• Tim Crone: Strength in arms could be plus for Royals

  • Everyone is focused on bubble teams for the 2013 NCAA Tournament and on two big winter storms in the Kansas City area in less than a week.

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  • Everyone is focused on bubble teams for the 2013 NCAA Tournament and on two big winter storms in the Kansas City area in less than a week.
    It is understandably difficult for most people to talk baseball. I have been fortunate to be in Arizona and thus avoid the snow storms, but more importantly to be able to see the Royals’ opening spring training game in person. Spring training renews hope for fans.
    I was impressed with the arms in this spring’s Cactus League squad. We are all familiar with the big-name arms acquired through trades – James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays and Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels – as well as the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie. The real story this year, however, is the depth and quality competition at all levels of the pitching staff.
    To begin with, who will be the fifth starter? Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen are the favorites. There are other guys who could fill the bill though. If Felipe Paulino or Danny Duffy rebound from their surgeries, I think they could win that fifth spot. I really like the things that Luis Mendoza is doing as well. He was the pitcher of the year in this season’s winter league.
    These pitchers are obviously candidates for long relievers if they do not get the No. 5 spot in the rotation. The relievers are loaded with live arms like Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Everett Teaford and Nathan Adcock. The sleepers in this equation are John Lamb, Will Smith, Guillermo Moscoso and Noel Arguelles. The potential pitching talent in camp has added fuel to high hopes for the new season.
    The everyday roster looks a lot like last year. The two new backup catchers, Brett Hayes and George Kottaras, look good behind the plate, but neither appear to be hitters. That may equate to a big load for Salvador Perez.
    Let’s face it, if we are going to be a real playoff contender, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur are going to have to hit much better than last year or we are in BIG TROUBLE once again – even with improved pitching!
    My opinion, along with my buddies in Arizona, is that the only locks for starting positions should be Billy Butler at DH, Alex Gordon in left, Alcides Escobar at short, and Perez behind the plate. Second base is still up for grabs with Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. The Royals really need to look at Elliot Johnson (acquired as the player to be named later in the Shields-Davis trade from Tampa Bay), Irving Falu and American League veteran and former MVP Miguel Tejada for possible second base and utility position contenders.
    I know the winter can be long and can get in people's heads, but to look at the bright side, the conference college basketball tournaments are only a week away and the smell and sounds of baseball are only a month away!
    Page 2 of 2 - n I saw my first steer roping competition with real cowboys in Wickenburg, Ariz. My buddy, Gene Vinson, roped in competition with these guys and they are the real deal. The sport is extremely difficult. I found a new level of respect for all cowboys.
    n Mizzou needs to learn how to handle the last two minutes of a close game if they are going to make any noise in the NCAA Tournament.
    n Bill Self was able to keep the Jayhawks at the top of the Big 12 with a huge win at Oklahoma State. It’s the reason why he is the man to beat in the league every year. The guy teaches his players to have great heart under pressure. Just imagine if he had Kentucky’s talent every year.
    n My early Final Four predictions are Indiana, Miami, Michigan State and Florida. I will take Florida to win it all.
    n My quote of the week comes from our Kansas City guy, George Brett: “When I walk onto the field, I dedicate myself to giving 100 percent on every play. I owe it to myself, my family, my teammates and the fans. As long as I give this effort, I can never second guess myself, but more importantly, I know I will be successful.”

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