We’ve said all there is to say about the stats posted by Yunieksy Betancourt since his arrival in Kansas City. But talking to some folks here, they say his defense hasn’t been all that bad.
“I know the numbers don’t look good, but he’s had some really bad luck,” said Royals bench coach John Gibbons, who’s serving as interim Royals manager while Trey Hillman tends to a family emergency in Texas. “Defensively, he’s been solid. He’s really shored that position up for us. And that’s not just the company line, I mean it.”
I’ve known Gibbons for several years and he knows better than to try to give me the latter. If he says Betancourt has been solid defensively, I tend to believe him. Didn’t get a good look at the guy he replaced, but he couldn’t be much worse than he looked in Seattle. Offensively, though, Gibbons thinks bad luck has had a lot to do with Betancourt’s poor numbers.
Betancourt does have a bit of a comfort zone here.
For one thing, his infield coach is former Mariners coach Eddie Rodriguez, who moved on to KC during the off-season. Rodriguez is of Cuban heritage, just like Betancourt.
“i was really surprised about his numbers,” Rodriguez said of Betnacourt’s poor offensive showing with Seattle this season. “Very surprised.”
Rodriguez has always been a firm believer in Betancourt’s defense and said it has been strong so far. On offense: “We’re working on some things.”
He remembered Betancourt’s strong finish late in the 2008 season while still coaching with Seattle and figured he’d turned a corner. Rodriguez can’t say what it is that caused Betancourt’s slide at the plate this season but agreed that all the pressure he was under to conform and perform for the new administration early on might not have helped.
“Regardless, we’re elated to have him,” he said. “We think he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Royals catcher Brayan Pena, is Cuban like Betancourt as well, hailing form Havana. Pena has tried to help Betancourt feel at home. Betancourt does have former teammates here like Willie Bloomquist, Jose Guillen and Gil Meche. But Pena speaks the same language and with the same regional dialect as Betancourt, which makes them natural off-field buddies.
“We go out to Fogo de Chao a lot,” he said of the Brazillian steakhouse. “You know us Cuban guys, we’ve got to have our steak. They don’t have places like that in Cuba, so it’s nice to go out to.”
Pena has know Betancourt since he was 10 years old.
“We played against each other a lot,” he said. “They later on, we were both on the Cuban national team together.”
Both live in Miami during the off-season and have run across each other there over the years.
“He’s been really happy to get out here and start fresh,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of people saying that he’s told them it’s a good fit. He gets around here well.”
Speaking of international players, the Mariners put out a press release earlier this afternoon announcing the signings of top OF Guillermo Pimentel , 16, from the Dominican Republic and nine others as well.
Mariners director of international scouting Bob Engle described Pimentel as “a kid with a lefthanded power bat. He’s extremely strong with a good approach to hitting.”
Here are the other signings, straight from the press release:
From Colombia: Infielder Diego Mina
From the Dominican Republic: Outfielder Alfredo Morales
From Korea: Catcher Ji-Man Choi (gee-mon CHOY) and
Right-Handed Pitcher Seon-Gi Kim (sun key KIM)
From Panama: Right-Handed Pitcher Waldy Alvarez
From Venezuela: Third Baseman Andres Brito
Outfielder Alexy Palma
Right-Handed Pitcher Julian Alvarado
Right-Handed Pitcher Daniel Mata