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3 Kansas City Royals Runs will be scored, and at last there's a bullpen to make them stand up

March 26, 2001
March 26, 2001

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March 26, 2001

Baseball 2001 Preview

3 Kansas City Royals Runs will be scored, and at last there's a bullpen to make them stand up

During his 11 years as a major league relief pitcher, Doug
Henry's career has overlapped with those of Butch Henry and
Dwayne Henry, two unrelated, multiteam middle men of
unquestionable anonymity. There are six billion people living on
Earth, and approximately 14 of them can tell the difference
between the three Henrys.

This is an article from the March 26, 2001 issue Original Layout

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that as the Royals prepare
for the upcoming season, hype, hype and more hype has resulted
from the addition of closer Roberto Hernandez, the flamethrowing
righthander with 266 career saves. Hernandez, it has been said by
the Kansas City front office, will surely lift K.C.'s bullpen
from the depths of anti-Mariano Rivera hell. Last season Royals
relievers combined for 29 saves and 26 blown saves. Sadly, this
was an improvement over the previous year, when K.C. became the
first team to blow more saves (30) than it converted (29).
"Roberto is very important, but sometimes I think people place
too much emphasis on the closer," says pitching coach Brent
Strom. "Closing doesn't take the place of sloppy sixth, seventh
and eighth innings. Last year we had sloppiness."

Although his signing a two-year, $2.9 million deal with Kansas
City generated all the buzz of a Dann Bilardello-Benny Ayala home
run derby, Doug Henry's arrival marks only the second time in
manager Tony Muser's four-plus years in K.C. that the Royals have
had a quality righthanded middle reliever. (Scott Service, in
1998, was the first.) Pitching for the Astros and the Giants last
season, Henry held opposing batters to a .207 average, seventh
best among National League relievers. Over the final two months,
as San Francisco battled to the division title, his ERA was 2.49.

In early December, days before he would reach an agreement with
the Royals, Henry met Muser for lunch and a long chat. The two
discussed the good ol' days of 1991, when Muser was the manager
of the Brewers' Triple A team in Denver and Henry was his closer.
Back then Henry was a 27-year-old minor league nobody with an
85-mph fastball and a long record of mediocrity as a starter.
"Doug was never considered much of a prospect," says Muser, "but
we made him a closer, and all of a sudden his arm got much
stronger. His velocity jumped to 91, 92 mph." The next season
Henry saved a career-high 29 games for Milwaukee.

Of all the factors that persuaded Kansas City to sign Henry,
number 1 was his unselfish pledge to Muser. Asked if he has any
interest in becoming a closer again, Henry answers, quite simply,
no. "I told Tony that I could close," he says, "but that I'm
better suited to hand the ball over to a hard thrower with
dominant stuff. When Roberto comes to the mound, I'll happily
walk away."

Last year Kansas City placed fifth in the league with 879 runs,
and despite trading explosive leadoff hitter Johnny Damon to the
A's (in a three-way deal with the Devil Rays) for Hernandez, the
Royals will likely be among the league's scoring leaders again.
Much depends on centerfielder Carlos Beltran, a 23-year-old
phenom who irked many of his teammates by refusing a rehab
assignment last August. The ensuing 18-day suspension, as well as
DL time for a bruised right knee, limited him to 98 games and a
.247 average, a far cry from his Rookie of the Year performance
of 1999.

While the starting rotation is still a question mark, the
comeback of two-time All-Star Jose Rosado from minor rotator-cuff
surgery, as well as a full American League season from Brian
Meadows, who came to K.C. from the Padres last July 31, offers
hope. If nothing else, with Henry and the bullpen gang doing
their jobs, the starters will no longer have to watch 7-1 leads
morph into 8-7 heartbreakers.

"I've been here six years, and this is the most secure I've ever
felt," says Rosado. "I used to feel I had to go seven, eight
innings to make sure we got the win. Now, if I can only go six,
I'll hand it over to men who have closed out many big games. If
that doesn't make us winners, nothing will."

In other words, Henry is in the spotlight--at last.

--Jeff Pearlman

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT ROGERS After watching their relievers blow 56 saves over the past two seasons, the Royals gladly paid a king's ransom to acquire Hernandez.COLOR PHOTO: OTTO GREULE

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Royals

This is one of my favorite clubs to watch because they play so
hard. The Royals hustle all the time, and Lamar Johnson has done
a great job as their hitting coach. They've got very good clutch
hitters....Their weaknesses are glaring, though. They have the
worst catching in the game, no leadoff hitter and some lingering
questions about how to get to their closer....The catchers are
Gregg Zaun, A.J. Hinch and Hector Ortiz. Yech. They'll also hurt
closer Roberto Hernandez. His stuff is hard to catch....Mike
Sweeney and Joe Randa are very good clutch hitters, though they
won't get as many RBI opportunities without Johnny Damon getting
on in front of them. Carlos Febles has to develop into a leadoff
hitter. He's more of a slasher, not a selective guy....Mark
Quinn's philosophy of hitting is to swing hard in case you hit
it. Carlos Beltran, the centerfielder, will have a bounce-back
year. He got breaking-balled to death last year and then started
looking for them all the time and he'd watch fastballs go by.
Jermaine Dye is a good run producer, and Dee Brown is a prospect
with loads of potential....The pitching is decent. Blake Stein
has thrown great this spring, and Jeff Suppan and Brian Meadows
are competent guys. They need Jose Rosado to come back healthy.
He's the only lefty on the staff, but he was throwing only 82 mph
this spring. If he or Mac Suzuki isn't ready, Dan Reichert could
step up. He has great stuff, but he's yet to get it done on a
consistent basis. The surprise of camp has been Jason Grimsley,
who has his sinker back.

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 77-85 (fourth in AL Central)
Manager: Tony Muser (fifth season with Kansas City)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

2B Carlos Febles R 174 .257 2 29 17
CF Carlos Beltran S-R 104 .247 7 44 13
1B Mike Sweeney R 32 .333 29 144 8
RF Jermaine Dye R 47 .321 33 118 0
3B Joe Randa R 74 .304 15 106 6
LF Mark Quinn R 110 .294 20 78 5
DH Dave McCarty R-L 244 .278 12 53 0
C Gregg Zaun S-R 246 .274 7 33 7
SS Rey Sanchez R 292 .273 1 38 7

BENCH

IF Luis Alicea[1] S-R 223 .294 6 63 1
OF Raul Ibanez[1] L-R 299 .229 2 15 2
C Hector Ortiz R 364 .386 0 5 0
IF Luis Ordaz L-R 366 .221 0 11 4

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Jeff Suppan 111 10 9 6.4 1.49 4.94
LH Jose Rosado 78 2 2 5.5 1.37 5.86
RH Blake Stein 123 8 5 6.3 1.44 4.68
RH Brian Meadows* 150 13 10 5.9 1.52 5.13
RH Dan Reichert 157 8 10 6.0 1.62 4.70

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Roberto Hernandez 42 4 7 32 1.37 3.19
RH Doug Henry[1] 243 4 4 1 1.35 3.79
RH Jason Grimsley[1] 290 3 2 1 1.47 5.04
RH Jose Santiago 217 8 6 2 1.39 3.91
LH Scott Mullen (R) 262 0 0 0 1.26 4.35
RH Kris Wilson 285 0 1 0 1.43 4.19
RH Mac Suzuki 159 8 10 0 1.53 4.34

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Combined AL and NL stats

"They've got very good clutch hitters, but they have the worst
catching in the game."