Notes: Hillman making good impression
New manager's 'character' already becoming big hit with club
KANSAS CITY -- New Royals manager Trey Hillman is making a good first impression with his players.
That's the assessment drawn from comments by the Royals' team award winners -- Mark Grudzielanek, who took home the player of the year award, Gil Meche, who was named the Royals' top pitcher, and Brian Bannister, who won for special achievement.
Bannister was caught off guard when Hillman, while involved in the championship series in Japan, called him from overseas.
"The thing that strikes you right away is that he's a man of character," Bannister said. "I know that word gets tossed out there a lot, but when you're talking about a young team and an organization that's on the upswing and has been through some tough times in the recent past, it takes a manager that's willing to get into trenches with the players, a guy with passion and a guy that has belief in a long-term plan to turn this thing around. Right away, from what I've heard about him, is he's exactly the kind of guy we need.
"Chemistry is one of the underrated and often overlooked things in the clubhouse and on the team. I think he's going to fit right in with the chemistry of the team and he's going to be a leader."
Meche was among a group of players who met briefly with Hillman when he was introduced in Kansas City. Then Hillman called him as his plane was about to leave on his return to Japan.
"He seems like a great guy. I think he's going to mix well with the type of guys we have," Meche said. "He seemed like a manager that's going to be real open to the players' opinions and what we think we need or what's not working.
"I was definitely happy to see that kind of a manager come in. I had spoken to Dayton [Moore] about it. I wanted a manager to come in here and be energetic and kind of take the bull by the horns."
Grudzielanek also was among the players Hillman has been contacting by phone.
"I talked to him for the first time the other day," Grudzielanek said. "He sounds like an awesome individual, sounds like someone who's going to go out [and have] no favoritism, play the game, put the best team on the field and go about it his way and how he's been successful doing it.
"I'm really looking forward to it. He has that hunger -- I can hear it in his voice. He definitely has the drive and he's brings a different atmosphere and a different attitude toward this team which, frankly, I thought was a good change and something that was needed to lift this team somehow, some way."
Royals raise the Cup: Neal Musser and Matt Wright have helped Team USA win their first two games in the IABF World Cup in Taiwan. Musser retired his only batter in Team USA's first win, 3-0, over Mexico on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Wright gave up three hits over six scoreless innings in a 7-0 shutout over Panama. Wright, recently signed to a one-year Minor League contract by the Royals, struck out five and walked none.
Fielding dreams: John Dewan, the author of "The Fielding Bible," recently released his 2007 plus/minus fielding statistics. Dewan's model charts every defensive play and gives credit (a "plus" number) if a player makes a play that at least one other player at that position missed during the season.
Conversely, a player loses credit and earns a minus number if he misses a play that at least one other player made.
Tony Pena, in his first full year at shortstop, was considered the Royals' top defensive player. His +18 score ranked fourth among Major League shortstops, trailing the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto's John McDonald and San Francisco's Omar Vizquel.
Ross Gload (+5) was seventh among all first baseman and Grudzielanek, the 2006 American League Gold Glove Award winner, ranked ninth among second baseman with a +7 score. Emil Brown ranked ninth among left fielders.
Assessing youth: Author and statistician Bill James recently created a list of MLB teams' young talent. In defining young talent, James writes: "We're not talking here about prospects or Minor League players. We're discussing proven Major League players who are still young."
As a team, Kansas City ranked eighth, and no Royal ranked among the top 50 players. James' comment on the Royals: "More depth than flash, with reliever Joakim Soria and third baseman Alex Gordon scoring as low A's, but lots of depth with [Zack] Greinke, [Mark] Teahen, [Billy] Butler, Bannister, [David] DeJesus and Pena."
Colorado, Tampa Bay and Arizona stood as the top three teams and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Cleveland's Fausto Carmona ranked as the top three players.
Winter wisps: Right-hander Kyle Davies worked five innings of Azucareros' 6-0 win over Licey in the Dominican Republic. In four games, Davies was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 13 strikeouts and six walks in 16 1/3 innings.
As of Friday, teammate Butler's average was .234 (11-for-47) and, after 13 games of honing his first-base skills, he's taking a break to be married this weekend. Shortstop Angel Berroa was hitting .326 (15-for-46).
In Venezuela, shortstop Mike Aviles had a .337 average (19-for-86) average in 23 games for Aragua. He was Omaha's player of the year and could figure in the Royals' immediate future as a backup infielder.
In Hawaii, shortstop Jeff Bianchi was hitting .290 (20-for-69) for the CaneFires. Pitcher Blake Wood, 1-1, had a 3.54 ERA in seven games.
Second baseman Marc Maddox continued his hot hitting in the Arizona Fall League, batting .407 (24-for-59) with 13 RBIs in 15 games. Pitcher Dusty Hughes had a 1.50 ERA over 18 innings in five games, also for the Surprise Rafters.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.