CHICAGO -- Royals pitcher Bruce Chen didn't think he was doing anything new or illegal, but he was called for a quick pitch in the fourth inning against the White Sox on Friday night.
Plate umpire Mike Everitt called it on a pitch to Brent Morel, ruling it an automatic ball. That prompted Royals manager Ned Yost to come onto the field for a discussion with the ump.
"You look at the rulebook and it's the umpire's judgment. [Even though] other umpires haven't called it all year long and we've been doing it all year long, it was his judgment it was a quick pitch," Yost said.
Chen has used the quick pitch to try to catch batters off guard before, but this is the first time he's been called for an infraction.
"Whatever it takes," Chen said. "I'm going to use everything I can. I've already dropped down my arm angle, and I'm more ready to quick pitch people. It's part of the game. They know that, and they know I'm going to do everything I can to win the ballgame."
Everitt explained to him that a hitter, according to Rule 8.05 (e), has to be "reasonably set in the batter's box" before a pitch is delivered. And it's up to the umpire's judgment. The penalty is an automatic called ball or, if runners are on base, a balk.
Chen said that now he thoroughly understands the rule, but don't look for him to abandon the quick-pitch strategy.
"That's a huge part of my game," he said.
Yost talks to Royals about distractions
CHICAGO -- Fresh from four straight losses to Tampa Bay, Royals manager Ned Yost had some words for his young team before Friday night's series opener against the White Sox.
Afterward, Yost said he couldn't fault the way they were playing, but was concerned with their mental approach.
"With young clubs, the first thing you've got to do is get over mental hurdles. Some of those are playing in a dome, umpires -- we can't allow any of that stuff to get in our way," Yost said. "You've got to overcome every obstacle, if you're going to become a champion. It doesn't matter what it is."
So his lecture, as he explained it, centered more on not letting such things as past history in a ballpark, poor lights, umpires' calls, bad weather, scrutiny or second-guessing by fans or media and other distractions affect their game.
"Maturing mentally is not letting obstacles get in your way," he said. "Especially when you get to the big leagues."
Yost feels his team is performing OK and making progress.
"They're playing fine, they're doing fine," he said. "It's all part of the process that we've talked about. As long as they're out there playing their butts off, they're going to get to the point where they're going to be a very, very dangerous team."
Giavotella a work in progress on defense
CHICAGO -- Johnny Giavotella, the Royals' rookie second baseman, was working intensely with infield coach Eddie Rodriguez on Friday to improve his backhand catches of ground balls.
"They'll be working out there for the next couple of years," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a real nice little player, but he's still got some things we need to work on defensively. And he'll iron 'em out."
In his first week in the Majors, Giavotella demonstrated his hitting ability, but, as a result of his defensive limitations, Yost conceded he's given some thought to pulling him for fielding whiz Chris Getz in some late-inning situations. And, after Giavotella was charged with a double error -- he bobbled a ground ball and then threw it away -- in Friday night's game, Getz did take over second base in the eighth inning.
Giavotella, though, remains the primary occupant of the position.
"He is what he is -- a very potent offensive second baseman, which is very nice to have in a big league lineup," Yost said.
Based on reports from Minor Leagues and what he's seen here, Yost feels Giavotella will get better in the field.
"Johnny's going to get to the point where he's not going to need to be defensed for," Yost said. "But now we're trying to win baseball games, and we're going to take advantage of every player we have on our roster to do that right now. It's not going to be an everyday thing, but late and close, absolutely."
Pena returns from paternity leave
CHICAGO -- Catcher Brayan Pena was back with the Royals on Friday, sending a volley of drives over the right-field wall in early batting practice before the game against the White Sox.
"Pena's got that baby power!' yelled teammate Alex Gordon.
Certainly, Pena had his big smile working after being in Miami, where his fiancee Lina delivered their 8-pound, 14-ounce, 22-inch son, Javier Andres, on Wednesday. They also have a son, Brayan Jr., who'll be 2 years old in November.
"I missed the delivery, but I got there to see him, and I was glad I got to be with him. It was less than 24 hours, but it was good," Pena said.
While he was away on paternity leave, the Royals lost two games as the Tampa Bay Rays completed a four-game sweep in St. Petersburg.
"Even though I was gone, I was worried about the team," he said. "But if any team knows how to bounce back, it's the Royals."
Francoeur's throw measured scientifically
CHICAGO -- When Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur threw out the Tigers' Jhonny Peralta at third base last Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, he turned in the ESPN Sports Science Play of the Week. The piece will run with various ESPN Major League Baseball and SportsCenter programming.
Part of ESPN Sports Science host John Brenkus' description: "From his 20-foot lead off first, Peralta motors roughly 170 feet to third in 6.3 seconds, averaging more than 18 miles per hour. In most circumstances, this would ensure him safe at third. But Francoeur doesn't hit the cut-off man or bounce the ball in, instead throwing a perfect strike to Mike Moustakas.
"The ball leaves Francoeur's hand at almost 95 miles per hour, more than four miles an hour faster than the average Major League fastball. And while most pitches travel roughly 55 feet from the pitcher's release point to the batter, Francoeur's strike flies 242 feet -- about four-and-a-half times farther."
Mike Swanson, the Royals' communications vice president, showed Francoeur the video in the dugout before batting practice on Friday.
"That's good, I like that," Francoeur said.
"Let's not count out the tag," added Moustakas, who was also watching with other players.
"Ninety-five miles an hour coming out of the hand, boys, you heard it," Francoeur chirped.
Perhaps Frenchy could become a pitcher.
"I don't see why not," Francoeur said. "I can throw 95 off the bump -- why not? Right?"
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.