ROYALS NOTEBOOK

Nori Aoki brings sweet swing to Royals’ lineup

Updated: 2014-02-24T05:03:41Z

By ANDY MCCULLOUGH

The Kansas City Star

— After a week of watching new outfielder Nori Aoki, Royals manager Ned Yost was left with one overriding impression.

“It’s amazing to sit and watch his swing,” Yost said on Sunday morning. “It’s the same swing, every time he swings.”

The approach stands out to Yost, who is excited to see how Aoki performs as the team’s leadoff hitter and everyday right fielder. But for Aoki, the source of his consistency is not hard to discern.

“You’ve probably heard before,” Aoki said through his interpreter, Kosuke Inaji, “but in Japan, they make you swing the bat a lot.”

Aoki, 32, played in eight seasons for the Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball. As he rose through their minor-league system, he often took as many as 1,000 hacks a day. He blossomed into a doubles machine in Japan, batting .329 with an .857 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Aoki joined Milwaukee prior to the 2012 season. His numbers have been slightly suppressed against major-league competition, but he retained an on-base ability that appealed to the Royals. He posted a .356 on-base percentage last season, which was better than every Royal except Billy Butler (.374).

Yost appreciates how Aoki will mesh with new second baseman Omar Infante at the top of the lineup.

“He’s a lot like Aoki,” Yost said of Infante. “His swing is very simple, very compact. He drives the ball to all fields. He looks very solid at second base. I think he’s going to be a pretty big upgrade for us.

“I don’t realize, but he’s a lot better player than I thought he was, at the beginning of last year (with Detroit).”

Intrasquad game

The Royals are slated to play their first intrasquad game on Monday afternoon.

Yordano Ventura, a hard-throwing prospect competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, figures to be the main attraction in that contest.

To reach Andy McCullough, send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com

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