07/23/12 9:55 PM ET
Royals happy for Ichiro, happy they won't face him
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
"I don't have to face him the rest of the year, so that'll be nice when we go to Seattle," reliever Aaron Crow said on Monday, after Ichiro was traded to the Yankees. "On one side, it's good for him and it should be a good fit for the Yankees."
Yes, and the Royals don't have to play the Yankees again this season, either.
Ichiro has hit the Royals better than any American League team in his career, with a .365 average that included 145 hits in 95 games. No big home-run hitter, he had 10 against the Royals along with 69 runs scored, 52 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon has seen Ichiro wreak havoc for years, including 8-for-20 in last week's series at KC in which the Mariners won three of four games.
"You can see what the Mariners are doing -- preparing for the future and Ichiro's been there for a while. So they're probably trying to get something out of Ichiro and give him a chance to go to a winning team," Gordon said. "He's a veteran and deserves to be in the playoffs, or something like that. It was kind of the right fit for everyone and definitely makes the Yankees a lot better now."
Gordon remembered Ichiro well from his days as a third baseman.
"Playing third base against him, he'd always slap it my way and it was pretty tough to play Ichiro. He makes it look pretty easy," Gordon said. "He was definitely one of those guys you had to play in on and respect the bunt, but then he'd slap it right at you. It was tough."
Now that the Yankees have snagged Ichiro, Gordon won't have to listen to rumors about being a possible trade target of the Yankees himself.
"I heard it one time. My wife texted me the other day and said that someone told her it was on MLBTradeRumors and that was pretty much it," Gordon said. "You know rumors are going to come here and there when you're at the Trade Deadline and you've just got to focus on what's going on right now. ... I'm glad I'm not going, though, I'll tell you that. I'm happy right here."
As things stand, Smith, Mendoza good fit for rotation
ANAHEIM -- Left-hander Will Smith gets his second start since being called up by the Royals for the second time this season. And he'll do it for the first time against the Angels, the team that traded him along with pitcher Sean O'Sullivan two years ago in a deal for third baseman Alberto Callaspo.
Manager Ned Yost decided to go with Smith instead of lefty Everett Teaford in the rotation for now. Teaford is back in the bullpen as a long reliever, his original role this season.
"We want to see Will Smith continue to develop. He's a 22-year-old left-hander who we think has a chance to be a solid back end of the rotation starter at the big league level on a real good team," Yost said. "Teaford fits better long right now."
On the subject of long relievers, Yost sees that as a "perfect" role for right-hander Luis Mendoza "on a championship team." But with the Royals not in that category just now, Mendoza is in the rotation and doing quite well.
"We're trying to get on a bit of a roll and our pitching's been so spotty that we can't afford to take him out right now because he's throwing really well and we don't have a better option," Yost said.
Earlier in the season, Mendoza seemed to have trouble getting through an opponent's lineup the third time through, but that's become less of a hazard recently and Yost credits catcher Salvador Perez for the improvement.
"I think that's more to do with Sal coming back, the way Sal sets up the game and calls the game," Yost said. "His run started when Sal came back."
In Mendoza's last four starts, all with Perez calling the pitches, he had a 2.93 ERA and a 2-2 record. He's pitched eight, six, 7 1/3 and 6 1/3 innings in those games.
Top pick Zimmer already being promoted
ANAHEIM -- Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' top Draft choice this year, has been promoted to Class A Kane County.
Zimmer pitched three games in the Rookie classification Arizona League, allowing just one run on five hits in 10 innings, for a 0.90 ERA. He also had 13 strikeouts and no walks.
Signed on June 7 for a $3 million bonus, the University of San Francisco product was the fifth overall choice of the First-Year Player Draft last month.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.