Projected by Royals manager Ned Yost to open the season as Kansas City's starting second baseman and No. 2 hitter, Johnny Giavotella was sent to Triple-A Omaha instead to improve his defense.
"It was definitely disappointing," the 25-year-old Giavotella said. "They really wanted a guy that was more of a defensive-minded second baseman. That's why they chose Chris Getz up there. So I came down here to work on my defense and fine tune my game."
Giavotella certainly has fine-tuned his bat. He's ninth in the Pacific Coast League in hitting, with a .329 average, and has 10 home runs and 71 RBIs for the American North Division-leading Storm Chasers (74-51).
Giavotella, who compiled a 21-game hitting streak in July, went 0-for-4 in Omaha's 3-2 loss to the 51s (70-54) on Wednesday night at Cashman Field. In Tuesday's series opener, he went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run.
"He's a go-getter, he has a lot of energy, and there's no doubt he can swing the bat," Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said. "He sprays the ball around, he can hit the gaps, and he can hit some home runs for you.
"He continues to improve at second base, and hopefully he gets to that point where (the Royals) have enough confidence in him that he can play second base for them every day."
Kansas City's 2008 second-round draft pick out of his hometown University of New Orleans, Giavotella had a breakout season in 2010, batting .322 with nine homers and 65 RBIs for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
"It was just getting used to the minor league lifestyle and playing every day," he said. "I haven't really stopped hitting since."
Last year, Giavotella batted .338 with nine homers and 72 RBIs for Omaha en route to earning PCL All-Star honors and the George Brett Hitter of the Year award, given annually to the Royals' top minor league hitter.
Despite his prowess at the plate, Giavotella isn't ranked among Kansas City's top 10 prospects by Baseball America or among its top 20 by mlb.com.
At 5 feet 8 inches and 181 pounds, Giavotella said he's always been underrated.
"Being one of the smallest people on the field definitely gives you the added motivation to go out there and prove to people I can play," he said. "That's kind of the mindset I've always had since I've been a little kid."
Making his major league debut with Kansas City last season, Giavotella hit .247 with 21 RBIs in 46 games. He was recalled for about a month this season, batting .217 while playing sporadically in 21 games.
"I know what I need to do to get back there, and I'm working hard on it every day," he said.
In addition to second base, Giavotella has played four games at third base this year, and Jirschele said he'll probably see action in the outfield as well.
"If a position opens up where (the Royals) need a backup in those spots, he's the type of guy who'll be able to do that," he said.
Still projected by many to be Kansas City's second baseman of the future, the determined Giavotella shares that vision.
"That's how I see myself, as an everyday big league second baseman," he said. "Whoever gives me that opportunity - the Royals or somebody else - I'm going to prove that I can do it, and I can't wait to get my shot to do that."
■ NOTE - 51s third baseman Mark Sobolewski was placed on the disabled list, and Kevin Howard was promoted from Double-A New Hampshire to replace him.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.