Betancourt allowed to catch one-handed
Shortstop will pay fine for any muffed popups
ARLINGTON -- Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt had the permission of Royals manager Trey Hillman to catch pop flies one-handed.
"If he can't get comfortable doing it two-handed over the head, it's very simple: Don't miss it," Hillman said.
And if Betancourt does muff a one-handed catch, as he did at the cost of one Rangers run in Friday night's 4-1 loss, it will cost him. So Betancourt also dropped a few bucks from his pocketbook along with Matt Treanor's easy popup.
Hillman wants players to catch pop flies with two hands above their head, as he was taught. But Betancourt, growing up in Cuba and throughout the Minor Leagues, caught popups one-handed and to his glove side. The two-handed approach, he told infield coach Dave Owen and Hillman, obscured his vision as the ball plummeted.
OK, said Hillman, adding quickly: "You just can't miss."
Hillman can adjust. He learned in his managing days in Japan that players there did things differently. For example, the catcher was always given priority on pop flies over the corner infielders -- the opposite of what is done in the United States. So he yielded on that because Japanese players were used to it.
"I try to give guys the freedom and the comfort zone as long as they get the job done," Hillman said. "If they don't get the job done, there has to be repercussions."
Third baseman Alex Gordon also had the OK to catch popups one-handed, also because of the vision issue. But now that he's with Triple-A Omaha learning to play left field, Hillman is curious if he's changed his style with the position.
"As a kid I was taught to catch it two-handed and I still believe that's the fundamental and correct way to catch it," he said. "Visually it never affected me."
Betancourt still has the OK for the one-handed catch with the same proviso: Drop it and it'll cost you.
No pop-ups came Betancourt's way in Saturday night's game.
Maier has good start vs. Rangers
ARLINGTON -- Mitch Maier, subbing nicely for injured center fielder Rick Ankiel, was all over the field for the Royals in Saturday night's 3-2 loss.
Maier was 1-for-3 and knocked in a run, made two excellent plays in center field and even played first base for two innings.
In the Rangers' third inning, Maier was momentarily fooled by Vladimir Guerrero's line drive, but broke into right-center for a diving catch.
"It was dancing a little bit," Maier said. "Off the bat I wasn't sure if I had it and I saw it kind of holding up so I just got to it."
In the sixth, Maier fielded Ian Kinsler's lined single and quickly fired the ball to third baseman Alberto Callaspo, nailing the sliding Guerrero.
"Vlad was going on the pitch and it was a one-hopper to me, and he wasn't very far around second base when I caught it," Maier said.
First baseman Kila Ka'aihue was pulled for a pinch-hitter and Billy Butler was the designated hitter, so Maier was pressed into service at first base -- his first Major League appearance in the infield. Sure enough, the first play was a ground ball down the first-base line right to Maier, who fielded it nicely.
"That's the first thing I said to Gil after I flipped it to him: 'That didn't take long,' " Maier said. "The ball will find you. I got some work over there in Spring Training so, in an emergency situation, I was fine. Yeah, I was a little nervous and tense over there, but it worked out fine and I made the play I needed to make."
Ka'aihue gets first start
ARLINGTON -- Kila Ka'aihue got his first starting assignment since being called up from Triple-A Omaha. He was at first base on Saturday night against the Rangers.
"It's awesome. Three days in," said Ka'aihue, who just joined the club on Wednesday.
Billy Butler was moved from first base into the designated hitter spot and DH Jose Guillen got the night off. Ka'aihue was also behind Butler in the batting order, swinging fourth.
"That's where I'm comfortable. That's where I've batted my whole career," he said.
Manager Trey Hillman had no hesitation about putting the rookie in the cleanup spot, normally filled by Guillen.
"He's got a good short stroke right now and I thought it was a good day for Jose to get a day off," Hillman said. "He's got a presence about him that fits the profile of a No. 4. I hope it plays out that way, I hope he gets some pitches to hit."
However Ka'aihue went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, and didn't get the ball out of the infield, before being pulled for a pinch-hitter.
Hillman's number retired at UT-Arlington
ARLINGTON -- Trey Hillman had his No. 1 uniform number retired by the University of Texas-Arlington on Saturday in a ceremony before a game against Stephen F. Austin on the campus.
"It was nice," Hillman said. "I had a ton of ex-college and high school teammates there. And all the family was there. It was a nice day."
Hillman was a three-time All-Southland Conference shortstop who hit .342 for the Mavericks in 1982.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.