Maier grabbing hold of his opportunity
Ankiel's injury has created playing time in crowded outfield
KANSAS CITY -- Coming into the 2010 season, Royals center fielder Mitch Maier wasn't sure where exactly he would fit in the Kansas City lineup.
The Royals had a full outfield. In fact, it was so crowded that veteran outfielder Jose Guillen was shifted to the role of designated hitter. With the acquisition of outfielders Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik, playing time for Maier would be hard to find.
An injury to Ankiel gave Maier his first shot in the field and he has been making the most of his opportunity ever since. Maier is batting .262 with 18 RBIs to go along with three doubles and three triples. Even more impressive is Maier's defense, as he hasn't committed an error in 35 games. He entered Wednesday's game without an error in 172 straight games in the outfield.
Over his last six games, Maier is batting .304 (7-for-23) with five RBIs.
"I'm just going to play," he said. "You go through stretches where you're doing well and sometimes you're scuffling. Right now, I feel good at the plate ... I'm just trying to stay relaxed and keep getting hits."
An injury to Ankiel may have given him his chance this season, but Maier says that's just how baseball works.
"That's what it's all about," Maier said. "When you get an opportunity, you have to go out there and take advantage of it. I've been confident in my ability to play, it's just a matter of getting an opportunity to play consistently and prove that you can actually do it."
Soria nails down his 100th save
KANSAS CITY -- You could say Royals closer Joakim Soria had a pretty good day Wednesday.
After starter Luke Hochevar coasted through eight innings of work in a 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers, manager Ned Yost called on Soria to collect his 100th career save.
Soria sat the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters down in order and became the sixth-youngest pitcher to reach the century mark in Major League history. Making the moment even sweeter was that the milestone came against the Rangers, who tagged Soria for three runs in one-third of an inning on May 6 in a 13-12 loss.
This time, Soria was out for redemption.
"They're a great team, and the last time I played them they got me pretty good, and it was like revenge," Soria said. "They are good hitters, I just try to put a little challenge on them."
For Soria, 100 saves is an accomplishment, but he isn't satisfied.
"It means a lot, but I want more," Soria said. "It's a good number because it means I've been working good, but I want more."
Hochevar was more than happy to hand the ball off to Soria, instead of attempting his second complete game in as many tries.
"That's awesome," Hochevar said. "That's a pretty cool feat. I mean, 100 saves from anyone is pretty special, so I was glad to be a part of that."
Betancourt, DeJesus out of lineup
KANSAS CITY -- Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt was out of the Royals lineup Wednesday after suffering a mild concussion in Tuesday's loss to Texas.
While trying to score from third on a sacrifice fly, Betancourt collided with Rangers catcher Matt Treanor.
"Yuni suffered a mild concussion [Tuesday] night, so we're going to give him a day or two [off], but he should be fine," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's feeling much better today. The dizziness and all that stuff is gone, but after a slight concussion, it's prudent to give them 48 hours."
Outfielder David DeJesus was also out of the starting lineup, after his wife Kim, delivered their first child Tuesday night. Willie Bloomquist filled in for DeJesus, making his fourth consecutive start.
Aviles makes shift back to short
KANSAS CITY -- With shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt out of the starting lineup on Wednesday with a mild concussion, Royals manager Ned Yost moved Mike Aviles from second base to shortstop.
Coming off Tommy John elbow surgery in 2009, Aviles feels he is fully recovered and can make the longer throw from shortstop to first.
"My arm's feeling good," said Aviles, who has made three starts at short this season. "I was in [Triple-A] Omaha for about a month playing shortstop every day and it felt good then. I can't see why it won't now."
Whether playing second base or shortstop, Aviles is committed to doing whatever is asked of him to help his team win.
"It's just one of those deals where, right now, an unfortunate incident happened with Yuni [Tuesday]," Aviles said. "I'm basically here to help the team win, and if that's me playing shortstop for a few days then going back to second, then that's perfectly fine.
Royals manager Ned Yost justified his decision to move Aviles to shortstop.
"I feel fine putting Mike over there right now, kind of in a limited basis," Yost said. "I think eventually he'll be able to play over there every day. I don't hesitate to do it now."
Parrish still on mend with rotator cuff
KANSAS CITY -- Reliever John Parrish is still not fully recovered from his inflamed rotator cuff, which placed him on the 15-day disabled list, but the lefty is hopeful of returning soon. Parrish said he is making progress and will be reevaluated when the Royals return from Boston.
"We're throwing bullpens now," he said. "Hopefully, it's not too long now. We're just gonna throw two more bullpens on the trip [to Boston] and then evaluate and see where we are."
Royals manager Ned Yost said Parrish is making progress, but it'll still be some time before he pitches.
"He is building his pitch counts up on his sides and then he'll get to a point here pretty quick -- within probably the next week to 10 days -- where he'll throw batting practice," Yost said. "From that point on, depending on how he feels, we'll determine when he goes out on a rehab assignment."
Hall taking nominations for O'Neil award
KANSAS CITY -- The legacy of Kansas City icon Buck O'Neil is carried on at Cooperstown, N.Y., where his likeness each week greets thousands of visitors to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The O'Neil statue, with a smile on his face and a Kansas City Monarchs cap in his hand, is on the museum's first floor as a reminder of what the game's great ambassador meant to baseball.
Now the Hall of Fame is accepting nominations for the Buck O'Neil Award, created in 2007 to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil.
O'Neil, who died in 2006, was the first winner of the award posthumously in 2008. The award can be given by the Hall of Fame's board of directors once every three years.
Nominations can be made by anyone but must be submitted in writing and should detail how the candidate carries on O'Neil's extraordinary traits. Only mail submissions will be accepted and must be sent to:
Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, 25 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326.
O'Neil, who was a Royals scout and director of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, is remembered at Kauffman Stadium with the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat. At each home game, a community member who exemplifies his spirit is honored and sits in his familiar location at the ballpark.
On Wednesday afternoon, the seat was occupied by Sylvester Thurman who has spent more than 30 years focusing on the needs of people with disabilities in the Kansas City area.
Samuel Zuba is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.