K.C.'s first base prospect is opening eyesPosted: Friday March 01, 2002 10:22 AM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Mark Bechtel, Sports Illustrated
Team: Kansas City Royals
Location: Baseball City, Fla.
Weather: 80 and sunny
Player I Saw Whom I Liked: Ken Harvey. He's a big (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) rookie first baseman without much power (that 240 ain't all muscle), but his stroke is as gorgeous as you will ever see from a right-handed hitter. Manager Tony Muser is on a kick where he's trying to make spring training more fun, so earlier this week when he was throwing BP to Harvey and a couple other rookies, he would give them make-believe situations to pique their interest. Harvey stepped in and Muser said, "Bottom of the ninth, two outs, 3-2 pitch," then delivered. Harvey hit a screamer back at the skipper that, were it not for the protective screen in front of him, would have blown Muser's mustache out the back of his head. After Muser got his heart running again, he yelled, "Royals win! Royals win!" Yeah, it's February, but I'm guessing we'll see the real deal before too long. The 23 year old has hit everywhere he's been, including a .380 mark at Wilmington (Class AA) and a .337 clip at Omaha (Class AAA) last year.
Around the Horn: A remarkably laid-back Muser spent a good half-hour shooting the breeze with the beat writers, and spent a good chunk of that time doing a very good Harry Caray impression. (Actually he was impersonating Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell impersonating Caray.). ... Muser also starts practice every day with a joke, usually unprintable on grounds of language or corniness. ... Remark from Mike Sweeney to a group of kids who hunted him down and cornered him to get a few balls autographed: "Thanks. My pleasure. It was nice meeting you guys." Perhaps the nicest guy in the game. ... During a rundown drill, third baseman Joe Randa laid a tag on Chuck Knoblauch that was much harder than anything you would expect to see in spring training. Knoblauch said with a grin, "You tagged me kind of hard." To which Randa replied, "Well, you were running kind of hard." In a nutshell, that's why Muser is happy to have these two guys -- each of whom struggled at the plate last year -- on his side. No matter the situation, they are going to give it their all. He will likely benefit from being out of New York. In Kansas City he won't be known as the guy who forgot how to throw from second base; He'll simply be the Royals' new left fielder. ... An interesting guy to watch is left-handed pitcher Darrell May. Near the end of spring training four years ago, when May was with Anaheim, then-Angels manager Terry Collins told him he was probably going to get sent down and might consider playing in Japan. He did, and hated it -- but the money was too good to turn down. After pitching with the Hanshin Tigers in 1998 and 1999, May joined the Yomiuri Giants. He appeared in the 2000 All-Star game -- where he got Ichiro to pop out twice -- and last year struck out 168 batters in 159 innings. Yomiuri offered him a seven-figure deal to stay on, but May finally decided it was time to come home. He signed with K.C. for less than $400,000 and, despite the fact that he hasn't pitched in the majors in ages (and wasn't anything special when he did), he is penciled in as the Royals' No. 2 starter. The crafty lefty turns 30 this summer and decided that working on his home turf was worth more to him than the money, so he rolled the dice. It'd be nice to see him succeed.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Mark Bechtel will check in periodically with reports from his tour of spring camps.