Notes: Blanco shows promise

Notes: Blanco shows promise

KANSAS CITY -- Andres Blanco is the sixth player the Royals have used at second base this season and he's risen to the top of the list.

Just what that might mean for 2006, however, isn't known because general manager Allard Baird has a second baseman on his offseason shopping list. Manager Buddy Bell believes Blanco's hitting would benefit from a season at Triple-A Omaha.

For now, however, Blanco is holding down the position and fielding well, often spectacularly, as you'd expect from a top shortstop prospect.

"It's part of my job now. I like it," he said. "No matter where I play, I want to play hard and help my team win."

The Royals also have used prospects Donnie Murphy and Ruben Gotay and veterans Tony Graffanino (since traded), Joe McEwing and Denny Hocking at second base.

Blanco, a switch-hitter, went into Sunday's game against Cleveland with a .182 average (10-for-55). In fact, he was in a 1-for-23 slide.

"I'm much more aggressive. I'm not getting the base hits, but that's part of baseball," he said.

A year ago, during his September callup, Blanco batted .317 (19-for-60). A 21-year-old Venezuelan, he was held back by injuries this season and got a total of just 186 Minor League at-bats, batting .263.

More can be expected as Blanco matures.

"A lot of that is a strength issue. It comes with age," said Royals coach Billy Doran.

There's not much lacking in his fielding, though.

"He's quick with his feet and his hands, and you can't coach that," Doran said.

Stadium heist: A flatbed containing launching equipment for last Friday's fireworks show was stolen from a Kauffman Stadium parking lot, apparently between Wednesday and Friday.

Other equipment was dispatched to the stadium and the show went on as scheduled at its normal length, according to director of marketing Kim Hillix. Police are investigating the theft.

Royals trivia: What Royals pitcher had the decision in last season's home finale, a 5-0 loss to the White Sox? (Answer below.)

Game four: Designated hitter Mike Sweeney was out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game because of lower back pain.

Sweeney was in the on-deck circle in the ninth, waiting to pinch-hit for Andres Blanco, when Paul Phillips' double gave the Royals a 5-4 victory.

Sweeney previously sat out 37 games, all but one because of injuries.

Long injured: Left fielder Terrence Long had to leave Sunday's game when he twisted his left knee in the sixth inning. He was hurt as he left the batter's box after a single up the middle.

"I was going to stay in but Buddy (Bell) said no," Long said. "Whenever I start a game I like to finish it."

Rookies razzed: The annual initiation for rookies came in the wake of Sunday's victory. Crazy costumes were the order of the day -- Chris Ambres as Spiderman, Ambiorix Burgos as Little Bo Beep (or somebody), J.P. Howell as a gladiator.

"I remember I was Raggedy Ann," veteran Aaron Guiel recalled. "Kit Pellow was Raggedy Andy and we were walking the streets of San Francisco hand-in-hand."

Trivia answer: Zack Greinke, also the Royals' starter in Sunday's Kauffman wrapup, took the loss.

On deck: The Royals begin their final week at 7:10 p.m. CT Monday at Minnesota. Left-hander J.P. Howell (2-5, 7.34 ERA) is matched against Twins right-hander Scott Baker (2-2, 3.16 ERA).

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