Notes: Royals picking up speed

Notes: Royals picking up speed

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals aren't going to steal many bases. They rank 11th in the American League, but that doesn't mean they're not running.

Whenever possible, they'll be stretching out hits or gobbling up another 90 feet when advancing on a hit.

"We don't have a lot of team speed for stealing bases, and you have to compensate, so we've been compensating by taking the extra base and understanding angles and situations and things like that," manager Buddy Bell said.

The Royals, before Friday night's game against the Houston Astros, had 24 steals in 46 tries. That's not many for a club that doesn't have much power.

And raw speed is lacking. Angel Berroa's four steals was the team high.

So the Royals have to play it smart, as they did in Thursday night's win over the Los Angeles Dodgers when five runners advanced from first to third on hits.

"Their outfield was playing deep and we could go on all those ground balls," third-base coach Luis Silverio said.

Four of those runners later scored.

"You can go from first to third only if the ball will allow you," first-base coach Joe Jones said. "If it's hard and straight at the outfielder you probably can't go, but if they're playing deep you can go."

As Bell pointed out, running the bases is not an easy art. There are a lot of factors involved.

"You make the ball stop you and you recognize where the outfielders are and, also, you recognize who the hitter is. A lot of times, you know where the hitter is going to hit the ball. And you cut down the thinking by knowing that," he said.

"That's what baserunners do. They anticipate who's hitting, who's pitching, how many outs, what's the score. That sounds like a lot but, if you do it often enough, it just kind of happens instinctively."

Bell doesn't worry too much if well-thought-out aggressiveness results in a runner being thrown out.

"We don't worry about that. I'd rather see guys get thrown out than not be at a base he should be at. The more aggressive you are, it's going to look like you're going to get thrown out more often. But that's not the case at all," he said. "You can't play this game 'safety first' and, as you can see, we don't do that all that much."

Royals trivia: What was Roger Clemens' career record against Kansas City going into his start Friday night: 23-7, 15-15 or 7-23? (Answer below.)

Injury update: First baseman Mike Sweeney, out with a sprained left wrist and elbow, said Friday that his arm has improved.

"Better range of motion. It feels much better today than yesterday," he said. "But I'm still a couple of days away from grabbing a bat."

Right-hander Kyle Snyder, on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Omaha, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his first start Thursday night against Oklahoma. He gave up one hit with two strikeouts and threw 36 pitches.

Athletic trainer Nick Swartz expects pitcher Steve Stemle to be out four to six weeks and outfielder Matt Diaz to miss two to four weeks. Both have strained oblique muscles of the rib cage.

Farm report: After Snyder left Omaha's game, Dennis Tankersley, Jaime Cerda and Wes Wilkerson shut out Oklahoma for the final 6 1/3 innings in a 5-0 victory. Designated hitter Calvin Pickering hit a two-run shot in the first inning, his sixth homer.

First baseman Justin Huber (.331) reached 50 RBIs in Double-A Wichita's 7-6 win over Arkansas. Shortstop Michael Aviles homered and had three RBIs. ... Class A High Desert got two homers and five RBIs from shortstop Adam Keim in a 9-8 victory over Visalia. Designated hitter Brandon Powell's three hits raised his average to .343. ... Shortstop Edward Lucas had three hits, raising his average to .323, but Class A Burlington lost to Kane County, 4-1.

Scoring change: Official scorer Del Black announced a change in the ninth inning of Thursday night's game. He took away an infield single from Dodgers pinch-hitter Oscar Robles, ruling instead the play was a fielder's choice and an error on Royals second baseman Ruben Gotay.

The change ended Gotay's string of errorless games at 36 and lowered pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's ERA from 5.06 to 3.37. Affeldt was charged with one earned run instead of three.

Trivia answer: Clemens holds a 23-7 record against the Royals in his career and his 2.21 ERA is his lowest against any American League opponent.

On deck: The Royals will meet the Astros in the second of their three games at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. In a matchup of right-handers, D.J. Carrasco will oppose the Astros' Roy Oswalt.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.