ST. PETERSBURG -- Royals pitcher Jose Lima, the brash, boisterous and bleach-haired right-hander -- considered the most vocal player in the clubhouse -- found himself unsuccessfully arguing calls earlier in the season. That's changed -- and so has his game. In three starts since the All-Star break, Lima has a 3.00 ERA while winning his last two starts in convincing fashion.
Royals pitching coach Guy Hansen said that Lima's performance and demeanor have drastically improved since he stopped arguing balls and strikes with the umpires. "He's much more professional in the games," Hansen said. "He's been wonderful in the clubhouse all year round, but he was sabotaging many of the good things off [the] field with what he was doing on the field. ... I know that early on, Lima and many of the umps [did not get] along at all. His animosity toward them would show, and that would not work out at all." But Lima's gotten better. Lima factored in a 5-3 win over Cleveland on July 20 in which he went six innings and gave up two runs on eight hits, then starred in a 7-1 victory against Chicago on July 26 in which he gave up just one run on five hits. Even in a 4-1 loss to Detroit on July 15 he looked solid, giving up just three earned runs. Lima credits his recent success to manager Buddy Bell, who assured him he would stay in the rotation and helped Lima retain his ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone. "I know I've been pitching well for the last month. Sometimes, you just go until you can pitch no more," Lima said. "When I go out there, I give 100 percent." After a rough May in which his ERA ballooned to 10.08, Lima has settled down, pitching to a 3.52 ERA in July entering Sunday's series finale with the Devil Rays. "July's always been good to me. I've just got to go out there and stay focused and try to do my job," he said. "It's been great, man. [I've had a] great second half; [I] can't complain." Lima hopes his turnaround continues even if the Royals' struggles do, too. "I was trying to do too much," he said. "Sometimes, you put too much pressure on yourself and go out there and try to win the ballgame on one pitch, and that's what I was doing. Lima spent five seasons pitching in the National League with the Astros. Hansen said the National League is easier because pitchers bat, lineups are not as heavy-hitting, and the umpiring is not as tough. "You don't get too much of that around this league," he said. "This is a league where you need to know what the [heck] you're doing. You need to have some sort of game plan. You've got have some experience to draw from. And you don't panic." Brinkman's take: Following Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Devil Rays, Bell took issue with home plate umpire Joe Brinkman. After the game, Bell said he was upset with Angel Berroa's at-bat in the ninth inning, when he popped out to second base. "I'm not going to stand for Joe Brinkman, the home plate umpire, disrupting the hitter's at-bat, because he misses a pitch and ends up calling me all kinds of expletives, and Angel Berroa is trying to hit," Bell said. "He can call me whatever he wants and get away with it, and to be honest with you, ... there's a little bit of a double standard when umpires can do whatever they want and you can't do anything back to them." When asked about the situation on Sunday, Brinkman declined comment. "I don't want to comment on that," he said. "It's not even worth it." He also declined comment when asked if he and Bell have had problems in the past. Berroa, when asked after the game about the at-bat, said nothing unusual happened. DeJesus dehitter: Royals outfielder David DeJesus entered Sunday's game on a four-game hitting streak, throughout which each game has included more than one hit. "He's been great. He's been our best player. He drives in runs," Bell said. DeJesus, who traditionally leads off, is batting .299 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs. "He's been outstanding," Bell said. "It was a good move to have him there." This and that: Catcher John Buck, after sitting out the last two games against Tampa Bay, returned to the lineup for Sunday's game. He had gone hitless in his last 10 at-bats, but Bell said the dry spell was not the reason for Buck's absence, and that the manager just wanted to give Alberto Castillo some time behind the plate. ... The Royals have gone 10-12 against teams in the American League East this season. ... Bell spent some time before Saturday's game talking with Devil Rays bench coach Don Zimmer. Bell said it was good see Zimmer, who was his manager in Texas during the 1981 and 1982 seasons. "He was one of the best managers. ... He was tough, but he made the game fair and fun," Bell said. "I appreciate what he's done for the game." On deck: The Royals will travel to Boston to begin a three-game series on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Royals right-hander Runelvys Hernandez (8-9, 4.45 ERA) will face Red Sox righty Tim Wakefield (9-9, 4.19 ERA).
Jared S. Hopkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.