Bubba Starling’s moment is at hand.
The Royals announced Thursday they will select Starling’s contract from Triple-A Omaha and place him on the 25-man roster. The team will make the move official and announce a corresponding 40-man roster move before Friday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
In his first full season at Triple-A, Starling hit .310 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 38 RBIs with the Storm Chasers. He was also selected for the Triple-A All-Star Game.
“We just feel like he’s where he needs to be right now,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “It’s time to take the next step. He’s prepared for this opportunity. He’s earned this unbelievable opportunity and accomplishment. We’re looking forward to watching him play.”
Moore said the organization made the decision eight or nine days ago after Starling played in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
The Royals selected the 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder from Gardner Edgerton High School with the No. 5 overall draft pick in 2011.
Starling, who was beset by injuries during his first seven seasons in the minors with the Royals, was non-tendered by the team last November.
After re-joining the Royals on a minor-league deal, Starling had a strong spring, batting .344 with three doubles and two home runs.
“It as important for him to be consistent, to play consistent,” Moore said. “We noticed that when he arrived at spring training, he appeared to be on a mission. Bubba is always focused. He just seemed to be freed up, was having a lot more fun, showed that he could put together a consistent at-bat. We felt it was important to go to Omaha, stay in the environment and continue to put up consistent at-bats and continue to play great defense, which he has.”
The addition of Starling may signal that the Royals have decided to move Jorge Soler to more of a full-time designated hitter role for the remainder of the season. Soler, who leads the team and is tied for fourth in the American League with 23 home runs, has played 41 of his 91 games this season in right field.
If Soler goes to designated hitter, that’d allow Whit Merrifield to play right field full-time and open up center field for Starling — or Starling could play right field with Merrifield in center.
Both Royals manager Ned Yost and Moore previously refused to consider Soler as a full-time DH, and Moore declined to discuss the topic on Thursday. Moore did say Bubba will play regularly.
“This move makes us better,” Moore said. “We believe it makes our baseball team better today and for the future. The way we solidify that is by Bubba playing on an everyday basis.”
While the Royals will not announce the corresponding roster move until Friday, outfielder Terrance Gore tweeted on Thursday that a “New chapter awaits.”
Gore has been used primarily as a backup outfielder and pinch runner after re-signing with the club in December. Gore came up through the Royals’ farm system, playing alongside Starling at times, but spent last season with the Chicago Cubs before returning to the Royals.