SURPRISE, Ariz. — The first problem the Royals faced after acquiring utilityman Elliot Johnson from Tampa Bay was locating an appropriate uniform number for a player with significant big-league experience.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
This early in spring, those numbers are tough to come by.
Johnson settled for No. 80 after arriving Thursday at the Royals camp two days after he was identified as the player to be named later in the Dec. 9 trade with Tampa Bay.
Johnson was a multi-sport athlete at Thatcher (Ariz.) High School and wore No. 80 as a wide receiver on a state championship football team.
Football wasnt really my best sport, he said. We didnt throw it. We just handed it off, and that was it. Basketball was probably my second-best sport.
Johnson is 6 feet 1 and has been recorded as having a 42-inch vertical leap. He doesnt play much basketball these days because it potentially hurts my day job but admitted he used to put his hands on the shoulders of 6-9 Tampa Bay pitcher Jeff Niemann and jump over him.
But thats cheating, Johnson said, because youre gaining leverage on the shoulders.
The Royals, it appears, acquired an athlete to fill their desire for an experienced utility player. Johnson, who turns 29 in March, batted .242 last season with six homers and 33 RBIs in 297 at-bats over 123 games while playing second, third, short and the outfield.
It starts at shortstop, he said. I think if you have the ability to play shortstop, you can play everywhere. Any shortstop you see, you have to have a strong arm to throw it from the hole. You have to have quickness to be able to move and range from left to right
Everybody in the (clubhouse) probably played pitcher and shortstop in Little League. The longer you can stay at shortstop, the more you prove you can play everywhere else. I feel like I fit that role pretty well, and Ive got all of my gloves to go with it.
Duffys second outing
Lefty Danny Duffy turned in another upbeat bullpen workout in his ongoing recovery from reconstructive-elbow surgery. He threw 26 pitches in his second mound session in three days.
It went well, man, said Duffy, whose 18-pitch workout Tuesday marked his first time on a mound since leaving a May 13 game in Chicago because of elbow pain.
Its like a dream right now. I dont feel anything. Its good. Its funny how excited you can get about 20 fastballs.
After Duffy threw those 20 fastballs, the training staff permitted him to throw six change-ups from a slightly elevated area to the side of the mound.
All but four players reported to camp prior to the end of Thursdays workout. Infielders and outfielders were required to report in Thursday but arent considered late unless they fail to appear Friday for the first full-squad workout.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar has already been excused from Fridays workout due to a delay in obtaining a visa for his wife in Venezuela. Escobar is expected to arrive Friday night and participate in Saturdays workout.
Others yet to arrive as of early Thursday afternoon: infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielders Endy Chavez and Luis Durango. All three are big-league veterans who are in camp as minor-league invites.
Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert and shortstop Orlando Calixte head a group of 20 minor-leaguers taking part in a mini-camp that opened Thursday for players viewed as possible temporary call-ups to big-league camp.
Teams usually add several minor-league players to fill out rosters for Cactus League games. Cuthbert and Calixte were ranked as the clubs No. 10 and No. 15 prospects last October by The Star. They are No. 9 and No. 7 in Baseball Americas just-released Prospect Handbook.
Five other infielders, five catchers and eight pitchers are also in the mini-camp:
Pitchers: Buddy Baumann, Blaine Hardy, José Jimenez, Patrick Keating, Jon Keck, Anthony Ortega, Sam Runion and Robinson Yambati.
Catchers: Juan Graterol, Cameron Gallagher, Jin-Ho Shin, Chad Johnson and Parker Morin.
Infielders: Matt Fields, Alex McClure, Whit Merrifield, Rey Navarro and Chad Tracy.