KANSAS CITY -- The annual Kansas City Baseball Writers' Awards were presented on the FanFest stage. Billy Butler was the top player, closer Greg Holland the top pitcher and shortstop Alcides Escobar won a special achievement award.Hall of Famer George Brett, offering commentary along with manager Ned Yost and general manager Dayton Moore, had this to say about Escobar: "Last year it didn't surprise me with anything he did with the glove. I just started calling him the human highlight reel; every series he'd make some play that appeared on SportsCenter. What he did offensively surprised me a little bit, but what I now see is last year is no fluke. He is going to hit. But what I'm most impressed with is the passion that he plays with." Yost called Escobar's ebullient attitude a big plus. "This is one of the few people that wake up every single day in a great mood," Yost said. "He's one of the happiest guys that we've got on this team, and his attitude and the way he goes about his business is infectious. When he comes in, he brightens up the room every day."
New-look rotation is a hit at Royals FanFest
KANSAS CITY -- James Shields was dressed in black and fighting the flu, but the right-hander seemed like a healthy ray of sunshine to the folks attending Saturday's Royals FanFest.Spirits were high, primarily due to Shields and the refurbished Royals rotation, as fans flocked to the Overland Park Convention Center. "We had a good turnout today, it was an amazing FanFest," Shields said. "I think there was probably close to 10,000 people out there. The fans seem real excited about this year. I'm excited to be here." Shields wasn't far off. Attendance was put at 9,121 for the one-day event by Toby Cook, Royals vice president of community affairs and publicity. He said attendance hovered around 10,000 combined for the two days at the previous four FanFests. By acquiring Shields and Wade Davis in a trade with the Rays, landing Ervin Santana in a deal with the Angels and re-signing Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals were intent on pumping new life into their starting rotation and establishing a winning atmosphere. "I think mentality has everything to do with it," Davis said. "You've surrounded the team with a good group of guys and you've got someone like James Shields, who has been on a team that was the worst of the worst and helped that team become one of the best in baseball. I think it's going to be beneficial to have someone who's already done it ... and knows everything that goes into that." If there was a prevailing theme of this FanFest, it was Shields and his rotation buddies. "Our starting pitching is a strength now," designated hitter Billy Butler said. And it starts with Shields. "I don't enjoy going to the plate against him. He's got four plus-pitches, a real good two-seamer, throws in the mid-90s, a real good cutter and a really good curveball," Butler said. "And I didn't even mention his best pitch, a changeup. He has one of the best right-handed changeups I've ever faced." (NOTE: Butler still managed to go 7-for-21, .333, against Shields in 2012.) The 20 players who mingled with the throng didn't need much encouragement from the fans. They were already on board. "It seems like we've got all the pieces and everybody's saying the same thing so I think that's a good thing," Davis said. "I got excited when the players got excited," manager Ned Yost said. "They were tremendously excited by the new additions and they feel the same as we all do -- that this is going to give us an opportunity to compete on a daily basis. It all starts with starting pitching, and we've made tremendous upgrades in that department."
Hosmer goes back to the basics
KANSAS CITY -- Call it "kid stuff."Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer fought the good fight as he battled through what seemed to be a season-long slump last year. But with a game every day, he couldn't devote enough concentration time on fixing things. That changed this winter when he had time to work with his older brother, Mike. "He's been watching my swing ever since I was a little kid," Hosmer said. "I told him, 'If you don't see anything that you didn't see when I was a little kid, let me know.' We basically worked the whole offseason and we feel like we're in a good spot now. I finally got to sit back, slow everything down, work on stuff, watch a lot of video and just kind of get back to the old swing." Before the season was over, Hosmer was dropped into the eighth spot in the lineup. "I didn't like it at all, to be really honest with you," Hosmer said, laughing. "It's obviously not where I wanted to be." Manager Ned Yost has always projected Hosmer as a No. 3-type hitter. "I really want to get back in that position, I'm fortunate enough to still have the chance to get back there in Spring Training," Hosmer said.
Chen waiting for OK to play for China in Classic
KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Bruce Chen says he's still awaiting an official OK to play for China in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He's submitted all sorts of documents tracing his Chinese ancestry. Born in Panama, his native country was eliminated in qualifying so he wants to play for his grandparents' homeland. If he does, he'll be the first Major Leaguer to play for China in the Classic.His invitation came in a roundabout way, from veteran Minor League infielder Ray Chang, who was born in Kansas City but played for China in the 2009 Classic. "He was actually the one who contacted me through [Aaron] Crow because they work out at the same place," Chen said. "He said, 'We wanted to know if you were interested.'" Chen agreed and wound up on China's provisional roster earlier this week.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.