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Royals really stinking up the joint

5/23/2006

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

Can it get any worse for the Royals? Only time will tell after Kansas City got pummeled by Detroit, losing its 10th straight game Monday. And this defeat came following a pregame team meeting.

The Royals have been an embarrassment this season, losing 10 in a row on a pair of occasions, and a third of the season isn't even complete yet.

Kansas City bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1962 New York Mets, who finished 40-120 and were a team filled with over-the-hill veterans that bumbled and stumbled their way through the season.

The "Baseball Tonight" crew has already begun preparations for the inevitable "Chasing Misery" comparison.

BREAKING DOWN THE BULLPENS

By Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN

There is no way I could ever say there's a better bullpen with what I've seen from Mariano Rivera over the last 10 years. Rivera is so blessed as far as his arm is concerned, which has allowed Yankees manager Joe Torre to use him when needed in the eighth inning of games. A lot of closers just can't do that.

Mariano Rivera Kyle Farnsworth was a big pickup -- a guy who can shut down hitters in the seventh and eighth innings. Mike Myers has been a real nice addition. And, as always with GM Brian Cashman, there's always somebody lingering in Tampa trying to get healthy. This year, that's Octavio Dotel. Simply put, it's hard to say there's a better bullpen than one that has Rivera in it.

The Red Sox's greatest area of improvement from last year has been their bullpen. Keith Foulke is nearly back to where he was two years ago when he shut down everybody. Mike Timlin is what he is: a great pitcher you can count on for 70-80 appearances a season, 30 holds and an ERA under 3.00.

But the real surprise has been Jonathan Papelbon. The credit for his success as the closer has to go to the team being able to evaluate talent. Whether it was GM Theo Epstein or manager Terry Francona, somebody knew Papelbon had not only the ability, but also the makeup to handle this role. When you have a young pitcher with an arm like that and you send him out there to close games and he's not able to handle it, you might lose him. Boston saw something with Papelbon and knew he would be able to handle the role.

Jonathan Papelbon Papelbon (15-for-15 in save opportunities) will blow a save at some point, and how he comes back from that nobody knows. But what I like is what he has around him. Timlin's a great role model as far as how to prepare, and Curt Schilling is always talking baseball. When Papelbon blows that first save, Francona will call him into his office. Francona's people skills are as good as anyone's in baseball, and he'll have something to say to Papelbon that will help him get back on the mound and do what he's capable of doing.

Boston feels comfortable from the fifth inning on with its bullpen. Julian Tavarez is a solid, proven veteran, as is Rudy Seanez, even though he got off to a slow start this season.

The Red Sox have a lot more depth in their bullpen than the Yankees do, but New York still has Rivera. And it's hard to go against that.

MONDAY'S NEWS AND NOTES

Jeremy Hermida • The Marlins activated RF Jeremy Hermida from the 15-day disabled list and optioned SS Robert Andino to Triple-A Albuquerque. Hermida singled as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning in the Marlins' 9-1 win over the Cubs and remained in the game in right field.

• Orioles RHP Hayden Penn underwent surgery for appendicitis Monday night and was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday against the Mariners. Penn was called up from Triple-A Ottawa Sunday and was slated to make his season debut Tuesday. Instead, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

• Yankees RHP Shawn Chacon, who went on the disabled list Sunday, had a hematoma in his left leg drained.