Sunday, April 10, 2011

Trial Continues for Punchless 1B Kila Ka'aihue

The Kansas City Royals trial by immersion continues for struggling prospect Kila Ka'haihue -- whose vulnerabilities have been laid bare by left-handed pitching as evidenced by his .154 average against them over the first eight games of the season.

Ka'aihue, a late bloomer at age 27, was made to look ridiculous in a recent confrontation with Tigers lefty Phil Coke, who fed him a dozen curve balls that held the so-called "Hawaiian Punch" punchless with three swinging strikeouts, all on pitches that cut the plate. Not a fastball in the bunch, and all from a hurler who is not exactly Sandy Koufax.

Now the six-foot-four, 235-pound first baseman's challenge intensifies as he must face three lefties this week, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano of the Twins, and Eric Bedard of the Mariners. By the time they get through with him, he might be happy to see a righty except for one thing: It will be Bedard's teammate Felix Hernandez, the fireballing ace. Though Ka'aihue has impressive minor league numbers, he put them up in the hit-happy Pacific Coast League, where today rival Eric Hosmer is off to a hot start, hitting 3-6 in the early going. The 50th state native must turn it up now if he wants to be considered anything more than a place-keeper until Hosmer arrives around June 1.