Mike Moustakas can’t wait to return to competition after a knee injury ended his 2016 season in May, but he’s going to be smart about it.
“I’ll be ready to go,” Moustakas said. “We’ll take it slowly. The training staff will make sure I’m prepared for the season.
“But I don’t want to be ready to play in spring. I want to be ready for the (regular) season.”
That means returning to action with a plan for the number of plate appearances and games for Moustakas when spring training begins next month.
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The Royals’ first spring training game is Feb. 25.
Moustakas had seven home runs in 27 games when he suffered the injury in a collision with outfielder Alex Gordon chasing a foul ball in Chicago against the White Sox and suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Gordon also suffered a broken bone in his right hand and missed a month.
Moustakas had surgery in June, returning to the Royals clubhouse in a bulky black brace that stretched from his thigh to the top of his ankle. He said then that he had not regrets about the play, one that displayed the effort that had become part of the team’s reputation built in their title years.
The injuries to a pair of cornerstone players set the tone for a season that didn’t match the previous two when the Royals won a pair of American League pennants and a World Series title. They finished 81-81 and third place in the AL Central.
“We had a lot of reasons why we were 81-81,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We had a lot of injuries we had to contend with last year.”
But Moose is back. He’s taken ground balls, and he’s been throwing, running, staying in shape.
“I’m feeling good,” said Moustakas, about to begin his seventh season, all in a Kansas City uniform. “Ready to play some baseball, man. Get to work again.”
He postponed a visit with orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who repaired the knee, to attend the services for Yordano Ventura in the Dominican Republic earlier this week.
Players who attended FanFest at Bartle Hall on Friday fondly recalled their former teammate who died in an car crash early Sunday morning. None spoke with more emotion than Moustakas.
FanFest “is kind of exactly what we needed, to be around each other,” Moustakas said. “We needed to see each other, bond, hugging and loving on each other.”
Moustakas said he spent about five minutes in the Ventura memorial at FanFest, but he was overcome with emotion and left.
Asked for a favorite memory, Moustakas wiped tears from his eyes when he recalled the small gesture between them when Moose returned the ball to the pitcher.
“Every time I threw the ball to him, he always pointed at me,” Moustakas said. “And I’d point back.”