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The twinge shot up Luke Hochevar’s right arm on perhaps the second-to-last pitch of his checkered Royals career. He finished the frame Monday afternoon, but a subsequent MRI revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and strained muscle tissue around the joint, a diagnosis that could result in season-ending Tommy John surgery.
In 27 days, James Shields intends to stand atop the mound at Comerica Park in Detroit as the Royals Opening Day starter for the second year in a row. He will also cross a self-imposed deadline for any contract negotiations. Shields has said repeatedly he does not want to discuss any extension once the season begins.
For his final act on a day that his manager called the start of "something a little different," Billy Butler fielded a grounder, stomped on first base and lumbered back to the Royals dugout. He had just completed five innings in the field, playing a position team officials hope he frequents more often in 2014.
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas continued his torrid first week in the Cactus League. He swatted homers in his first two-at bats in a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday in Mesa, Ariz.
The performance of Danny Duffy was the most compelling component of an otherwise sloppy Cactus League opener, an 11-7 loss to Texas marked by rustiness, in the eyes of manager Ned Yost. The Royals committed four errors. Starter Bruce Chen gave up two runs in two innings. Reliever Cory Wade suffered through a five-run seventh.
Although the Royals have fewer questions about positions heading into Thursday’s exhibition opener than during any season in the eight-year regime of general manager Dayton Moore, pressing the right buttons never seemed more important. “I’ve got fewer questions,” manager Ned Yost said. “But the questions I have are larger than they’ve ever been.”
Danny Valencia loves hitting left-handed pitching. He hates the suggestion thats all hes about as a ballplayer. Thats precisely the attitude Royals manager Ned Yost desires, and Valencia, acquired from Baltimore for outfielder David Lough, will get his opportunities to contribute beyond what has become his greatest strength in four major-league seasons.
The baseball soared out of a pop-up machine, and the chase was on. A 6-2, 205-pound man gifted with freakish ability and cursed with fragile stability sprinted into shallow center field. Lorenzo Cain called off the shortstop, snagged the ball and skidded onto the infield dirt.
The cry echoed through the mostly empty complex, a product of a sneaky two-seam fastball from Royals starter Jason Vargas and an ill-fated swing from first baseman Eric Hosmer. “Oww,” Hosmer yelled. The event occurred during an early-day session of live batting practice Friday, which pitted Vargas and James Shields against three qualified hitters, a 20-minute glimpse into the readiness of their rotation.
The 2014 Royals cannot be considered playoff favorites. But they must be considered contenders, a meaningful designation after so many lost seasons. On Thursday, the day of the first full-squad workout of the 2014 season, they displayed small signs of the confidence, chemistry and capability that have generated such promise for this year.
The dilemma for general manager Dayton Moore is balancing the urge to succeed in this window and the need to lengthen the window as long as possible.
Salvador Perez, an All-Star in 2013, may be the Royals most precious asset. He anchors the team from behind the plate as the rare catcher who blends defensive savvy and burgeoning offensive potential. His right arm is a cannon, his frame is inviting and his athleticism is underappreciated. The Royals want to do everything they can to keep Perez fresh and injury-free.
Royals ace James Shields enters a campaign brimming with both historical and financial consequence. If he leads the Royals into the playoffs, a realm of competition they haven’t reached since 1985, he’ll etch his name into franchise lore. He’ll also burnish his profile for free agency, a facet of the baseball economy he has never experienced, where a potential nine-figure payday awaits.
Danny Duffy is 20 months removed from the shock of injury and the agony of inactivity, a prison caused by a torn ligament and subsequent Tommy John surgery. Now he is about six weeks away from the start of 2014, a critical campaign on his winding road of development, and weve taken the reins off him, Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said. When pitchers and catchers conduct their first official workout on Saturday, Duffy will be among the candidates for the final spot in the rotation.
Forty-six days before this season begins, before the Royals convene in Detroit on the final day of March, much work still remains. Pitchers must build arm strength. Hitters must shake off the rust. But for manager Ned Yost, many major questions have already been answered, on the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp, a milestone on the calendar that occurs Friday. “My job is to get this team ready,” Yost said.
The Royals settled one of their final pieces of financial business for the offseason on Wednesday morning, reaching a one-year, $4.675 million deal with closer Greg Holland to avoid arbitration. Holland will earn a $50,000 bonus if he returns to the All-Star Game.
The Royals do not expect Kyle Zimmer to contribute to the big-league club this April. But as the season progresses, their expectations for the fifth player selected in the 2012 amateur draft will become more sizable.
Mike Moustakas’ off-season makeover included shedding about 10 pounds, a new coiffure — short on the sides — and a wedding, to Stephanie. Last year, his numbers dropped to 12 homers and a .233 average, nine points lower than the previous season, and Moustakas vowed to make changes.
The Royals will have some decisions to make with the starting rotation this season, but the top remains solid with James Shields. And Shields said Friday at the teams FanFest that he would welcome any discussion to extend his stay beyond the one year remaining on his contract.
An unfamiliar word was used to describe Kansas City Royals fans during the teams caravan stop in Wichita Thursday night bandwagon.