Royals demote projected second baseman Johnny Giavotella

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24-year-old Johnny Giavotella was expected to be the Royals’ second baseman and No. 2 hitter this season. After 44 at-bats this spring in which he hit .250/.267/.318, he’s on his way back to Triple-A.

The Royals demoted the New Orleans product on Sunday, opting instead to go with Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt as their second basemen. It figures to be a platoon, as Getz is a left-handed hitter and Betancourt hacks from the right side.

It’ll be Getz’s third go at being Kansas City’s second baseman after he hit .237/.302/.277 in 2010 and .255/.313/.287 last year, losing the job both seasons. He was supposed to be the odd-man out this spring, with Betancourt serving as the Royals’ utilityman.

Giavotella, meanwhile, will try to earn another opportunity in Triple-A, though he has little to prove after hitting .338/.390/.481 there last season. He’s easily the Royals’ best offensive option at second base, though since he does have a below average glove, his future as a long-term regular is very much in doubt.

With Gio out of the mix, the Royals are probably looking at the following lineup:

LF Alex Gordon
2B Getz/CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
RF Jeff Francoeur
3B Mike Moustakas
CF Cain/2B Betancourt
C Humberto Quintero/Brayan Pena
SS Alcides Escobar

Getz will probably hit second against righties, with either Cain or Escobar moving up against lefties.

Worse, the Royals seem set to go with Jason Bourgeois and Mitch Maier as their two bench players along with the backup infielder and catcher. They’re going to have three starters occasionally worth pinch-hitting for and no good options to take the at-bats. Dropping Maier and going with a real hitter seems like an obvious choice. Even if they couldn’t sign Vladimir Guerrero or Hideki Matsui on the cheap, they’d have a perfectly legitimate internal option for that role in Clint Robinson. They’re not going that route, though.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs’ pitching coach

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the pitching coach due to personal reasons. The club will begin a search for a replacement.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement, “Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons. We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey, 57, spent over a decade as a coach in the Rays organization before joining the Cubs for the past season, reuniting with Joe Maddon. The Cubs’ starting staff ranked 10th among all 30 teams with a 3.84 ERA and the bullpen posted an NL-best 3.35 ERA.