Instant gratification was the first objective in having Johnny Giavotella in the designated hitter’s role in his Royals’ season debut, a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday.
The occasion called for a right-side bat on a night when manager Ned Yost rested lefties Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
“We’re trying to massage it, fix it day-to-day,” Yost said. “Whatever we need to do every day to put the best team on the field, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
It worked. The aggressive-swinging Giavotella, who arrived from Triple-A Omaha earlier in the day, made solid contact on a liner to center in his first at-bat that resulted in an error and kept alive a three-run first inning. He came around to score on Brayan Pena’s double. Yost said that Giavotella will be in the lineup at second against left-handed pitching and be useful as a pinch hitter.
So Giavotella has his chance to impress the Royals, but the clock is ticking.
With Chris Getz, the Royals now carry two second basemen in what appears to be a platoon situation. But keep in mind, whenever Yuniesky Betancourt comes off the disabled list, the Royals will have some decisions to make. Betancourt — who was moved to second this year and provides right-handed pop — has been on the DL since May 3 with an ankle sprain, and the best-case scenario for his return is projected to be around four weeks.
Question is, barring injuries, who will be the odd man out when Betancourt is healthy?
Going into spring training, the thinking was that Giavotella had a better bat than Getz, who possessed the better glove. Getz won the job and is off to a solid start at the plate. The .254 career hitter collected a double and single in three at-bats Wednesday, pushing his average to .306.
“I like to think of myself as a better player all-around than what people have thought of me in the past,” Getz said.
Giavotella — who made his major-league debut last season and hit .247 in 46 games — was crushed when he didn’t make the club out of spring training.
“It was definitely upsetting,” Giavotella said. “It’s every minor-leaguer’s dream to be here, but they told me they were sending me down to work on a couple of things, so all I could do was go there and work my butt off.”
Giavotella was asked to shore up his glove work.
“There’s no doubt I’ve improved as a defender,” Giavotella said. “It frustrates me when people rag on my defense, because I’ve worked hard at it. I’m confident when ground balls are hit to me, and I feel I can make the play.”
Then there’s Irving Falu, who was called up from Omaha when Betancourt went to the DL. Falu possesses something that Giavotella and Getz lack: versatility. He has played short and third base this week and can also play second.
As for Giavotella, he wants only one thing — permanence at the major-league level.
“I don’t want to go back down,” he said.
The second-base situation smacks of a team that may have been encouraged by the week and sees some short-term fixes as a way to inch back into contention. The Royals are coming off a 4-3 home stand against the Yankees and Red Sox.
Giavotella would play every day in Omaha. But despite lugging an 11-19 record, the Royals head to Chicago tonight trailing first-place Cleveland by six games.
Yes, this logjam will eventually require some decisions, but the Royals aren’t looking that far ahead.
So again, what happens when Betancourt returns?
“Day-to-day,” Yost said.