Kansas City Royals

Royals’ Whit Merrifield on move to outfield: ‘I knew this day was coming’

Nicky Lopez’s addition to the Royals lineup on a daily basis meant Whit Merrifield’s return to the outfield on an everyday basis. While the Royals flipped-flopped their position on keeping Merrifield at second base, at least for the immediate future, Merrifield’s stance never wavered.

“Honestly, I knew at some points it was going to happen with guys like Nicky and (Humberto Arteaga) that are down there that deserve to be up here at some point,” Merrifield said of his move. “They’re infielders. They’re not outfielders. I’ve got some experience in the outfield, so I knew this day was coming at some point.”

Merrifield clearly thought the talk of exertion rates and him wearing down in the outfield was overblown. He said his groin injury earlier this season had “nothing to do with playing outfield.” Merrifield said every year at the start of the season with the cold weather and playing every day, he’s had tightness to work through.

“Now, it’s best for this team for me to play outfield and I’m excited for that challenge,” Merrifield said. “I’m ready for that challenge. I’m excited for Nicky. He’s a great kid, a great player from what I’ve seen. I’m excited to see what he can do up here. I really think he’s going to help our team.”

Merrifield will play both right field and center field, according to Royals manager Ned Yost. Yost insisted that Jorge Soler will continue to play the outfield.

“I do not want Soler just being a total DH,” Yost said. “I want him still continuing to play the outfield some. We’re just going to mix and match it out there.”

Decision making: During a conference call on Monday, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he and manager Ned Yost sat down after Saturday night’s game to discuss the possibility of bringing up Lopez.

On Tuesday, Yost added the two had only discussed the possibility one other time roughly 10 days earlier. Yost said the original plan Moore discussed had targeted early to mid-June for Lopez’s promotion.

When the two talked about it on Saturday and Moore asked Yost what he thought about bringing Lopez up, Yost was on board. The went through the pros and cons together. When Moore broached the topic of how soon, Yost replied, “Now.”

“When he came in and I could sense that you want to get Nicky up here, I’m like ‘Yeah, let’s get him up here,’” Yost said.

The move to bring Lopez up is also part of a belief by the Royals that they can steadily climb up to .500 by August and be in the mix in the AL Central.

Short-arming: The Royals bullpen will go forward with seven pitchers after Jake Newberry was optioned to Triple-A Omaha to open up room on the active roster for Lopez. The schedule allows the Royals to go with one less reliever without overworking the relief corps.

They had an off-day on Monday and will have two more next week (Monday and Thursday).

Tuesday’s lineup

1. Whit Merrifield, rf

2. Nicky Lopez, 2b

3. Adalberto Mondesi, ss

4. Alex Gordon, lf

5. Hunter Dozier, 3b

6. Jorge Soler, dh

7. Ryan O’Hearn, 1b

8. Martin Maldonado, c

9. Billy Hamilton, cf

Starting pitcher: Danny Duffy (lh, 1-1, 3.06)

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.