March 7, 2010 - Texas League (TL) - Northwest Arkansas Naturals
SURPRISE, AZ - Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman announced Sunday morning that Naturals shortstop Jeff Bianchi will miss the 2010 season as he undergoes reconstructive elbow surgery.
The 23-year old Bianchi, a freshly minted member of the Royals' 40-man roster, was in big league camp but was likely destined to begin the season back in Northwest Arkansas or perhaps with Triple-A Omaha.
"It's the cards I've been dealt," Bianchi told Bob Dutton of the K.C. Star Sunday. "I put in a lot of preparation coming into the year. It's just one of those things. I can go one of two ways. I can either get better from it, or I can get worse."
An exact date for Bianchi's "Tommy John" surgery hasn't yet been set.
Bianchi, the Royals' second round pick in 2005, had a standout season in 2008, batting.315 with five homers and 42 RBI in 68 games with the Naturals following a mid-season promotion from Class-A Advanced Wilmington. He'd missed time in each of the previous two seasons with shoulder problems but played in 128 games in 2009 between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, then logged time after the season in the Arizona Fall League.
Possibilities for the Naturals now-vacant shortstop position include Chris McConnell and Josh Johnson, who both served as reserve infielders for the Naturals last season. Another utility infielder, Anthony Seratelli, who hit.268 in 103 games with Wilmington and served as their primary shortstop following Bianchi's promotion to Double-A, may also emerge as a candidate. Full squad workouts for minor leaguers begin on Monday, with the first spring training games slated for March 18th.
Bianchi's injury wasn't the only Naturals-related news to emerge from Royals camp on Sunday. The club also announced plans to limit the spring work for left-hander Danny Duffy, a candidate to begin the season in the Naturals rotation. Duffy has reported elbow stiffness, but his injury isn't believed to be serious. He is unlikely, however, to pitch anytime soon against big-league opponents. The 21-year old Duffy is ranked by Baseball America as the Royals' eighth-best prospect. Last season, he posted a 9-3 record with a 2.98 ERA with Wilmington.
Also, former Naturals catcher and Springdale resident Vance Wilson has been cleared for full duty. The seven-year major league veteran has battled a sore back for the past two weeks. Additionally, former Naturals' right-hander Victor Marte should be back on the field shortly after experiencing no new spasms in his lower back in two recent bullpen sessions.
The news wasn't so good for the big league club, however, as third baseman Alex Gordon, who spent several games with the Naturals on a rehab assignment last July, has a broken thumb and is expected to be sidelined until the first week in April. His status for the Royals home opener on April 4th is unclear, according to Dick Kaegel, the Royals' beat reporter for MLB.com.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.