March 18, 2005


Bautista can do no wrong for Royals so far (JOE POSNANSKI, 3/18/05, Kansas City Star)

Every spring training camp needs a phenom, a prodigy, a kid who makes scouts' eyes pop out of their heads. The man on the mound fits the story. He's 24. He's 6 feet 5. He throws a 98-mph fastball. He throws a slider that bears in on you like a car salesman at a dealership. He throws a curveball that dives like Louganis.

Some scouts think his change-up is his best pitch.

He walks to the mound on Thursday to face the California Angels of Anaheim in Los Angeles County at Camden Yards — or whatever this goofy team is called now — and it's a good time to take a look at the man's statistics. Coming into this game, he has not given up a run yet in the spring. He has struck out more hitters than any other pitcher in spring training. Already, he has inspired Royals pitching coach Guy Hansen to say these words: “He's the most intimidating pitcher I've ever seen in my 30 years of baseball.”

“I'll tell you what,” says the harder-to-impress Allard Baird, the Royals' general manager. “This guy's got some serious, serious stuff.”

This guy is Denny Bautista, and as he warms up effortlessly, throwing mid-90s fastballs as if that's as easy as blowing bubbles in the back yard, you can't help but wonder how this happened, how the Royals got this phenom. Pitchers like this don't just happen. They don't just appear. They don't just end up with the Royals.

The quick answer is the Royals got him from Baltimore last June in a trade for a 36-year-old middle reliever, Jason Grimsley. But the quick answer doesn't seem to add up.

Let's explain: It was June, and the word from Baltimore was that the Orioles felt as if they were in playoff contention (they were nine games under .500 and 9 1/2 games out of the wild-card spot). Apparently, the Orioles felt like a 36-year-old middle reliever might be just the thing to push them over the top.

So they called about Grimsley. And called again. And again. Baird kept asking for Bautista. And one day — desperation can do things to a team — the Orioles just said yes.

Grimsley did not bring the Orioles that playoff spot. He did blow out his elbow.

Meanwhile, around Kansas City, baseball people keep asking the same question: “What's wrong with Bautista?” They kept trying to guess what was wrong. Maybe he was wild. Maybe he had off-the-field issues. Maybe he was in the Witness Protection Program. Maybe. Maybe.

All they knew for sure is there had to be something, because the Orioles would not just deal a young pitcher with one of the game's most overpowering fastballs and other dazzling pitches for Jason Grimsley. No way. There had to be something wrong.

The thing is, the Royals can't find anything wrong with Bautista.

All becomes clear if you just ask the right question: What's wrong with the Orioles?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 18, 2005 6:21 AM

Sometimes the local sportswriters seem to be affected by being too close to where the drugs are produced. Last year, Bautista was 3-5 with a 4.74 ERA in Bowie(Class AA), he was 0-4 with a 6.51 ERA in KC. He walked 78 guys in 182 innings, along with allowing 170 hits.

No one is happier when a filthy trial lawyer like Angelos falls flat on his face than I am, but Bautista is like a million guys on a roster in the spring.

Posted by: bart at March 18, 2005 4:37 PM

"Already, he has inspired Royals pitching coach Guy Hansen to say these words: He's the most intimidating pitcher I've ever seen in my 30 years of baseball."

I take it that Mr. Hansen never saw JR Richard.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at March 19, 2005 5:16 PM