Royals Off To Rough Start In 2012

DETROIT: Joakim Soria #48 and Brayan Pena #27 of the Kansas City Royals celebrate an 11-8 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

A month ago, there was optimism afoot about the Kansas City Royals.

They did lose 91 games last season, but they also debuted a number of young players who seem to have bright futures: catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, second baseman Johnny Giavotella, and third baseman Mike Moustakas, along with pitchers Aaron Crow and Danny Duffy.

Yes, the Royals still seem short a couple of good starting pitchers. But if Crow takes well to his shift from the bullpen to the rotation, and Duffy builds on last season's shaky performance ... Well, you certainly can dream a little, especially in an American League Central that doesn't look real good once you get past the Tigers.

Well, the rotation's been fine this spring. Or at least nobody's been hurt. And Crow and Duffy have both pitched well.

Elsewhere, though? It's been rough:

* After knee surgery, Salvador Perez is going to miss the first few months of the season.

* Closer Joakim Soria has been terrible this spring -- he's given up eight hits and six runs while retiring only seven hitters -- and left his outing Sunday with elbow soreness.

* Unaccountably, manager Ned Yost is wavering about his starting second baseman. Though Giavotella played brilliantly in the minors last season and looked pretty good in the majors, too, Yost seems torn between Giavotella and Chris Getz and even (gasp) Yuniesky Betancourt, who supposedly was signed as a utility infielder.

Granted, it's not yet clear that Giavotella is actually the Royals' best second baseman at this exact moment. It's also not clear that Giavotella stands to benefit from more time with triple-A Omaha.

Of greatest concern, perhaps, is Soria's injury. For some years -- essentially, ever since Soria signed a team-friendly contract that keeps him under club control through 2014 -- there's been some sentiment among the objective-analysis community for trading Soria for prospects, since good relief pitchers are among the easiest things to find. Granted, when Soria looked like the best young relief pitcher in the majors and wasn't making much money, keeping him didn't seem like a terrible move.

But if he's got a serious elbow injury and never quite gets back to where he was in 2010, management might regret not making that deal when they could.

Nothing that's happened this spring really changes the Royals' timetable for success in the standings, which really never figured to happen until 2013. At the earliest. But based on what we've seen so far this spring, 2012 could be another long season.

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