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Royals calling up top prospect Eric Hosmer

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It’s certainly a few weeks earlier than they preferred to do it, but the Royals revealed Thursday that they’re calling up Eric Hosmer to take over as their first baseman.

Kila Ka’aihue, who was hitting .195/.295/.317 with just six RBI in 82 at-bats, is getting sent down to open up a spot.

Hosmer was tearing up PCL pitching, hitting 439/.525/.582 with three homers for Omaha. He had a 16/19 K/BB ratio in 98 at-bats, and he was even 3-for-3 stealing bases.

The 21-year-old Hosmer was selected third overall in the 2008 draft out of a Florida high school.  He started slow and batted just .241/.334/.361 with six homers in 434 at-bats for two A-ball teams in 2009, but he blossomed last year, hitting .338/.406/.571 with 20 homers between high-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.  That led the Royals to promote him to Triple-A to begin this year, and his remarkable first month followed.

As discussed here last week, the Royals didn’t want to go to Hosmer so early because doing so means he’ll surely be eligible for arbitration after 2013 if he stays in the majors.  Promoting him now figures to cost the Royals several million dollars over the next seven years, since he’ll be eligible for arbitration four times, rather than the usual three.

The Royals, though, are trying to rebuild a fanbase, and it didn’t look like Hosmer had anything left to learn in the minors.  Calling him up now figures to put some extra fannies in the seats, and the Royals could sign him to a long-term deal at some later date to mitigate the salary damage.  Credit the franchise for making the move rather than waiting the extra month.

As for Ka’aihue, well, he had what was probably his one big chance and failed to take advantage.  At 27, he’s not necessarily going to be buried for good.  The Royals, though, won’t have any further need for him if Hosmer can establish himself.  Japan might be his eventual destination.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.