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08/06/07 7:11 PM ET

Mailbag: What's Gathright's future?

Beat reporter Dick Kaegel answers Royals fans' questions

Joey Gathright is one of my favorite players. What is his future with the Royals? -- Emile R., Kenner, La.

Gathright is the Royals' fastest runner and can be an electric figure on the field -- witness his 4-for-4 game, his first in the Major Leagues, last Sunday against the Yankees. He's still working to perfect his base-stealing techniques (he had 25 stolen bases for Triple-A Omaha but was caught eight times). Gathright's fielding skills sometimes show flaws (as in two fly balls missed in the lights in a Metrodome game) but he can cover a lot of ground.

He's been good at the plate, posting a .352 average at the Major League level in his first 29 games this year. On Sunday in New York, he showed one of his main attributes by beating out a slow bouncer fielded by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in the hole.

If he can stay consistent at the plate and upgrade his base-stealing and fielding, he could be a valuable asset. Gathright eventually might force the Royals to consider moving center fielder David DeJesus to left field. If nothing else, Gathright could be a terrific fourth outfielder.

What happened to John Buck's new batting stance? Early in the season, he was raking the ball and all we heard about was this new batting stance with the high leg lift. Now he seems to have abandoned it. -- William S., Columbia, Mo.

Buck got away from the leg lift, or kick, on the advice of manager Buddy Bell who felt it was hindering his timing at the plate. Buck has been taking a more typical swing and, according to Bell, has been trying to reach a happy medium between the two approaches.

After striking out three times in the Yankees' series opener last weekend, Buck was considering a return to the kick in Sunday's game. He did look a bit kickier but went hitless. This is likely to be an ongoing project.

How can the Royals not call up Neal Musser? -- Forrest T., Fort Worth, Texas

When the opportunity presents itself, Musser undoubtedly will be back from Omaha. A left-hander, who spent several years in the Mets' organization, Musser looked unsure of himself in his first two call ups this year. But he was very impressive in his third time around, giving up runs in just one of his last seven appearances.

The Royals liked what they saw, but the lefty got sent back when roster room was needed as John Bale came off the disabled list. Musser has been just about perfect in relief for Omaha; through Aug. 4, he had not given up an earned run all season. He was charged with only two unearned runs and, in his 40 1/3 innings, Musser had 33 strikeouts while giving up 22 hits and 10 walks. His record was 3-1 and he had five saves to go along with his zero ERA.

In about three to five years, are the Royals going to be able to lock up guys like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, or are they going to just let them go like they did with Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon etc.? -- Paul S., Kansas City, Mo.

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That's a logical goal, and there is sure to be some negotiating between the Royals and some of their young stars as they establish themselves. The trick is for both sides to be sure that's what they want.

Getting locked in can be a gamble for both the players and the organization. The club might lose if a player gets hurt or falters on the field. The player might lose if he signs now instead of getting a much better contract later. Committing many millions, of course, is a chancy proposition for a small-market club, so, that's always a factor for the Royals.

I've noticed that when a team issues an intentional walk, the catcher holds his bare hand out to the side. Is there a rule that says he has to do that, or is it just a friendly reminder to everyone in the park that it's a free pass? -- Paul K., Topeka, Kan.

It's a friendly reminder to the pitcher to throw the ball where the batter can't possibly hit that soft toss. Anyone who has seen Octavio Dotel issue an intentional walk with those wherezitgoin? lobs must wonder why the catcher and his manager don't have simultaneous heart attacks.

Dick Kaegel is reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.