One day after concluding a four-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s, Royals manager Ned Yost fielded a lineup that perhaps signaled a willingness to move into audition mode during the final weeks of the season.
From an official standpoint, Yost has not assumed the posture of surrender, noting that his club has not been mathematically eliminated from the American League wild-card race. The Royals, however, entered Friday six games out of the second wild-card spot with 16 to play. And it was perhaps not a coincidence that Yost elected to give rookie Hunter Dozier his first start of the season in right field.
Dozier was joined in the lineup by center fielder Billy Burns, left fielder Whit Merrifield and second baseman Christian Colon. Alex Gordon and Paulo Orlando received the day off against White Sox ace Chris Sale.
With Sale on the mound, Yost said he was attempting to stack the lineup with right-handed hitters. But he revealed that Dozier, one of the Royals’ top position prospects, could see more time on the field after playing sparingly during the first two weeks of September.
“Of course you want to see him,” Yost said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Dozier, a first-round pick in 2013, came up through the Royals’ minor-league system as a third baseman. But he spent the second half of this season gaining experience in right field as a way to increase his versatility.
With Mike Moustakas set to return from a knee injury in 2017, and rookie Cheslor Cuthbert finishing up a solid rookie campaign, Dozier’s path could be blocked at third base. Yost said Friday that Dozier will play mostly right field for the rest of September.
The time could give club officials an opportunity to evaluate his outfield defense. The team could also get an opportunity to see Burns in an extended capacity. For now, Yost said, he did not have a specific plan for Dozier.
“We’ll see how he does,” Yost said. “If he gets hot, of course we’re going to see him.”