Matthews, Lefebvre hold court on Royals

Matthews, Lefebvre hold court on Royals

Denny Matthews, as broadcasting buddy Ryan Lefebvre pointed out, is calling Royals games for the 46th year -- which is also how long the Royals have been playing baseball.

So it was good for MLB.com to hear what the Hall of Fame broadcaster had to say about the Royals' upcoming 46th season as he and Lefebvre, beginning his 16th year with the team, chatted in the broadcast booth the other day.

It's no surprise that the two popular Kansas City voices had some positive things to say about the team's outlook for 2014.

Matthews keyed in on the Royals' prize rookie (the team's No. 2-ranked prospect), right-hander Yordano Ventura, as one of most exciting elements.

"It's really going to be fun to watch him develop, because all of the components physically are there," Matthews said. "Now he's got to be consistent, which, for a young guy, sometimes takes time, and obviously he's got to avoid injury. ... He's just so exciting, and the scouts use the term 'electric' and that's him -- fastball can hit the century mark with some nice movement, good breaking ball. He showed that a few nights ago. Changeup, a pitch that's developing for him and it looked pretty good. It's really going to be fun to watch him pitch and continue to grow."

Lefebvre noted almost every year in Spring Training, the Royals have expressed optimism that they could win and go to the postseason.

"The industry, I don't think, felt the same way about the Royals," Lefebvre said. "This year is different. They're a legitimate contender now. There is a real optimism, there is real expectation in the form of making it to the postseason. So how will these guys handle that? That they are going to be, as the old saying goes, the hunted now instead of the hunter."

Matthews pointed to the Royals' bid for an American League Wild Card berth last year.

"I think they had a taste of what it feels like to have the pressure cooker of the postseason wrapped around their heads the last two weeks of August last year and the entire month of September. So that's not going to come as a shock. Even the younger guys have experienced that," Matthews said.

"You talk about, can the Royals achieve what they really would like to -- let's say, win the division? Well, they only have to beat one team. That's a bold thing to say, isn't it? But Minnesota is really struggling, the White Sox last year were awful ... Cleveland, I thought, overachieved a little bit, so are the Royals better than the Indians? I think so."

So, Matthews went on, that leaves only the Tigers standing in the way.

"They have already lost their regular shortstop [Jose Iglesias], so that's quite a blow, because that's one of the four key positions," he said.

Lefebvre pointed out that while the Royals were fifth in the American League in batting average last year, they were 11th in runs scored and last in home runs.

"So they really needed to get some power," Lefebvre said. "What happened instead was the Royals went out and got a couple of top-of-the-order guys in Nori Aoki, who's really impressed me in Spring Training; unfortunately, we haven't seen a lot of Omar Infante because of injury.

"But the impact bat they were looking for in the middle of the order happened to be in-house already, and it was just shifting Alex Gordon down to the middle."

Matthews added that Kauffman Stadium is a very big ballpark, pitcher-friendly and a difficult place in which to hit home runs.

"So what is more important -- getting those two guys that you mentioned on base in front of the doubles, triples and singles guys?" Matthews said. "And the home runs will come, especially on the road. But in our ballpark, with a little speed and on-base percentage at the top of the order, I think they're in better shape.

"What if they went out and got a 40-home run guy and stuck him somewhere in the lineup? I'd rather have those two guys at the top get on base for the guys behind who are all pretty good contact hitters. It's just me, but I don't know how you feel about that."

You can find out how Lefebvre and Matthews feel about things in excerpts from their conversation in the accompanying video made especially for MLB.com.

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