackhawks' hockey playoff game. And that's what Bannister saw as he sat in the trainers' room between innings.
"I was in there holding handwarmers and nobody knew the inning had ended," Bannister said. "Somebody ran up and said, 'Banny, you gotta get out there!' "
It had been a quick half-inning. Bannister hustled across the dressing room and down the flight of stairs to the dugout. Meanwhile, the mound was empty.
"Then I ran out and the umpire asked me was I OK and then he goes, 'Hurry up!' The infielders weren't taking ground balls anymore, I didn't know if it'd been 10 minutes, I didn't know if it'd been five," Bannister said. "I didn't know if I was going to get fined or suspended. I had no concept of how long the inning had been over."
So Bannister hurriedly threw one warmup toss instead of the usual eight just to get the fourth inning under way. As it turned out he faced three batters, walking two and giving up a single, and his outing was over.
Not surprisingly there was speculation that Bannister was injured or something was wrong with his arm, causing his tardiness. Not so.
"I've been pitching 12 years between college and pro ball," he said, "and it's the first time I've been late for an inning. And it was because of the NHL playoff game."
Betancourt's miscue stings Royals
ARLINGTON -- Pitcher Zack Greinke was in a forgiving mood, but Royals manager Trey Hillman wasn't after shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's dropped a popup on Friday night in the Royals' 4-1 loss.
With the Royals down, 1-0, in the second inning, one on and two out, the Rangers' Matt Treanor hit a high popup that Betancourt settled under. But the ball popped up out of his glove, a run scored on the error and Greinke had to make nine more pitches to end the inning.
"I told Yuni, 'You've never missed that in your entire life,' " Greinke said. "He's as good at pop flies no matter how high they are, no matter how windy. He's probably the best I've ever seen at catching those, I mean really, really good. And so that just wasn't normal."
Hillman could certainly see that, but without being specific, said he took "action" on Betancourt.
"It's not what beat us, we didn't have enough offense to do it, but it affects the atmosphere," Hillman said. "With Yuni, nobody feels as bad as he does. He feels terrible. Does that make the result any better? No, it doesn't make it any better. It makes us look bad. Major League players shouldn't drop popups and they certainly shouldn't drop it when they're going one-handed and off to the side."
Betancourt seemed as perplexed as anyone.
"That's the first time that's happened to me," Betancourt said with Jose Guillen helping as translator. "I just dropped it."
Tejeda finding strike zone
ARLINGTON -- In a 13-12 slugfest that the Royals lost on Thursday night to the Rangers, the clearcut pitching star was Robinson Tejeda.
Tejeda retired all five Rangers he faced in the seventh and eighth innings. And last Saturday at Tampa Bay, he worked three scoreless innings to get the victory followed by two more scoreless innings on Wednesday at Chicago.
Coincidentally, he's cut down on bases on balls. In his first 10 games Tejeda walked 11 in 8 1/3 innings and his ERA was 12.96. In his last five games, through Thursday, he'd walked just two in 7 2/3 innings and not given up an earned run.
"The last couple of outings, he's been more consistent," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "And the thing he's done is he hasn't gone to any 2-0 counts. If he goes 1-0, he gets back in the count and more often than not, he's been throwing strike one.
"We were talking the other day in Chicago about the importance of getting strike one and it's even more magnified out of the bullpen at times because of the high-leverage situations closer to the end of the game."
Aviles' throwing arm gaining strength
ARLINGTON -- Royals manager Trey Hillman sees improvement in the throwing arm of Mike Aviles, who had elbow surgery last summer.
"It's definitely better," Hillman said. "It's not back to where it was but it's very playable at short ... I still think he'll continue to build arm strength, but it's good enough."
Aviles was at second base for the past two games, giving the Royals a right-handed hitter against the Rangers' left-handed starters instead of Chris Getz, a left-handed hitter. Hillman might go back to Getz on Saturday night against right-hander Rich Harden.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.