Cedeno gets Royal opportunity

Cedeno gets Royal opportunity

Juan Cedeno was on Boston's radar, there was no doubt about that. He's young, has a power arm and has a huge upside, so great in fact that he was considered to be one of the Red Sox top prospects by many.

The problem Cedeno faced, however, was one over which he had no control. Boston had and still has so much pitching depth in its system that Cedeno, 22, had nowhere to go. The result was a July trade to Kansas City for Tony Graffanino, one that the native of the Dominican Republic saw coming, one with which he was more than pleased.

"I knew they had so many guys in Boston," Cedeno said. "And when they put me back in high A [Wilmington] to start the year, I knew they wanted to get someone out. And I knew they were going to trade me. Boston liked me, but they had so many guys.

"Jon Papelbon is my best friend in the United States, and Jon Lester is a good friend of mine, too. Papelbon is doing a great job, and we talk all the time. Lester has a great opportunity, too. The way I looked at it, if I didn't get an opportunity in Boston, there were 29 other teams with which I could have an opportunity."

Cedeno, who was 7-6 with a 4.64 ERA at Class A Sarasota in 2004, struggled a bit with Wilmington in the Carolina League. He went 2-6 in with a 5.49 ERA in 22 games (12 starts) before the trade and wasn't as effective as he would have liked to be after the Royals assigned him to Double-A Wichita. He was 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in 11 games (one start) with shoulder inflammation hampering his performance near the end of the season.

The inflammation also cost him a chance at joining the Royals in late August. Kansas City was set to call him to the big leagues but on the day the move was made, Cedeno told the trainer in Wichita about his shoulder and the plans were scrapped. Cedeno made his final appearance of the season on Aug. 26 but both he and the club insist his shoulder is fine, an argument supported by the three scoreless innings he threw for Licey recently in the Dominican Winter League.

Cedeno, who has four quality pitches including a plus fastball, is optimistic with Spring Training a little more than a month away. His shoulder is fine and the Royals have told him that they want him to start, eliminating the uncertainty he experienced last season bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation.

"We want to give him that chance to start," Kansas City assistant general manager Muzzy Jackson said. "He has a plus fastball, a good change, slider and curve and we're working on some things mechanically with him. He has a good enough repertoire to be a starter so that's what we want to build him up as.

"He made strides last year. The big thing for him is his command. He has a tendency to push the ball a little and when he does, it flattens out. It's just a matter of getting a consistent arm angle and not pushing the ball. But he's a guy we liked and he definitely has a power arm."

Jackson said there are no guarantees where Cedeno will begin the season but if all goes according to Hoyle, he'll be back at Wichita. Starting and having an idea where he'll be has Cedeno excited.

"I don't care what level I'm at, I just want to go out and do my job," Cedeno said. "I want to start, and they told me that my ERA in the Minor Leagues doesn't matter as much. They don't care if it is high right now; they just want me to start. So I'm ready to go.

"I don't know a lot about Kansas City or the guys there. And I don't know how closely they've been following me here. But if they do, they have to see something because I'm pitching really well here."

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.