On The Lamb

Royals' faith in lefty John Lamb pays dividends





SURPRISE, Ariz.—Heading out of the 2007 high school season, lefthander John Lamb looked like a possible first-round pick. That changed in February 2008, when Lamb was in a car accident.

"It was less than a week before our first game," he said. "I left lunch to go eat with some friends. On my way back, I got rear-ended at a red light. I really didn't think much of it. I smacked up against the window and jammed my arm.

"I went out to baseball practice. As I started throwing it just didn't feel right. It got worse and worse through the night. I told my dad about it and the next day we went to an urgent care and took an X-ray."

Lamb had a hairline fracture on his throwing elbow and was put in a cast for six weeks, after going 9-2, 1.48 and hitting .396 as a junior at Laguna Hills (Calif.) High and being named his conference player and pitcher of the year. Lamb missed his senior season and dropped off many scouts' radar screens, but the Royals stayed on him, selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and signed him for $165,000.

"Our scouting staff did a good job of following him after the injury," assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "He's got a tremendous upside . . . He has a very clean arm, easy delivery, easy arm action. He throws a lot of strikes with his fastball. He has an outstanding changeup and an above-average curveball that he throws for strikes. He's just an advanced pitcher for his age."

The Royals didn't send Lamb into game action in 2008, and instead had him rehab that summer. He began 2009 at Rookie-level Burlington, going 2-2, 3.95 with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 27 innings. In his final start, he threw seven scoreless innings and allowed two hits against Bristol.

He earned a promotion to Rookie-level Idaho Falls, where in three August starts he allowed one run in 19 innings, striking out 22 and walking three. He allowed only an infield single in an Aug. 21 victory over Great Falls, and picked off the only runner who reached base.

Lamb, now 19 and 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, has an 88-91 mph fastball that has touched 94, as well as a changeup and curveball. He's now the No. 7 prospect in a Royals system that's deep in pitching. He'll likely open this season at low Class A Burlington in the Midwest League, but he could move rapidly.

ROYALTIES

• The Royals claimed righthander Gaby Hernandez off waivers from the Red Sox. Hernandez went 10-9, 5.23 in 26 starts last season with Triple-A Tacoma in the Mariners organization.

• Righthander Henry Barerra, who had Tommy John surgery last June, was placed on the 60-day disabled list.