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Felipe Paulino

At first glance, last night’s start from Felipe Paulino was nothing special at all. It appears that he gave up too many runs and too many hits over eight innings and was, thus, tagged for the loss. The fact that he went eight innings gives away a little bit that it wasn’t quite as bad as it appeared on the surface, but if you didn’t see the game, you missed something that was pretty amazing. It didn’t take long into the first inning for the hits to begin, and the Diamondbacks were not hitting them cheaply. Two of the first three batters reached, then an out moved them to second and third before a solid two-out single plated both of them. Only a good throw from Gordon to Treanor to second base to retire Chris Young got the Royals out of the inning.

The second inning saw things begin with a towering home run followed by a line drive single. A strike out and a double play did the trick to get Paulino out of the second, but it was pretty clear at this point that he didn’t have it. In the third, the Diamondbacks started with two straight line drive singles and then made it to second and third with one out on a wild pitch. Drew doubled, which somehow only plated one on an absolute bullet to the gap in right center field and at this point, Paulino had gone 2.1 innings, given up four runs and seven hits and had just one strikeout. Nate Adcock began throwing in earnest in the bullpen, and the feeling we had from the first inning was beginning to come true.

Bob McClure made a visit to the mound and apparently told Paulino to trust his fastball more. It’s a fantastic fastball with velocity and life on it. The fact that he has to be told to trust it is quite possibly what led to him being absolutely terrible at his previous two stops in Houston and Colorado. Because he had excellent command last night, Paulino’s pitch count was still relatively low, so you had the feeling that if he could somehow get things right that he’d be able to pitch six or so. After McClure’s visit, Paulino coaxed a fly ball to center where Cabrera threw an absolutely perfect strike to Treanor to get Kelly Johnson trying to tag up and score. So now Paulino was out of the third and it was his second double play, which was helping to keep his pitch count down.

From that point through the eighth inning, Paulino allowed just one run on one hit, a Juan Miranda homer and, at one point, retired ten in a row. He was at 107 pitches after eight innings, and in my mind he had done his job for the day. After a very shaky start to his outing, he was absolutely outstanding. The mistake I believe Yost made was that he sent Paulino out for the ninth, and he gave up a single and a walk. It seemed silly at the time, but I can at least understand the defense of him being such a big guy and it being a fantastic night to pitch. Teaford and Holland cleaned up the mess to give the Royals an opportunity to win it in the bottom of the ninth, which they of course did not do.

Last night’s start was, in a way, the most impressive that Paulino has made for the Royals. The fact that he was able to fix whatever his problem was during his outing and then turn in such an outstanding performance to both rest the bullpen and keep the team in the game was just beautiful, and it makes you wonder if the Royals really found a diamond in the rough with this guy. The problems with his command appear to not be a problem in Kansas City as he’s only walked just 2.3 per nine inning while striking out 7.5. At this point in time, it’s conceivable to say that Paulino is the Royals best starter. Now, I don’t think his ceiling is as that of an ace for the Royals, but if the Royals made a discovery of this magnitude, it could be huge for their future.

The rotation that we expect to see in 2012 and beyond is already expected to be a little lefty heavy, and Felipe Paulino could be the Royals version of Colby Lewis last season. Sometimes it takes a little luck to find a guy who can start 32 or 33 games for you over the course of the season. Not every productive starting pitcher is signed to a mega-deal or drafted in the first round. Just look at the last few World Series champions. The Giants had Jonathan Sanchez who they drafted in the 27th round and developed. The Red Sox have been reaping the benefits of Tim Wakefield since the Pirates discarded him in the early 90s and they haven’t looked back. The Cardinals picked up Chris Carpenter off the injury scrap heap and watched him turn into what he was supposed to be with the Blue Jays, one of the best pitchers in baseball. In order to put together a successful rotation, you need a little luck sometimes. It looks like the Royals may have quite the find in Felipe Paulino.

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Because this was such a big deal to people, I thought I’d talk briefly about Yost’s comments following Wednesday night’s game regarding Eric Hosmer. Yost called Hosmer’s decision to swing at the first pitch a bad choice and re-addressed the issue yesterday by saying that it’s elementary that you have to take there. Leaving aside the actual strategy, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way Yost handled the situation by taking it to the media, but I’m also not as up in arms about it as many in the media seem to be. I do agree with Danny Parkins of 610 who believes that if Yost was so adamant about taking the first pitch that he should have put the take sign on. Other than that, I think people are making too big a deal of this and that it’s not a problem in the least. That said, Yost has a history of unraveling in the manager’s chair, so if we start to see that happen, then this incident is most certainly part of it. Until then, though, it’s nothing to worry about.

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