SURPRISE, Ariz. — You’d think that Tim Melville would just be ho-hum about his first spring training in Royals camp, that he would just go about his business quietly, do what was asked and call it a day after the final out of exhibition games.
But don’t be fooled by the wrap-around, Terminator shades or the fact he’s already pocketed that $1.25 million bonus, which was $960,000 above slot, by the way, after being a fourth-round pick last June.
Like an upbeat pledge at the up-and-coming fraternity on campus, Melville has been soaking up every piece of information he can, even swinging by big league games when his day is done if only to catch a sneak peak at Kansas City’s starting five in order to eye their composure as much as their repertoire.
Even better, in so many words on Thursday here at Kansas City’s plush cloverleaf he expressed an eagerness to experience the highs and lows of being a minor leaguer.
“You can’t go out there and say, ‘I’m an All-American.’ They don’t care,” Melville said, speaking generally of experienced hitters. “You have to go in with the confidence that you are going to strike everybody out. But I know I have to come out here and learn new stuff every day.
“I know (experiencing difficult days) is going to happen to me a lot this season. And I know I need to progress after that.”
That Melville recognizes that his tour through the minors will not always hum along smoothly is just one of many reasons why the Royals are eagerly anticipating the righthander making his pro debut this season.
The only question is when he actually will make that debut. Because he did not sign until the Aug. 15 deadline, the Royals decided to safeguard Melville until instructional camp last September and even now may punt on an immediate assignment to low Class A Burlington.
“He’s a mature kid and I think he can handle it. But we are still trying to decide if it’s the right thing for now,” Royals farm director J.J. Picollo said, explaining that there is no need to rush Melville and would prefer that he is fully ready pitch-wise in order to face mostly older hitters in the Midwest League.
Staying back for a few weeks in extended spring training remains a possibility and would afford the Royals a chance to advance Melville at a gradual pace while offering a wider scope so that the righthander can tackle a number of tasks.
Mostly, the Royals are encouraging Melville to enhance the tempo in his delivery, a typical issue with high school draft picks. He’s a 6-foot-5, 205-pound power arm and the Royals believe that the inconsistency of his tempo costs him deception and at times location.
“He’s wanting to learn and he’s wanting to listen,” Picollo said. “And I think because of that, he’s going to be successful.”
And that’s the thing about Melville. He appears calm and collected and understanding of whatever the Royals decide on his immediate future.
Even last fall as instructs got under way, he enrolled in nearby Glendale Community College and took a few courses. He’ll likely resume college next fall but preferred to concentrate this spring on making a positive impression in camp. Clearly, he is not overwhelmed by his surroundings.
“I’m trying to improve in everything,” Melville said. “I try to go over (to the stadium) and watch the big leaguers. It’s awesome to see how they work and how they carry themselves. I hope to do that in a game.”
He went on.
“One thing I want to work on is commanding my changeup,” Melville said. “My fastball looks good enough. My curveball looks good enough. But having that change will be helpful.”
But so far it’s a slow go. Melville has worked all of four innings since games got under way last week, but that’s OK. Not being on the mound doesn’t necessarily translate to not learning. While signing with Kansas City meant turning down a scholarship offer from North Carolina, his baseball education here has been intense as well.
“Going to UNC would have been awesome, too,” Melville said. “But this is my dream, a dream come true.”