The commotion reverberated from one corner of the Royals clubhouse on Thursday as outfielder Paulo Orlando strode into the room for the first time this year. Catcher Salvador Perez launched barbs from across the room. Lorenzo Cain let a few jokes fly. Another voice shouted one word: “Brazil!”
As his teammates dogged him for his late arrival to camp, Orlando offered a worthwhile explanation for the timing. For one, Royals position players did not have to officially report to camp until Thursday. And Orlando spent the final weeks of the offseason in Kansas City with his wife, Fabricia, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
The pregnancy had kept the family in the Kansas City area this offseason, Orlando said. It also served as inspiration for his final act before leaving for camp. Three days earlier, Orlando had visited a tattoo artist in Westport and decorated his right biceps with a piece of ink dedicated to his wife. The design features La Calavera Catrina, the grand dame of death from Mexican folklore, with Fabricia Orlando’s likeness superimposed on the face.
“I just say, the whole arm is for her,” Orlando said. “… I love her so much.”
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For Orlando, getting a new tattoo has become an offseason tradition. Last year, in the days before camp, he commemorated his first season in the big leagues in 2015 with a tattoo on his back. He would go on to have a breakthrough year in 2016, batting .302 with a .329 on-base percentage in 128 games.
The performance positioned Orlando for additional playing time in right field in 2016. But the Royals traded closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler, who is expected to start in right field. Orlando said he did not feel slighted by the deal.
“Soler is welcome,” Orlando said. “He’s a great player. So hopefully he’ll help the team, too.”
After acquiring Soler from the Cubs, the Royals sent outfielder Jarrod Dyson to the Mariners for right-hander Nathan Karns. The two moves virtually guaranteed that Orlando would enter camp as the club’s fourth outfielder. With Dyson gone, Orlando said he was hoping to improve his base-stealing ability this spring. But as another season approaches, he welcomed the chance to compete for playing time yet again.
“For me, it’s a different year,” Orlando said. “Every year is different. So I just try to do my best every year (with) every opportunity I got.”
Gordon shows up to camp
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon joined Orlando as one of the final regulars to arrive in camp on Thursday. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was not seen at the facility during the morning, but manager Ned Yost said he was expected in town before the end of the day.
Gordon spent his offseason in Kansas City after re-locating back from his hometown of Lincoln, Neb. This offseason was longer than the past two, Gordon said. The reality offered motivation.
“I think everybody went back home and kind of freshened up,” Gordon said. “And they got their work in and came back ready to go.”
Royals agree to contracts with 12 players
In a mere formality, the Royals agreed to contracts with 12 non-arbitration-eligible players on Thursday. All 12 players will make close to the league minimum of $535,000 — or something slightly higher. Any player with fewer than three years of major-league service time must accept a contract from his club.
The list of players that agreed on Thursday: pitchers Scott Alexander, Brian Flynn, Jake Junis, Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Zimmer; infielders Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield and Ramon Torres; and outfielders Billy Burns, Terrance Gore and Bubba Starling.
The Royals now have 11 players who remained unsigned: pitchers Miguel Almonte, Andrew Edwards, Nathan Karns and Matt Strahm; catcher Cam Gallagher; infielders Christian Colón and Raul Mondesi and outfielders Jorge Bonifacio, Samir Duenez, Peter O’Brien and Paulo Orlando.