Notes: Tale of two callups
Davies to start in Meche's place; Bannister earns rookie honor
ARLINGTON -- Luke Hochevar's and Craig Brazell's lockers stood on one side of the visitors' clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark, near a big-screen TV. The two players, each with different expectations entering the season, were both smiling.
Brazell, 27, a 10-year Minor League veteran, earned the second Major League callup of his career after one of the best years by any player in baseball this season.
For Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and one of the best prospects in baseball, Tuesday marked his first time in the Major Leagues after a season of constant changes.
"I have been dreaming about this ever since I was a little kid," he said.
For Brazell, the call up was the culmination of the greatest season "by far" in his career. For the first time in several years, Brazell saw consistent playing time.
He responded with a .308/.339/.612 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) line at Triple-A Omaha and hit a Minor League-leading 39 homers at two levels.
"There wasn't that much I could do except get that [40th] home run. I guess throw a couple more walks in there and maybe a few more RBIs," he said. "I think it's just the matter of me getting the opportunity for me getting a chance to play every day again. In '05, I didn't get to play every day and in '06, I didn't get a chance to play the first month and a half every day. Throughout the season, it was off and on.
"They just gave me an opportunity to come in and play every day. They never said a word to me. They just let me go out there and work things out myself. I think one of the biggest things for me is that I have my confidence and I know I can do this."
In 2004, he batted .265 (9-for-34) in 24 games with the Mets. This season, there were several times when his numbers warranted a promotion. However, Brazell, a first baseman/designated hitter, was caught in the Royals' logjam at those two positions.
Brazell often thought of a call to the Majors. In the past, when he didn't receive the call, Brazell would become disappointed. This year, he used it as motivation.
"I didn't take that as a downfall like I used to," he said. "I didn't fall into a slump. This has been a year of constant motivation. I have constantly tried to stay positive and work through everything. There were days that I felt horrible about being there and just battled through it and got a couple of hits and then got my swing back and just kept going from there."
Hochevar, in his first full year of professional baseball, has made a series of adjustments. His results -- a 4-9 record and 4.86 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) at two levels -- have overshadowed his development. The right-hander has developed his four-seam fastball and curveball and overhauled his delivery from the stretch.
A more polished pitcher, Hochevar posted a 2.88 ERA in his last four starts at Triple-A and is considered a possibility for the 2008 Opening Day pitching staff. He received word of his call up from Omaha manager Mike Jirschele after he tossed six solid innings Monday afternoon.
"Everything I have been working on all year just came together," Hochevar said of those four starts. "It's good to see that happening and it's good to continue to work on it. When it comes together, it is a real good thing. I just went back to the basics, throwing strikes, executing pitches and getting ahead of hitters."
Reggie Sanders was moved to the 60-day disabled list and Jason Shiell was outrighted to Double-A Wichita Tuesday to make room for Brazell and Paul Phillips, another September callup, on the team's 40-man roster.
Rotation changes: The Royals will start Kyle Davies on Wednesday and give Gil Meche six days off. Meche will start Friday versus the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
Brian Bannister will throw Saturday and Zack Greinke will pitch Sunday. Bell wanted to give Meche a little more rest. Meche, ninth in the American League in innings pitched (182 1/3) is 4 1/3 innings off his career high.
Bannister wins award: Brian Bannister became the first rookie to capture two American League Rookie of the Month honors this season. Bannister, also the June winner, went 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in six August starts.
Bannister, 12-7, ranks fourth in the American League with a 3.16 ERA. He is arguably the best rookie pitcher in baseball this season and his numbers best Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie and Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Coupled with Billy Butler's rookie honor in July, Kansas City has won the last three Rookie of the Month awards.
Bale turns season around: On Aug. 19, John Bale allowed four runs in two innings against the Athletics and raised his season ERA to 5.51. After the game, Bale sat down with John Buck.
"We had a talk and talked about a game plan and we have been on the same page ever since," he said.
Since then, Bale -- who missed the first half with several injuries -- is 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his last five appearances (11 2/3 innings) with a 12:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That includes a 2 2/3 innings of one-run ball on Monday night.
"I just have been getting more aggressive and just firing myself up before I got up there, trying to be a little more intense and focused," he said. "I am starting to get into a good rhythm right now. Coming off the DL, until that Oakland game, I started feeling good and now I am [trying] to keep it up. Overall, since that game, my pitches have been getting a little sharper. And my location has been better."
"He continues to show us good stuff," manager Buddy Bell added.
Greinke still receiving help: Veteran David Riske has been instrumental in turning Zack Greinke's season around. When Greinke went to the bullpen in early May, Riske was his daily card-playing partner, imparted advice and helped him adjust. Now, Greinke has taken those lessons from the bullpen to the rotation.
In three starts, Greinke has posted 12 shutout innings, including a five-inning, four-strikeout performance Monday night. Several of the strikeouts came on high fastballs.
"Riske told me that is where you strike guys out," Greinke said. "You throw the fastball high and that is the best strikeout pitch. I usually try to do that if I am way ahead of the count. Sometimes it is not on purpose, other times it is. If I am 0-2, I will try to throw high. If I am 1-2, I will try to throw it not completely high, but barely a ball high."
Royals rundown: Dusty Hughes allowed three hits in eight shutout innings in Double-A Wichita's 2-1 loss to Tulsa. Hughes, 6-2 with a 3.08 ERA this season, was KC's 11th-round pick in the 2003 Draft. ... Class A Wilmington finished with a 75-62 mark, its best since 2004, and will open the playoffs against Frederick on Wednesday. ... Class A Burlington won, 7-5, over Clinton. Jeff Bianchi went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two stolen bases. ... Advanced Rookie League Idaho Falls lost, 6-5, to Orem. Kyle Martin, the Royals' 29th pick in June, went 4-for-4 and is 6-for-10 since joining the Chukars from the Rookie League Burlington Royals. Mike Moustakas finished 0-for-3 with a walk, hit-by-pitch and a run scored.
Coming up: Kyle Davies (2-3, 6.75 ERA with the Royals) faces Vicente Padilla (4-9, 6.36 ERA) in the finale of the three-game series against the Rangers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.