CHICAGO — Elliot Johnsons versatility is, Royals manager Ned Yost believes, about to amplify Jarrod Dysons pinch-running value as a late-game weapon.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
It opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, Yost said. Last year, we would pinch-run for Billy (Butler) and Sal (Perez).
This year if we get into the ninth inning in a tie game, I can pinch-run for Frenchy (Jeff Francoeur), Alex Gordon, Moose (Mike Moustakas) along with Billy and Sal.
Ive got Elliot Johnson who can play anywhere in the outfield and anywhere in the infield. Ive also got (Miguel) Tejada who can play just about anywhere in the infield.
So I dont feel like Im losing defensive coverage if I want to pinch-run somebody to take a chance on winning a ballgame in the ninth.
Dyson stole 30 bases last season in 35 attempts, including five in seven attempts in late-game situations as a pinch-runner. He entered Mondays 1-0 loss to Chicago in the eighth inning for Butler, who drew a two-out walk.
Since Alcides Escobar was already on third, Dyson didnt to steal second but, usually, when he gets the call late in games, hell be on the move.
When I go in there (in late-game situations), he said, Im ready to go. I mean, Im ready to go at all times but especially then.
You can say theres pressure on me, but its mostly on the pitcher because he knows hes got to get me. Im not worried about him picking me off. Im trying to get to second. If they get me, so be it.
That attitude, Yost said, is what makes Dyson a perfect fit as a pinch-runner in late-game situations.
Dyson is more than fast, Yost said. Hes fearless. That combination is very dangerous to the opposition.
Johnson is the key.
Im just amazed, Yost said. At every position we put him at, defensively, he does an outstanding job. The versatility that we acquired in that trade with Shields and Wade Davis has been very, very impressive.
Johnson played primarily in the infield over his 11 pro seasons in the Tampa Bay system, but the Royals believe he can handle outfield duty.
I'm comfortable out there, he said. I've got plenty of arm for any of the positions out there and plenty of leg for any of them, too.
Tejada averaged 156 games at shortstop for 11 years from 1999 through 2009, but hes now 38 and fits better at the other infield positions.
There were times last year, Yost said, where, say, Moose would lead off the ninth inning (with a hit). Ive got Dyson over there on the bench, and you want to take a chance even with one out of stealing a base.
But I usually didnt put in Dyson because, if it didnt work, I didnt want to weaken our defense. Now, I dont feel that would be the case.
If I have Dyson over there with a chance to win a game, hes a weapon. Hes a big weapon.
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