Royals 8, Athletics 3

March 24, 2009 9:38:16 PM PDT
Mike Aviles hit a grand slam in the third inning and drove in five runs and the Kansas City Royals defeated the Oakland Athletics 8-3 on Tuesday night.

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Aviles, who started last season at Triple-A, was promoted on May 29 last season and became the Kansas City regular shortstop on June 6, hitting .325 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs in 102 games. He finished tied for fourth in the American League rookie of the year balloting.

"It's a complete 180, definitely for the better," Aviles said of the turnaround of his fortunes from the 2008 camp. "I'm not saying it was bad in 2007, but it's a lot different now. I can't complain. I worked really, really hard to be where I'm at right now. I'm going to work harder to stay where I'm at and get better. That's usually my philosophy, just work as hard as I can and leave everything out there."

The Oakland Athletics' starting rotation remains a virtual blank slate, even with less than two weeks to go before opening day.

General manager Billy Beane suggested on Tuesday that the only pitcher who has a secure spot is Dallas Braden, who has made 24 major league starts. Justin Duchscherer would also have a spot, if he's healthy, even if he's only able to pitch a few innings initially.

Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher, who had seemingly secure jobs when the spring began, are now competing along with Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Edgar Gonzalez and Josh Outman for spots in the rotation. Gio Gonzalez was a candidate until he hurt his shoulder.

"We have five spots and we have to be open-minded in everything," Beane said before the A's 8-3 loss to the Royals on Tuesday night. "We still have a lot of real important meetings from this point on. We have to start making some definitive decisions."

As Beane rattled off the rotation candidates, the only one he gave any praise was Braden, who has a 3.14 ERA this spring. Braden is in line to start opening day.

"I think he's throwing well, and we feel good with where he finished last year ... how he's progressed and he seems to have carried it into spring," Beane said. "Beyond that I think it's pretty much wide open."

The lack of inspiring options for the rest of the rotation is perhaps why the A's have now changed course on Duchscherer. They had said he wouldn't be ready to start the season in the rotation, but now Beane said the team would like to start him in the rotation, even if he hasn't built his pitch-count up to a normal level to start.

"Let's face it, if Duke's healthy you want him in (the rotation)," Beane said. "If he wasn't ready to go five or six in his first start, we have to decide how long he is able to go. Right now we're pushing to put him in the rotation even if in abbreviated situation and we'll build him up from there. If it means he can only go four innings, we'll take those four innings. We'll just see."

Duchscherer is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game, his first of the spring, on Thursday. The most pitches he's thrown in the bullpen so far is 40.

Of the other candidates, the best have been a pair of 21-year-olds: Anderson and Cahill. Anderson has a 1.54 spring ERA and Cahill's is 3.94. Eveland (5.02) and Edgar Gonzalez (12.75) have both been hit hard lately.

Among the others, Gallagher helped himself and Outman hurt himself on Thursday.

Outman, who got a start on Tuesday night so the A's could evaluate him, gave up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings, including a grand slam to Mike Aviles.

"It's really aggravating, following a few outings that have been strong," Outman said. "I don't think this is going to make or break my spring training, but it is a bump in the road that I'd rather not have had."

Gallagher followed Outman to the mound and pitched 4 2-3 scoreless innings. He pitched four scoreless innings in his previous outing. His spring ERA is 4.05.

Notes:@ 3B Eric Chavez played four innings of defense in a minor league game, his first competitive action in the field this spring. Chavez, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, then took batting practice on the field for the first time in more than two weeks. Geren said Chavez may play defense only in Friday's major league exhibition game. Geren said he'd bat Chavez ninth, and then either pull him or have him take pitches when his turn came in the order. ... OF Jack Cust was scratched from the lineup because of stiffness in his back. ... RHP Joey Devine pitched one inning in a minor-league game, his first competition in three weeks. Devine, who had been out with a sore elbow, is scheduled to get into a big league exhibition game on Friday night. ... RHP Brad Ziegler pitched an inning in the same minor league game. He is expected to pitch again in the minors on Thursday, and possibly pitch in a big league game over the weekend. ... INF Bobby Crosby made his professional debut at second base. Crosby handled two routine grounders and one popup and he made a putout on a stolen-base attempt at second.

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