Youth movement keys KC in 2007
Rookies play a big role in guiding Royals to improved season
The Royals accomplished one major goal -- they ended a three-year run of tallying 100 or more losses.
They endured a poor first month in 2007 but rallied when the weather warmed up. They had a disappointing final month to again finish fifth in the American League Central, but they notched 69 victories to avoid the dreaded 100-loss mark.
General manager Dayton Moore, in his first full season with the Royals, saw some of his moves pay off. Gil Meche, a five-year, $55-million investment, pitched well and so did rookie Brian Bannister, obtained in a deal with the New York Mets. Tony Pena Jr., acquired from the Atlanta Braves, did well as the new shortstop and rookie Joakim Soria, picked in the Rule 5 draft, emerged as a solid closer.
Moore also gave a green light to Alex Gordon's Spring Training arrival as the starting third baseman and promoted hard-hitting Billy Butler from the Minors sooner than expected.
An encouraging development was the greatly improved bullpen which jumped from last in American League rankings to sixth. The team's overall ERA of 4.48 was the best since 1994. Run-scoring, however, dipped and the Royals' 102 homers were the fewest in the Majors.
On Aug. 1, manager Buddy Bell made the surprising announcement that he'd step down at the end of the season. In November, the Royals made the announcement that they'd hired Trey Hillman who had been managing five years in Japan.
The Royals also faced the end of an era, as longtime team captain Mike Sweeney filed for free agency after another injury-plagued season.
Almost as soon as the schedule was finished, work began on a two-year project to renovate Kauffman Stadium, one of the premier playing fields since its opening in 1973.
The Royals established the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat program. At every home game, a person who has helped the community and embodied the caring, kind spirit of O'Neil sits in his famous red seat behind home plate. Royals Charities donated $100,000 for the Buck O'Neil Education and Research Facility in Kansas City.
The Royals Caravan traveled throughout the Midwest, raising interest in the team and talking with kids.
Denny Matthews, the longtime radio voice of the Royals, won the Ford Frick Award and would be honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in July.
Zack Greinke, one year after leaving camp because of anxiety problems, returned to Spring Training.
Bannister, an offseason pickup from the Mets and the son of former Royals' pitcher Floyd Bannister, was considered for one of the rotation spots.
Pena Jr., son of former Royals manager Tony Pena, was obtained from the Braves in the last days of Spring Training to play shortstop. Angel Berroa, the incumbent shortstop, was sent to Triple-A Omaha.
Rule 5 selection Joakim Soria impressed the coaching staff and made the big league roster.
Luke Hudson, one of KC's best pitchers in 2006, opened the season on the disabled list. He would eventually make one Major League start and have Tommy John surgery.
Mark Grudzielanek had knee surgery, but would return by Opening Day.
Octavio Dotel, signed as the closer in the offseason, injured an oblique muscle and would miss six weeks.
Alex Gordon, the 2006 Minor League Player of the Year, led KC in hitting and won the third base job.
Meche tossed 7 1/3 innings on Opening Day -- the longest Opening Day start by a member of the Royals in 19 years -- and earned the win over the Red Sox. Pena, in his first Opening Day, became the first player since Tommy Henrich in 1950 to hit two Opening Day triples.
Three days later, the Royals fell to Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Japanese phenom's Major League debut.
KC began the season 2-2, but wouldn't hit the .500 mark the rest of the season.
Ryan Shealy began the season 5-for-52, was put on the disabled list and wouldn't fully recover. Gordon, Sweeney and the bullpen also struggled.
A six-game losing streak on the first road trip left the club with an 8-18 mark at month's end.
Greinke had a 5.71 ERA as a starter and was moved to the bullpen in mid-May when Scott Elarton and Hudson came off the disabled list. Greinke suddenly ratcheted up his fastball from 90-92 mph to 96-99 mph.
Top prospect Butler was recalled from the Minors to jolt a poor offense, but was sent back down in a few weeks.
