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Allard 1, Baltimore 0 - F

Allard Baird has done a lot of things right since the offseason preceding 2003’s surprise run for a playoff spot, but his greatest success (or heist) took the mound for the Royals yesterday against Detroit. And despite the fact that Denny Bautista lost his debut with The Blue Wave, Allard could put a checkmark in the "W" column on his own personal win/loss board. In fact, when Bautista uncorked his first pitch – a mid-90s fastball to Omar Infante – The Trade could be considered a smashing success for the Royals, and an equally smashing failure for the Baltimore Orioles, who are currently with the services of Jason Grimsley as a result.

It’s bizarre that a player of Bautista’s talent level has already been traded twice, and for marginal players at that. In 2003, the Marlins sent him to Baltimore for Jeff Conine before the O’s traded him to the Royals. Although his experience is of a limited variety, Bautista’s shown some serious potential in the minor leagues, especially because of his ability to keep the ball in the park (just 37 home runs allowed in 529 1/3 minor league innings).

Although Bautista’s first start as a major leaguer wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, he showed why the Royals were so high on him, and why they were probably shocked to learn he could be had for a run-of-the-mill reliever like Grimsley. Denny, who is the definition of "tall and lanky," showed outstanding stuff throughout the game. His fastball was clocked anywhere from 92 to 96 mph, he showed a plus twelve-to-six curveball, and a changeup he used to keep the Tigers’ hitters honest.

Bautista had a rough first inning; after retiring the first two hitters on a flyout and a groundout, Carlos Guillen singled, Dmitri Young walked, Carlos Pena doubled, and Craig Monroe and Jason Smith hit RBI singles to make it 3-0. However, Bautista settled down and allowed just one more run on four more hits before leaving after the sixth inning.

Control remains a problem area for him, although that can’t be considered unusual for any young pitcher not named Zack Greinke. Bautista had a difficult time throwing his curveball for a strike all day, which essentially reduced him to a fastball pitcher with a few changeups mixed in. Another issue worth addressing is adding even more weight to his frame; Bautista’s put on about ten pounds since joining the Royals, and remains pencil-thin.

The Royals expect Denny to compete for and win a rotation spot for the 2005 team, but I’d rather the Royals take advantage of Triple-A and allow him to complete his minor league apprenticeship. Learning how to throw a curveball for a strike isn’t a skill that should be worked on at the highest level, although it wouldn’t be below the Royals to rush Bautista to the majors and do just that. They’ve done it before, and because of it, perhaps ruined a few other young pitchers who showed promise in the minors.

The good news is, however, that the Royals have won even if Bautista doesn’t pan out and has to become a one-inning reliever. In this case, the risk is zero, and the reward is high enough to where Baltimore’s fans may look back on The Grimsley Heist thinking, "What if?"

The Jeff Bagwell fans in Boston will be waiting.
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