By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The top four appear set in James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis, which sets up a spring competition among Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and possibly Luis Mendoza for the final spot. The two who don’t make it go to the bullpen as long relievers.
The Royals are non-committal on whether they will keep seven or eight relievers. Either way, that promises cutthroat competition at the back end because six spots are locked down. There’s what Yost calls his big four — closer Greg Holland and setup relievers Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow. Now add the two guys who fail to win spots in the rotation. That leaves Francisley Bueno, Louis Coleman, J.C. Gutierrez, Everett Teaford and everyone else battling for one or two spots.
Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella renew their longstanding battle for the starting job, and the loser probably heads to Class AAA Omaha because neither fits well in a utility role. Both have options remaining.
The Royals signed Miguel Tejada in the hopes that, even at 38, he can recapture enough of his past success to serve as an effective utility infielder. It’s his job to lose. But Tejada is no lock because club officials liked what they saw last year from switch-hitting Irving Falu. Christian Colón could handle the role, but the Royals are likely to prefer he get regular duty at Omaha rather than sitting on the big-league bench. One caveat: Colón likely would be the starting shortstop if anything happens to Alcides Escobar.
George Kottaras probably rates a slight initial edge over Brett Hayes in a battle of waiver-claim additions to be Salvy Perez’s backup. It’s a plus that Kottaras is a left-handed hitter and the more-experienced player. Both players are out of options, although Hayes could be outrighted to the minors if he clears waivers.