Veteran P Herges tries to make Royals roster

BY foxsports • March 20, 2010

Matt Herges turns 40 on April 1 and is the oldest Kansas City Royals player in camp.

Herges, who pitched last season with Cleveland and Colorado, is in spring training for the fourth time in the past five years as a non-roster invitee, trying to earn a major league job in the Royals' bullpen.

``I know that's just the way it's going to be,'' Herges said. ``If I'm going to continue to get an opportunity with a team, it's probably going to be in that facet because nowadays guys who are over 35, you have to be really good, an elite guy, to get a guaranteed deal. I'm not going to say I relish it because everyone would love to have a guarantee.''

Herges had solid numbers - 2-1 with a 3.55 earned run average - last season with the Indians, but was released in July.

``I totally understand,'' Herges said. ``They admitted they not going to do it this year and we've got to take a look at our young guys, we've got to build now for the future. So I was odd man out, it didn't hurt my feelings.''

Herges finished the season with the Rockies, going 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA. The Royals signed him to a minor league contract on Jan. 10.

``Looking back throughout my career, not that I've had a great career, but I've been able to put on a uniform for 19 years and that just blows me away,'' Herges said. ``It's humbling to say the least.''

Herges was not drafted out of Illinois State, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent in 1992. He spent eight seasons in the minors before his big-league debut in 1999. He won 11 games as a Dodgers rookie in 2000, logged 24 saves in 2003 with San Francisco and pitched for Colorado in the 2007 World Series. The Royals are his 10th organization.

Remarkably, Herges has been on the disabled list only once, for 15 days in 2008 with back stiffness. He remembers Rockies manager Clint Hurdle calling him into his hotel room.

``I didn't want to go on the DL,'' Herges said. ``Clint said, 'I know you've never been on the DL. You've been playing for a while, but there's no shame in it if your back hurts and it can affect you on the mound. You're talking about affecting the whole team. Basically nobody is selfish.'

``I never thought about it that way. I wanted to finish my career without ever being on the DL, but am I that self centered? No.''

Herges was a key ingredient of the 2007 Rockies bullpen, going 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA and holding opponents to a .198 batting average. The Rockies won 21 of their final 22 to make it to the playoffs and eventually the World Series.

``It was magical,'' he said. ``Being able to celebrate and play in the World Series was a dream come true, but what we had in the clubhouse, the relationships that were built, that was special.''

Herges has a clause in his contract that he has to be placed on the Royals big-league roster by March 31 or he could become a free agent. Herges, who began last season with Triple-A Columbus, is unsure whether he would go to the Royals' Triple-A Omaha affiliate if he fails to make the Kansas City pitching staff.

``It's something my wife and I would have to talk about,'' Herges said. ``I don't know if I can make that decision right now. There are too many things that could happen. There are too many variables. If it happens, we'll have to cross that bridge when we get there, I am overly impressed with this organization. This is the place I would want to be if I were to play Triple-A baseball.''

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