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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Stevenson: Primer for Saturday’s KU spring football

  • Kansas University is nearing the end of spring practice and Kansas State University is just getting started.
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  • Kansas University is nearing the end of spring practice and Kansas State University is just getting started.
    The Jayhawks will hold their Blue-White spring football game this Saturday in Memorial Stadium at 1:00 p.m.
    Spring games are little more than a glorified scrimmage, but lots of good news has been filtering down from the coaching staff in Lawrence.
    Kansas will have a much-improved defense this fall and, if quarterback Jake Heaps lives up to expectations, the Jayhawks will also put a talented offensive team on the field.
    The main thing in the final session of spring practice is to keep everyone healthy going into summer workouts. It’s a positive having the game televised live as it will give KU fans a chance to evaluate the new defense and the passing ability of Heaps.
    Coach Charlie Weis still has a number of talented JUCO recruits that will be on campus for summer workouts, but haven’t participated in spring drills. Consequently, KU’s team this fall will have a number of starters who aren’t presently in school. Kansas will surprise a lot of people this fall.
    *****
    Conner Frankamp of Wichita North is one of KU’s heralded incoming freshmen for the 2013-14 basketball season.
    Frankamp was a contestant and won the high school 3-point shooting contest in Atlanta this past weekend. American Family Insurance sponsors the contest in conjunction with the Final Four.
    Frankamp hit 22 of 25 3-point shots. There was a time limit on the shots and plenty of pressure from the crowd and opposing contestants; Frankamp’s performance proved that KU won’t lack for a 3-point threat next season.
    As Yogi Berra would have said, “It looks like déjà vu all over again.”
    *****
    The Kansas City Royals did little to excite their fans in the first two games against the Chicago White Sox ― particularly the hitters. That changed in the third game against Chicago and fourth at Philadelphia, both wins.
    The starting pitching and bullpen have been encouraging, except for Greg Holland blowing game No. 5 against Philadelphia last Saturday.
    James Shields, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza have had excellent starts; Wade Davis had a rough outing in the fourth game, but the hitters picked him up in a 13-4 win. With the exception of closer Holland, the bullpen has been superb.
    Every MLB team has problems and KC may have a major issue developing in the bullpen. Closer Greg Holland has had two subpar outings; he got out of the first one, but the second last Saturday was a disaster.
    Page 2 of 2 - Holland walked three consecutive batters after starting the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead against Philadelphia, struck out two because they swung at bad pitches, and then gave up a bases-clearing double that lost the game.
    Effective closers must have the ability to throw strikes under pressure; so far, Holland has failed that test.
    Fortunately, Kansas City has two pitchers in the bullpen that are ready to take over the closers role if that becomes necessary. Right-hander Kelvin Herrera and left-hander Tim Collins have been dominating so far; both have the necessary physical talent to take over as closer.
    Herrera has a blinding fast ball (often over 100 mph) and an exceptional change-up to go with it, he’s been almost unhittable so far.
    Holland might bounce back from a poor start, but he had better do it fast because the two aforementioned youngsters are eagerly waiting in the wings.
    In the first five games, KC’s hitters haven’t lived up to their spring training exploits; that’s not a big surprise. Pitchers are ahead of the hitters early in the season.
    Playing on the road in frigid Chicago and Philadelphia isn’t an easy way to begin the season. Kansas City’s early play has been encouraging. Gordon, Butler, and Escobar have become established major league ballplayers.
    And Hosmer, Moustakas, and Perez are coming on fast with a season of major league experience behind them.
    Owner David Glass and General Manager Dayton Moore deserve credit for putting together what appears to be a team that will be in contention for the American League Central crown. It hasn’t been easy.
    It’s way too early to draw any iron-clad conclusions about the 2013 Royals, but it’s certainly looking better than it did after the first two games in Chicago.
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