-- Luis C., Bristol, Tenn.
Maroth is a bit behind because of a stiff shoulder but, after pitching in a "B" game on Sunday, he's about ready for Cactus League action. He started out throwing softly on Sunday, but by the end of his outing his pitches were up around 85, 86 mph. That's just a couple of miles per hour shy of his normal speed. With Maroth, of course, everything is getting the pitches to work and hitting his spots as he did so well for years with the Tigers. The Royals already are impressed by his edgy determination and work ethic. Two other left-handers, John Bale and Jorge De La Rosa, are competing for the fifth slot in the rotation and Maroth has some catching up to do. He's agreed to start the season at Omaha if necessary and, with less than three weeks left in Spring Training, that's a possibility. Having a veteran like Maroth tuning up at Triple-A in case another starter is needed in a hurry would be a good option.
I've noticed that all of the Royals are wearing blue cleats this spring. Are they going to be wearing those all season?
-- Sarah N., Blue Springs, Mo.
Yep, they're the blue-shoed Royals once more. They wore black shoes for the last six years, changing when black became part of the uniform motif in 2002. The Royals are embodying the 2008 slogan: New. Blue. Tradition. You've already heard about the new powder-blue tops that will be alternate home jerseys.
Should the Royals leave Billy Butler in the DH role and move Mark Teahen to first base so that Joey Gathright gets in the lineup and adds more speed to the outfield?
-- Zach H., Overland Park, Kan.
No matter what scenario plays out, Gathright should and will get a lot of playing time. He had six steals in his first six games in Arizona. Butler is making progress at first base but, given manager Trey Hillman's obsession with defense, Butler probably will spend more time at DH than on the field, at least for now. Teahen has yet to play first base in a Cactus League game because he's busy with his switch to left field. Ryan Shealy and Ross Gload are still very much in the first-base picture and both are hitting well. Your question mirrors a position switch that Hillman has pondered all winter, at least to be employed occasionally. Should it be permanent? Let time and results sort that one out.
Can you explain what it means to have options as far as the Minor Leagues go? How does it work and how many does each player start out with?
-- Scot R., Columbus, Ohio
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Royals vice president Dean Taylor explains that each player on a 40-man roster has three seasons of optional service available. Just one option is used up per season, no matter how many times a player might bounce between, say, Kansas City and Omaha. There are other little technicalities that can arise but basically that's it. One interesting aside: It's possible for a player to have a fourth option, which happens to be the case with outfielder Shane Costa. If a player has less than five years of pro service and has already been optioned three times, he's eligible for a fourth option. (Although Costa turned pro in 2003, he was not on a roster for 90 days, so that's not a "year" in this context.) A fourth option is relatively rare but can happen when a player reaches the Majors quickly.
I've heard that cities like Columbia, Springfield and Jefferson City, Mo., will be getting all Royals games this year finally. Is that the case?
-- Brent B., Sweet Springs, Mo.
Here's the info from the Royals and FSN Kansas City fact sheet on mid-Missouri TV: "Fans in Columbia/Jefferson City, Joplin and Springfield areas will see more Royals games than ever. In previous seasons, those markets received only 40 games. Beginning in 2008, fans in those areas will receive most if not all of the 140 games. Some games will air on the regular FSN channel and some will air on an alternate channel on cable and satellite. Fans in central Missouri will also continue to receive 130 Cardinals games."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.