Hiatus Over For Hayenga

Royals righthander had strong debut after two-year absence





KANSAS CITY—Keaton Hayenga could have been preparing for March Madness as a small forward for the Washington State basketball team.

Instead, Hayenga was in the Arizona sun getting ready for his second minor league season with the Royals.

Hayenga averaged 23.5 points per game in his career for Eastlake High in Washington. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is second in school history with 664 rebounds.

While college basketball coaches recruited Hayenga, he was even better as a righthanded pitcher. His fastball has touched the mid-90s and his 12-to-6 curveball is plus at times.

He committed to Washington State with the promise he could play both sports, and he was projected as an early-round pick for the 2007 draft. But he pitched just five games as a high school senior before having surgery to repair a separated shoulder and torn labrum after an injury while sliding.

"Two weeks later in April 2007, I had surgery," Hayenga said. "All of a sudden the phone stops ringing."

The Royals picked him in the 31st round and gave him a $300,000 signing bonus, knowing his potential if his shoulder was healthy. He did not pitch in 2007 or 2008.

Hayenga made his pro debut last season with Rookie-level Burlington, going 4-7, 3.66 with 34 strikeouts and 16 walks in 66 innings. He won two of his final three starts, beating Johnson City and Bluefield, while allowing two earned runs and six hits in 12 innings.

While he misses basketball, he said it was the right decision to sign with the Royals. He will likely open this season with low Class A Burlington.

"We signed him after he had surgery and knew we had to rehab him," director of scouting and player development J.J. Picollo said. "Coming back in the fall of 2008, right out of the gate in instructional league he was throwing 92-94. His velocity was back.

"What he's missed is mound time. The more we can get him up on the mound and the more game experience we can get him, the better off he's going to be. He's a high-ceiling guy, a great pitcher's body, athletic. He's what you look for in a pitcher."

ROYALTIES

Brian Buchanan, who played the past two years with Triple-A Omaha and hit .258 in 346 big league games over five seasons, will manage at Rookie-level Idaho Falls.

Darryl Kennedy, who managed Idaho Falls in 2009, will manage the Rookie-level Arizona League club this year. Julio Bruno, who managed the AZL team the last two years, will be the Idaho Falls hitting coach in 2010.