SURPRISE, Ariz. — The group convened for three days in the wilderness outside Atlanta, coming together for an offseason bonding session designed by Royals manager Ned Yost. He wanted his coaching staff to enter 2014 “on the same page,” he said.
By ANDY MCCULLOUGH
The Kansas City Star
They stayed on property owned by Yost’s close friend, comedian Jeff Foxworthy. The group gorged on food. They listened to a speech for a much-heralded local baseball coach. They contemplated strategies for communicating with different players. And they played cards “until 2 a.m.,” Yost said.
“We just went down for three days to discuss new ideas, and ways to try to get better an organization and get better as a team,” he said.
The club rearranged its coaching staff this past offseason. Former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu became the bench coach. Former Cubs manager Dale Sveum rejoined Yost, under whom he had served in Milwaukee, as third-base coach. The organization also promoted long-time Class AAA Omaha manager Mike Jirschele to be general assignments coach.
Those three joined hitting coach Pedro Grifol, pitching coach Dave Eiland, first-base coach Rusty Kuntz and bullpen coach Doug Henry. Yost felt it was important to give both Sveum and Wakamatsu scouting reports on the roster. The group also completed a series of personality tests designed to help them better understand each other.
“We took personality tests because different personalities communicate differently,” Yost said. “And it was pretty insightful. And our job as coaches is to communicate to the players, and to teach them and to help them grow as players.”
The team conducted its first official workout for pitchers and catchers on Saturday without injury or incident. As Yost forecast the position battles for this spring training, he predicted the competition for the final spots in the bullpen would be the most heated.
One complicating factor is the competition for the fifth starter spot. The four prime candidates are Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis. Longer shots include Chris Dwyer and Brad Penny.
Ventura and Duffy each profile as a potential weapon out of the bullpen. A stint like that may delay their development as starters, and the organization is counting on them segueing into that role for the future.
For right now, the only left-hander ticketed for a spot in the bullpen is Tim Collins. Duffy would be an interesting complement. But Yost indicated he did not view carrying a second lefty as a necessity.
“It’s a luxury,” Yost said. “I’ve gone years without any lefties.”
Bonifacio goes to Cubs
Released by the Royals last week, Emilio Bonifacio agreed to a minor-league contract with the Cubs. After avoiding arbitration with a one-year, $3.5 million deal, the Royals designated Bonifacio for assignment in January to make room for Bruce Chen. Unable to trade him, the team was forced to pay Bonifacio about $575,000 in termination pay.
Bonifacio can earn $2.5 million if he makes the Cubs, CBS Sports reported.