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A Week Into Spring Training, Royals Learning Valuable Lessons for 2009

The only thing more important than the performances we've seen this last week has been the clubhouse chemistry developed between the guys. We can't report on the latter, but we can on the former.

Two of Dayton Moore's biggest trades this off-season sought to revamp the Royals limpid lineup, with power man Mike Jacobs wielding the big stick, and Coco Crisp getting everyone excited beforehand with his blazing speed. So far, it looks like Jacobs may not have adjusted to being "the man" as he's only hit .188. It's one thing to put up numbers in what amounts to obscurity in Florida, but Jacobs hasn't shown that he can hit outside of his comfort zone. It is imperative that the veteran leaders on the team, along with Manager Trey Hillman, work with Jacobs these next few weeks to make sure that he's prepared to hit in the middle of this lineup. If not, the Royals may need to look elsewhere for another terrible defender, baserunner, and OBP guy to slot into the middle of the order.

Jacobs could learn a thing or two from fellow newcomer Coco Crisp, who is refreshed and revived after leaving a toxic situation in Boston. Crisp, is starting to hear Ted Williams type whispers, thanks to a .400 start to his Spring. With his speed and the ability to generate infield hits, does anyone doubt he can sustain it? The only downside to Crisp's emergence is that David DeJesus is pouting, and may not be able to adjust to hitting outside the leadoff spot. With only a .250 batting average from DeJesus, it may not be too early to see what Jose Duarte or Derrick Robinson can provide for the Royals as an alternative.

Meanwhile, the catching situation looks like a real donneybrook. Competition, after all, is what makes America great, and John Buck and Miguel Olivo look poised to battle all season long. Both are off to scorching starts (Buck is hitting .556/.600/1.444, Olivo .571/.571/1.143) and each game they seem to be saying "top this". Credit Trey Hillman for letting it be known that every spot on this roster is up for grabs and that the guys that play the best will earn the time.

That approach is certainly working in the bullpen, and while many expect fireballer Kyle Farnsworth and crafty veteran Horacio Ramirez to provide one of the best 1-2 bullpen punches in the game, Hillman's attitude of professionalism and competition has trickled down to Matt and Jamey Wright, who are dueling one another with competing 0.00 ERAs. Oh mercy! With the Wright brothers pitching like this, look for the Royals to soar to the top of the division in 2009! 

Meanwhile, the starting rotation looks strong, with Kyle Davies showing everyone that he's a "hard hat" player, as he's constructed a 0.00 ERA this spring that has the scouts droolling like a row of construction workers outside Jenn Sterger's house. We could use more old-time guys like Kyle in baseball. Speaking of old-timey, Brian Bannister has a new perspective on life after becoming a father. Bannister, who is very smart and speaks perfect English, relies on his brain more than most ostriches rely on their legs. But as former manager Buddy Bell always preached, sometimes you can overthink this #(*& game. A Dad now, Bannister has that inner peace you need to succeed. As a professional athlete who will spend half the season on the road, Bannister's inspiring story is especially important for all us young men out there. Remember guys, if you're around occasionally, you're around enough.

But on the other side of that proverbial coin, what is going on with Gil Meche? His 27.00 ERA tells this humbe scribe that Meche has gotten pig-headed and is resting a little too much on his laurels. When Meche came to KC he needed to prove to the world, and to his teammates, that he was worth all that money. As he enters his third year of that contract, it looks as plain as day that he is back to being the unmotivated guy we saw in Seattle. The good news is, Meche is a veteran, and a Cajun, and we know that eventually, he'll get that gnawing feeling in his gut again and remember to pitch like his spittin' mad. Maybe the best thing that can happen is for him to get shelled one more time...

Lastly, is anybody else worried about Zack Greinke? This isn't the steroid era anymore boys (back when 90% of hitters were on the juice and no pitchers were) and a 7.20 ERA just isn't cutting the mustard. We need to point out the obvious that Greinke has eased up now that he's signed that big deal. Well, he's either eased up, or he's feeling more pressure. Actually both could be happening at the same time. Scouts call it "easy pressure" and it's one of the hardest things a manager has to deal with. The standard approach is to be really mean to a guy, then really nice, then to ignore him, then to text him at 3 AM with one of those really long texts that gets cut off and is broken up into multiple texts. Joe Torre did it last year with Manny Ramirez, and according to most observers, it made Manny the hitter he was in LA.

But until Greinke gets straight, the Royals will have a hard time coming together as a team, staying lose, just having fun out there, and taking every game seriously to break the culture of losing.