Royals await inaugural visit to Marlins

Royals kick off Interleague Play

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals are venturing into unknown waters, so to speak. They're going to play the Florida Marlins at Dolphin Stadium. This will be the first stop there in Kansas City's history.

This single weekend launch of the 12th season of Interleague Play pits the Royals against the first-place club in the National League East. The Marlins have been atop the division for a total of 30 days.

"It doesn't surprise me -- they play to win and they're hustling," said Royals catcher Miguel Olivo, who spent the previous two seasons with the Marlins. "They have good young kids over there, power hitters like Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. They have a great team over there."

The Marlins' home was built 20 years ago as Joe Robbie Stadium for the NFL's Dolphins. It was renovated for baseball, and includes an electric disappearing pitcher's mound (watch yourself, Brett Tomko).

The Royals' Mark Grudzielanek, a long-time National Leaguer, likes playing there -- up to a point.

"I'm not a huge fan of it," Grudzielanek said. "They get a lot of rain delays during the game. Very rarely do you go in there and escape unscathed by the rain.

"It's definitely a football stadium as far as the way it kind of feels and how open it is. But it's a good hitters' park, the ball goes pretty good there. It's not extreme, but it flies pretty good."

The left-field wall is just 330 feet down the line, though it is 26 1/2 feet high. Center field ranges all the way to 434 feet. It's 345 to right and the power alleys are 385 feet each.

"The left field is good to hit home runs, but the center field is good for pitching -- there's a big hole there," Olivo said. "But the ball carries good there."

Whether or not the Royals' Jose Guillen will get to test it still hasn't been decided. Guillen, recovering from a right hip injury, has been the designated hitter in the last five games.

It's not a role he relishes. Asked on Thursday if he was in the lineup against the Tigers, Guillen replied: "No. I'm DHing."

At any rate, there's no DH in NL parks, so Guillen would have to be in left field to be in the Royals' lineup.

"We'll see about Miami," he said. "It's still bothering me, but it's getting better, too."

Good enough that Guillen belted his fourth home run on Thursday off Tigers left-hander Kenny Rogers. Manager Trey Hillman noted that Guiillen wanted to push it and try to play left field as well.

"I just kind of pulled the reins on that and said that's not the smart thing to do," Hillman said. "We're fixing to go play our first Interleague games. We need you in left and let's sit on the DH slot for one more day and hopefully everything is good to go in Florida. Jose hates DHing. He likes to be involved."

The Royals' regular DH, Billy Butler, has been playing first base for the last five games, so he's ready for Interleague action at that spot.

Meantime, Hillman will get his first taste of managing under National League rules with no DH. Managing the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League, he operated with the DH except in limited interleague games against Japan's Central League teams.

"I've managed a lot more ballgames with the American League style than the National League style, but I'm certainly not afraid of the double switch or the mental preparation that you have to go through to be able to manage those games," Hillman said.

"It puts a lot of pressure on a bench coach and you can make more impactful decisions, but I've got a bench coach [Dave Owen] that's worked with me before and he knows how my mind works."

Interleague by the numbers: 86-109 overall, 10-8 in 2007

Record vs. Marlins: 3-3 overall, 2-1 in 2007

All-time Club Interleague Play Leaders:
• Batting average: Joe Randa, .342
• Home runs: Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, 15
• RBIs: Mike Sweeney, 85
• Wins: Tim Belcher, 5
• ERA: Scott Service, 2.56 (18 innings minimum)

2008 Interleague Schedule
• May 16-18: at Florida
• June 13-15: at Arizona
• June 17-19: at St. Louis
• June 20-22: vs. San Francisco
• June 23-25: vs. Colorado
• June 27-29: vs. St. Louis

Pitching matchup
KC: RHP Brett Tomko (1-4, 5.67 ERA)
Tomko couldn't repeat the sharpness he showed in seven shutout innings against the hard-hitting Angels in his previous start. Facing the Orioles last Saturday, Tomko gave up six runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings and absorbed his fourth loss. After surrendering a three-run homer in the first inning, he occupied himself during a nearly two-hour rain delay by studying videotapes of more successful games and that helped when he returned. A former National Leaguer, Tomko is 7-2 in his career against the Marlins.

FLA: LHP Andrew Miller (3-2, 6.52 ERA)
More polish is starting to come with each outing for Miller. The 6-foot-6 lefty has now won three straight decisions. They've come over a stretch of four starts. He last suffered a defeat on April 12 at Houston. In his last outing, his best of the season, he matched his career high with seven innings. He didn't allow a run, and he scattered two hits in beating the Nationals. Miller also matched his career high for strikeouts, seven, and he logged 103 pitches, another high.

Crown Points
This 11-game trip will be the Royals' longest this season. After Florida, they return to American League sites at Boston and Toronto, each for four games. ... Marlins veteran Luis Gonzalez should be happy to see Tomko on the hill. Gonzalez has hit Tomko to the tune of .441 (15-for-34) with three home runs. ... Hall of Famer George Brett marked his 55th birthday on Thursday.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN

On radio
• KCSP 610

Up next
• Saturday: Royals (Brian Bannister, 4-4, 3.75) at Marlins (Scott Olsen, 4-1, 2.63), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Royals (Zack Greinke, 4-1, 1.93) at Marlins (Burke Badenhop, 1-2, 5.97), 12:10 p.m. CT
• Monday: Royals (Luke Hochevar, 3-2, 3.94) at Red Sox (TBD), 6:05 p.m. CT

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