Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Royals’ hopes higher this year

April 6, 2001


— To patient and frustrated Kansas City fans, it all sounds so very simple.

The Royals blew a whopping 29 saves last year. But they still won 77 games. Now if imported bullpen ace Roberto Hernandez can only cut that total in half, Kansas City will contend for postseason action for the first time since 1985.

If only things were really that simple.

The Royals, who make their home debut today in a 1:05 p.m. start against Minnesota after being swept three games in New York, will first have to play as well in other facets of the game as they did last year.

"Everybody is maybe overly excited cause we've added a closer," said Tony Muser, starting his fourth full season as manager.

If he is effective at all, the nine-year veteran Hernandez is certain to be an instant fan favorite in a city whose team has blown 56 saves the past two years and wasted career offensive years by several position players. Hernandez converted 32 of 40 save opportunities with Tampa Bay last year while compiling a 4-7 record and a 3.19 ERA.

"We still have to do things right everywhere else and be in position to hand Roberto the ball and the lead," Muser said.

"I'm not going to tell you Roberto is the last key. But there is a sense of confidence that we have somebody who's been there before."

Weather permitting, Brian Meadows (13-10 last year with a 5.13 ERA) will start for the Royals. Going for the Twins will be Joe Mays (7-15, 5.56). Forecasters are predicting possibly heavy thunderstorms late this afternoon.

The sellout crowd will get its first look at colorful large banners hanging around the stadium's exterior featuring all 22 members of the Royals Hall of Fame. Then on all four major stadium ramps are banners featuring the current Royals. A large display noting George Brett's entry in the Hall of Fame has also been added.

"I think the banners really look outstanding," said Herk Robinson, the Royals' executive vice president. "This is in line with what we're trying to do to have more involvement with the fans, make them feel like they're a part of the game."

The Royals are also trying to involve former players in the community and the club. An alumni association has been established, headed by former Royals broadcaster Fred White.

"We're doing a lot of things with them," Robinson said. "They're going to run clinics, give speeches, go out into the community. They will also be involved in a lot of charitable work."

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