Glass encouraged by Royals' progress

Glass encouraged by Royals' progress

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The glass is definitely half full, maybe even three-quarters full, for the owner of the Royals.

David Glass, the Royals chief executive officer and owner who watched his club top the Rockies, 6-2, on Wednesday, believes an improved pitching staff will make .500 an attainable goal.

"I think this team can play .500 baseball," Glass said. "I'm encouraged. I'm feeling really good about it and a lot of my optimism is based on the optimism that I feel here with general manager [Dayton Moore] to field manager [Buddy Bell] to the coaches and to the players. I think there is a different atmosphere than there has been in the past.

"My goal is always to get to .500. I think that is the first major milestone. Once you get to .500, then you can change that by 10 games and be competitive in your division. You're close enough so then you've got a base to build on, where maybe one important player move can change it and then you are in the hunt."

The Royals lost 100 games last season, but Glass approved appreciably hiking the payroll, which allowed Moore to sign free-agent pitchers Gil Meche, Octavio Dotel and David Riske. The Royals' 5.65 ERA in 2006 was the last in the American League and the highest in franchise history, so it was an area that needed to be addressed.

"Our pitching was the worst in the Major Leagues," Glass said. "Pitching is where we've been deficient. As I analyze our pitching and look at it down here, the guys we'll head into the season with have got to be a lot better than what we had last year.

"Starting with Meche right on down, they'll be better. I think pitching alone, the improvement in that, plus the improved play of some of our position players will get us to .500."

The addition of Dotel, who combined to save 36 games with the Astros and Athletics in 2004 and has allowed just one hit in three innings in Spring Training, and Riske, who has been one of the first-rate setup relievers in recent years, should solve one Royals problem -- 31 blown saves last season.

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"We led the world in blown saves last year," Glass said. "Not only do blown saves wind up being a loss, but it is demoralizing and it takes something out of the team. Dotel looks like his old self. I talked to him in the clubhouse the other day, and he was telling me that he is feeling as good as he did when he was in Houston. I watched him pitch some down there and he was a very effective closer then. So if he is healthy on the back end of the bullpen, yeah."

Glass said another reason for optimism is the way the Royals finished last season, including sweeping the Tigers at Detroit in the final three games.

"We played right at .500 baseball in September last year," Glass said of the Royals going 15-15, beginning Aug. 29.

Glass is also high on the Royals' young core position players -- Mark Teahen, Ryan Shealy, John Buck, David DeJesus and rookie Alex Gordon.

"I like our position players," Glass said. "I think they've indicated they can play with the other teams in baseball. Gordon looks like he is going to be a player. Teahen will be better this year. Buck will be better. Shealy has a knack for driving in runs. He is a good hitter and a good defensive first baseman. He's going to bring a lot to us. He'll get better, too, as he gets the opportunity to play every day.

"One thing about the young players, the good ones, is they continue to get better. I think we'll see significant improvement in our young players."

And Glass envisions a significant improvement in the Royals' record.

Alan Eskew is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.