Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Can't the Royals just borrow a Tiger for the All Star Game?

Tuesday night's Tigers-Royals game went a long way to solidify the American League All Star team reserve selections.

I realize the All Star game is still a month and a half away, but thanks to MLB's asinine rule that all teams must have a representative, I've always received a perverse amount of enjoyment out of trying to predict the All Star teams before they are named.

The Kansas City Royals brought a league worst 10-32 record into Tuesday's tilt and boasted a roster loaded with guys who have no business on a Triple-A All Star team, much less a major league team. A glance at the roster revealed three guys who have a chance at basking in All Star glory this July, simply because they are the least of twenty-five evils: Mark Grudzielanek, Elmer Dessens, and Mike Wood.

Grudzielanek easily has the most accomplished career of the three. He was an All Star shortstop as the Montreal Expos shortstop in 1996 - his first full-season. The next year he set an Expo record with 54 doubles. The year after that, he was traded mid-season to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he spent four and a half years before moving on to the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. He has always been a solid defender and slightly above average hitter. He's a fine complimentary player, and he's doing his best, but he's out of his element as a "go-to guy" in the Kansas City lineup.

Dessens, like Grudzielanek, spent the last decade or so in the National League before signing with the Royals before this season. He has been a serviceable pitcher, but never much more than that. His best year was 2002, when as a starter for the Reds he ranked sixth in the NL in ERA. He's been a long reliever and spot-starter ever since, and last year had a decent but injury-plagued year with the Dodgers. This year, even with the Royals horrendous starting pitching, Dessens had been used exclusively in middle relief until last week, when manager Buddy Bell named Dessens the Royals' new closer following three straight implosions from Ambiorix Burgos.

Wood was once a highly regarded prospect in the pitching-rich Oakland A's organization. He was acquired by the Royals two years ago in the blockbuster Carlos Beltran deal. After a pretty rough 2004 season in the Royals starting rotation, he showed some improvement last year when used as a swingman. This year Wood has made all his appearances out of the bullpen with the exception of one emergency start, and he's been decent. He has nearly as many walks as strikeouts, but he does have three wins and a 3.21 ERA. I'm baffled as to why the Royals are not giving him another shot as a starter, but I suppose that seems about right for the Royals.

Anyway, getting back to Tuesday night. I still view Wood as a long shot because of his role (middle relief) and his less-proven track record. That leaves Grudzielanek and Dessens.

Grudzielanek hit his first two homeruns of the season in helping the Royals jump out to a 4-0 lead over Kenny Rogers and the Tigers, and raised his batting average to a team-best .322. The Royals were holding on to a 5-3 lead going into the eighth inning. In the eighth, Dessens, in his first save situation since being named the Royals closer, gave up three runs in a third of an inning and was nailed for the loss as the Tigers came back to win 8-5.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your 2006 All Star selection from the Kansas City Royals... Mark Grudzielanek!


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