Meche continued to shine and posted a 1.91 ERA in his first 10 starts. The Royals, boosted by several late-inning comebacks, won eight of 10 for the first time in four years. The streak was highlighted by pitcher Joel Peralta's two-run double in a five-run, 12th-inning rally against Colorado on May 17.
A seven-game losing streak, tied for the club's worst during the season, ended the month.
Bannister and Dotel, two keys to a Royals' resurgence, halted the seven-game losing streak on June 1. Bannister threw a career-high eight innings and would win the American League Rookie of the Month Award. Dotel earned his first save as a Royal and the bullpen had established roles for the first time all season.
Sweeney headed to the disabled list and Butler was recalled in mid-June.
Gordon, hitting under .200 after May, began to turn his season around.
The Royals selected Mike Moustakas, a high school infielder from California, with the second pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
KC had a season-long five game win streak, won three straight series and finished with a 15-12 record, its first winning month since 2003.
Meche continued to pitch well and was named as the Royals' All-Star representative. He ranked among the league leaders in ERA, innings pitched and quality starts.
John Buck finished the first half leading all catchers in homers.
KC went 5-4 in a three-series road trip through Cleveland, Boston and Detroit to start the second half. Leo Nunez allowed one run in 10 innings as a terrific fill-in fifth starter.
Butler won the team's second straight Rookie of the Month Award.
Ross Gload returned from the disabled list, hit over .300 and provided fine defense at first base.
Sweeney, the team's captain, underwent knee surgery and wouldn't return until September.
As expected, Dotel was dealt at the trade deadline for Braves pitcher Kyle Davies.
Kansas City posted back-to-back winning months for the first time since 2003, going 13-12 in July.
Bell resigned as manager, effective at the end of the season, to spend more time with his family.
In the first year of the Aug. 15 signing deadline, KC signed Moustakas, a Scott Boras client, 10 minutes before the deadline expired.
Greinke returned to the rotation and posted 12 scoreless innings over his first three starts. Bannister won his second -- and the team's third -- American League Rookie of the Month Award.
Joey Gathright, called up earlier in the season, returned for good when Reggie Sanders headed to the disabled list and provided an instant spark with his speed and hitting.
Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was re-signed for 2008.
Sweeney returned from the disabled list.
A 6-3 win over the Twins on Sept. 12 assured the Royals would not lose 100 games.
Billy Buckner earned his first Major League victory in a 4-3 win over the Indians.
Greinke held the White Sox to two hits in eight innings of a 3-0 win.
Avoiding risk to his arm, Bannister skipped his last two scheduled starts.
Luke Hochevar made his first Major League start at Cleveland and took the loss as the Royals finished fourth; 24 games behind Cleveland.
Bell bowed out with a 174-262 (.399) record as KC manager.
Ground was broken for a two-year renovation project at Kauffman Stadium.
Bell, who the Royals named a special advisor to the general manager, instead quit to join the White Sox front office.
Hillman, manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan League for five years, was hired as the Royals' manager.
Sweeney and pitcher David Riske were among six Royals to file for free agency.
Meche was named Royals Pitcher of the Year and Grudzielanek was named Player of the Year.
Bannister was honored for special achievement and also finished third in AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
Reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta was signed to a two-year contract as a free agent from Japan, replacing setup man Riske, who signed with Milwaukee.
The club didn't succeed in an effort to sign free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter, who went to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Royals founder Ewing Kauffman fell short of being chosen to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.
Free-agent outfielder Jose Guillen signed a three-year $36-million contract during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
In short order, Guillen was suspended for the first 15 days of the 2008 season for a violation of baseball's drug program.
With Guillen added to the outfield, Emil Brown was non-tendered despite leading the club in RBIs the last three seasons and became a free agent.
Infielder Albert Callapso was acquired from the Diamondbacks for pitcher Buckner.
The team announced a return to the popular powder blue uniforms or at least tops to be worn at Sunday home games.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Conor Nicholl, an associate reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.