Mailbag: Watching Hillman's watches

Mailbag: Watching Hillman's watches

On TV broadcasts, you see Trey Hillman wearing two watches. What's that about?
-- Dave F., Lincoln, Neb.

The Royals' skipper tells us he wears one wristwatch, but also has a stopwatch in hand. Basically he uses the stopwatch to time pitchers' release times to determine whether or not a Royals runner has a chance to steal a base. It's the time in fractional seconds from the start of the pitcher's motion to the catcher's glove.

Here's what Hillman had to say, in part, about stealing second base: "If a pitcher is below l.3 [seconds] he's a red-light guy. We're not going to run. We have one guy who can run on below 1.3 and that's Joey [Gathright]. If Joey hasn't been out there carrying himself with confidence and getting maximum great jumps, he's not going to steal on a guy below 1.3. If it's the 1.35 to 1.4 range, you've got Joey, you've got Mark Teahen, if his legs are feeling good, you've got David DeJesus, if his legs are feeling good. Maybe an outside shot for a Alex Gordon. Those guys are in that range for a runner at first base. If you go beyond 1.55 and beyond ... pretty much anybody can go except John Buck or Billy Butler."

Hillman went on to say that there's another set of times for a runner to steal third base because the catcher's throw is cut from 127 to 90 feet. Hillman also times the catcher's release times from the time a pitch hits his mitt to the ball getting to the base. He also tries to figure in pitch patterns and other factors in deciding whether or not to send a runner.

It's a complex undertaking with a simple result: You're either safe, or out. Anyway, that's why Hillman has two watches -- one to time with, the other simply to tell time.

Why would the Royals move Mike Moustakas over to third base when they have a Gordon already playing at that position?
-- Dan W., Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Moustakas didn't profile as a Major League shortstop, so third base was a logical alternative. There's no guarantee that Moustakas ever will make the Majors. Just as there's no guarantee that Gordon still will be at third base for the Royals if and when Moustakas is ready. In the Minors, the parent club must simply put a player at the position for which he seems best fitted. Situations change, especially in baseball. And if someday the Royals have both Gordon and Moustakas on the Major League roster at the same time, they'll figure out a solution. Moustakas, by the way, hit his 18th home run on Sunday for Class A Burlington and his average was .263.

Is Ryan Shealy completely out of the Royals' plans now? He's been killing the ball at Omaha, he isn't a butcher on defense and is a huge improvement over the slap-hitting Ross Gload. What does he have to do to get the call?
-- William S., Columbia, Mo.

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It's all about opportunity. Shortstop Mike Aviles, after a long wait, finally got his shot and is making the most of it. Now Shealy is waiting his turn. Also, since Kila Kaaihue was promoted to Omaha, Shealy has competition at first base in Triple-A and is often at DH. As far as Kansas City goes, Hillman likes the superb defense that Gload provides at first base and he's been hitting pretty well lately.

Shealy had some hamstring problems earlier, but he's been hitting with good power -- 15 homers through Sunday -- and production. Shealy had an unimpressive spring, and maybe that's stayed in Hillman's mind. First base is a power position and the Royals could use more pop there. I don't think Shealy has been written off but, at 28, his time might be running short and he'll have to make his mark quickly when he gets another shot in the Majors. And he is a good-fielding first baseman and a great guy to have in the clubhouse.

During almost every home game, there is a section of seats down the third-base line that is empty even though every seat around it is filled. Why is this? It gives the appearance that the seats are reserved, but for who?
-- Andy A., Lenexa, Kan.

That's especially apparent on lightly-attended nights. There simply is an area, down the right-field line as well as the left-field line, where the seats sold to season-ticket holders stop and unsold seats begin. This empty area is usually bordered by folks further down in lower-priced seats. So sometimes there's a large, sort of circular block of empty seats. When tickets are in demand, these seats sell quickly. They're not reserved for anyone; they're just waiting for you to buy tickets there, Andy.

Royals senior director of ticket operations Rick Amos also tells us those areas might fill up later this season as some season-ticket holders are re-located to accommodate the stadium renovation work.

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