Guthrie enjoys marked turnaround under Eiland
Royals right-hander has blossomed since arriving in 2012 trade with Colorado
KANSAS CITY -- Jeremy Guthrie's half-season stay with the Colorado Rockies last year was not pleasant. Record 3-9, ERA 6.35.
"A long three months," he said.
Things brightened up, however, when he was traded to the Royals on July 20, 2012, and came under the guidance of pitching coach Dave Eiland, who had seen a lot of Guthrie in his Baltimore years when he was pitching coach of the American League East-rival Yankees.
"He was a guy who didn't always get the results that he should've gotten. He pitched up in the zone," Eiland said.
When Guthrie was obtained in exchange for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, Eiland looked at Guthrie's Colorado video footage and found that things hadn't changed much. So when Guthrie reported to the Royals, Eiland had a talk with him.
"I've got a couple little things, but I want to see you pitch a game or two first," Eiland told him and then watched him lose to Minnesota and Seattle. "After that game in Seattle, I said, 'You ready to go?' and he said, 'Yeah.' So we went in the bullpen and made some adjustments."
Eiland adjusted Guthrie's shoulder tuck, changed his foot on the rubber, moved his hands down, worked on his balance.
"All that was designed to get him down in the zone and add a little deception," Eiland said. "He bought into it right away and worked on it hard, and continues to work on it to this day every day."
Guthrie also lost his third start for the Royals to Texas, but felt improvement. Since then, he has made 17 consecutive starts without a loss, a club record. The team has gone 15-2 in those games and Guthrie's personal record is 9-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
Guthrie's 2-0 win over the White Sox on Saturday was his first big league shutout in 189 starts. He's tossed 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings going into Thursday night's start at Baltimore.
"Now he's down in the zone and when he misses, he misses down," Eiland said. "Pitching from thigh to belt-high like he used to, when he missed he missed up. Now when he's from thigh down, his misses are down.
"And he gained some confidence. And once a guy with that pitchability gains some confidence, this is what happens."
Kottaras walks tall to aid Royals' offense
KANSAS CITY -- No one could ever accuse George Kottaras of taking a walk on the wild side. He'll take a walk, all right, but it'll be cool and carefully considered.
Kottaras, the Royals' backup catcher, doesn't play much but when he does, his way of getting a meaningful base on balls has been quite evident. In Sunday's 10-inning, 6-5 win over the White Sox, he drew two walks in the last two innings.
As a pinch-hitter in the ninth, his walk gave the Royals two runners on base, leading to Billy Butler's two-run, game-tying double. In the 10th, Kottaras' walk loaded the bases to set up Alex Gordon's walk-off single.
"He's got an idea what he wants up there," manager Ned Yost said. "He's got great discipline, he's got great eyesight, he knows the strike zone, he knows what he's going to swing at and what he doesn't. He's not coming out of his zone very often."
In 13 plate appearances this year, Kottaras has coaxed four walks. On April 25, he drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the first of five 10th-inning runs in an 8-3 win at Detroit. A bit later, Gordon hammered a grand slam.
Kottaras' approach is simple.
"You've got to trust the guy behind you and not feel like you have to do it on your own," Kottaras said.
In Gordon he trusts. On Sunday, Gordon followed him and delivered the hit that won the game.
Yost counting wins, not runs on scoreboard
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals were six games over .500 going into Sunday's game against the White Sox -- even though their run production hasn't been in high gear.
The Royals ranked just 11th among the 15 American League clubs with 115 runs, despite being third in batting average at .270.
"I want to be higher in the win column," manager Ned Yost said "That's all that matters."
No argument there. As far as his offense goes, he sees the frequent off-days -- a total of 10 scheduled open dates or postponements -- as a detriment.
"We're going to score more runs," Yost said. "Again, it's kind of like beating a dead horse, but we have yet to get into consistent play. When we get into consistent play, it allows your offense to get more consistent. The two days on, the two days off, it's a tough go. So the most important thing we can do now every day is score enough runs to win a baseball game. Whatever that is, so I have zero concern over the amount of runs we're scoring right now."
As he was quick to point out, the Royals' pitching so far has made it less necessary to score runs in bunches.
"Runs scored is big," Yost said, "but when you've got pitching like we've got ...
Through Saturday, his pitching staff had held opponents to 98 runs, second fewest in the AL.
"My focus is winning a baseball game every day and if it takes one run, if it takes 10 runs, if it takes two runs, I don't care," Yost said. "At the end of the day if we've won a game, that's all that matters."
Players continue to be main focus for Yost
KANSAS CITY -- Last season, manager Ned Yost told a story about how he'd use a false name when placing his order at Starbuck's. After all, no need to alert folks that "Ned" was there, and they could give him some helpful ideas on what to do about his struggling club.
So does he still use an alias now that the Royals are battling for first place?
"I still am right now. It's because now we're doing so well," Yost said with a smile.
Then he explained why.
"This has never been about me, I don't want it to be about me," Yost said. "I want it to be about those 25 guys in there. So I kind of like to stay low-key, really. I like it to be about them."
Yost wants the players to be the focus of attention.
"That's what it's about. It's about them and their success," Yost said. "As a manager and as a coaching staff, every day come to the park and do whatever we can do to help these kids get better. We work 'em on the field, we support 'em. We pat 'em on the rear end if they need it, they get a little kick in the rear end if they need it. But having confidence in them and understanding that it's about them is a good philosophy to have."
Royals honor Hispanic community leader
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals held their Viva Los Royals celebration on Sunday and installed Joe Mendoza, a leader in the Hispanic community, in the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat at Kauffman Stadium.
Mendoza, who started the retail lending division at Arvest Bank in 2009, is on the boards of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arts Council of Johnson County and is treasurer of the Guadalupe Center board.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.