The Royals have designated shortstop Tony Pena for assignment and optioned outfielder Mitch Maier to Class AAA Omaha to make room for third baseman Alex Gordon and new shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, MLB.com reports. Both will start for the Royals on Friday.
Pena's hitting the past two years has made Mark Belanger look like George Brett, in an era where the Belanger style of good-glove, no-hit starting shortstops isn't nearly as popular as it once was. Pena's .398 OPS last year was worse than nine teams' pitchers.
It's hard to find a shortstop worse than Pena, but the Royals certainly tried, as scores of commentators pointed out after Kansas City's ludicrous trade for Betancourt a few days ago. (Betancourt had been on the DL with a hamstring strain since then.) Betancourt's better with the stick, but his .609 OPS this year is itself pretty Belanger-esque, and Betancourt is a disaster in the field, to boot.
As for Gordon, I thought he might be poised for a breakout campaign after he bumped up his walk rate in 2008, so it's nice to see him back in action. He certainly showed no ill effects from his hip surgery in 13 minor-league rehab games, suiting up for Omaha, Class AA Northwest Arkansas, and the Royals' GCL team and hitting at every stop.
Maier failed to stick as a starting outfielder, posting a .598 OPS in 64 games this year, and at age 27, he probably never will. With Maier gone and Betancourt in the fold, it's pretty likely that Willie Bloomquist will play a bit less shortstop and pick up a few more starts in the outfield.