Chris Getz will open the season as the Royals’ starting second baseman after out-playing Johnny Giavotella in a closely monitored competition throughout spring training.
The Royals made the call Saturday morning by optioning Giavotella to Triple-A Omaha. It was an either/or situation; club officials view neither player as a utility candidate.
“That was my goal,” Getz said. “Obviously, I approached it just like any other spring training. You want to come out here and show them what you can do.”
Getz entered Saturday’s game against Arizona with a .372 average (16 for 43) and a .937 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). Giavotella was at .267 (12 for 45) and .683 prior to the move.
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Both players had three doubles and one homer. Getz scored 12 runs and drove in six, while Giavotella scored six and had 11 RBIs.
“Getzie is always going to be a little bit ahead going into these situations,” manager Ned Yost said, “because he can play defense, he can steal, he can bunt and he can run.
“In order for Johnny to jump in front, he’s got to do that — jump in front. His defense is vastly improved, but he’s got to hit. Getzie had a better camp.
“You can’t just look at the stats. There were a lot of instances, like (Friday), when Johnny just smoked a ball down the baseline. He hit the ball well, but Getz brings another dimension with his running and base-stealing.”
The move leaves 37 active players on the big-league camp roster, although pitchers Danny Duffy and George Sherrill will open the season on the disabled list.
The Royals must make several additional roster decisions before breaking camp after Friday’s game against Cleveland at Surprise Stadium:
Backup catcher: Either Brett Hayes or George Kottaras. Club officials admit they are divided in choosing between the two.
Utility infielders: Yost said current plans call for the Royals to keep two. Elliot Johnson appears to be a lock, while Miguel Tejada is a heavy favorite to win the second spot over Irving Falu.
Fourth outfielder: Yost also said the Royals are likely to break camp with four outfielders. If so, it would be a major surprise if Jarrod Dyson isn’t the backup to starters Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur. That leaves no rook for David Lough despite a strong spring.
Fifth starter: Bruce Chen remains a favorite for the job over Luis Mendoza. Both will make the club — one as a starter; the other as a long reliever.
Last bullpen spot: This could be a need vs. inventory decision. The need seems to be for a lefty specialist such as Francisley Bueno or Donnie Joseph; but right-hander J.C. Gutierrez is the only major candidate who is out of options and not in camp as a minor-league invite.
The Royals remain intrigued by Giavotella’s run-production potential. He was the club’s minor-league player of the year in 2011 and batted .323 last season with 10 homers and 71 RBIs in 89 games at Omaha.
But Giavotella, still just 25, has yet to carry that pop into the big leagues — batting only .242 with a .271 on-base percentage in 376 plate appearances over 99 games in 2011 and 2012.
“I’ve hit everywhere I’ve been,” Giavotella said earlier this spring. “The numbers don’t lie. No matter where I’m at this year, I’m going to hit. I’’m confident in my ability.
“It’s just a matter of getting at-bats under your belt in the big leagues.”
Getz, 29, batted .275 last year. He appeared poised at times to produce the best season in his five big-league seasons, but a series of injuries limited him to 64 games and prompted questions regarding his durability.
“Proving to be healthy is kind of an abstract thing,” he said. “Injuries happen in this game. Freak injuries. Sometimes, there’s no dodging it.
“There are certain things you can do to prevent them in terms of keeping your body in shape, eating well and staying ready. Then there are things you just can’t avoid.
“If I’m out there, and I’m healthy, I feel I can be very productive and help the team.”