The United States’ victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday in San Diego will leave the Royals without two core players for four more days.
First baseman Eric Hosmer and starting pitcher Danny Duffy traveled with Team USA to Los Angeles for the final round at Dodger Stadium.
Duffy, who allowed one earned run in four innings in an exhilarating 6-3 victory over the Dominican Republic, is done pitching for the tournament and will not be available in the semifinals against Japan at 8 p.m. Tuesday or in a possible championship game on Wednesday. But Duffy is expected to remain with the team through the duration of the tournament.
Hosmer could be back in the U.S. lineup Tuesday after batting .381 with a .435 on-base percentage and one homer in the first two rounds.
The Royals have a day off Thursday, which means Hosmer and Duffy will likely return to camp on Friday. Royals manager Ned Yost said Hosmer could be back in spring training games immediately, though he appeared unconcerned after watching Hosmer get 21 at-bats for the United States.
“I’m not worried about those guys,” Yost said.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar is expected back in camp Tuesday after the elimination of Venezuela from the tournament. Yost said Escobar could be back in the lineup later this week.
Yost said this weekend that catcher Salvador Perez could return to Cactus League games this week. Perez has been resting his knee and elbow after a violent collision with backup catcher Drew Butera, who was playing for Team Italy, in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
Perez dropped out of the tournament and returned to camp. He underwent two MRIs; both were negative and revealed no structural damage. But Perez took a week off after the first MRI revealed some inflammation.
Merrifield battles for roster spot
Utility man Whit Merrifield continues to make his case for the starting job at second base, a crowded position battle that also features Raul Mondesi, Cheslor Cuthbert and Christian Colon.
Merrifield entered Sunday batting .289 with a .372 on-base percentage and two triples. He’s also tied for the team lead with three stolen bases. But results in the small-sample-size world of spring training can only tell so much. So Merrifield said he uses a few other self-evaluation tools.
“The whole thing is I’m swinging at good pitches, if I’m swinging at pitches that I want to swing at,” Merrifield said. “If my pitch selection is good, then I’m going good.
“When it’s a pitch that isn’t quite my pitch and I’m fouling it off, that’s when I’m going good, too. When I’m just putting it in play, that’s when I need to look at film and figure out why I’m doing it.”
The competition for the final three roster spots, including the starting job at second base, could come down to the final weeks of camp. In addition to second base, the Royals will also look to fill two open bench spots. If Merrifield is not starting at second base, he offers versatility with his ability to play three infield spots and all three outfield spots.
Yet, he does possess an option, which means he could be sent to Class AAA Omaha without being placed on waivers. Cuthbert and Colon are also out of options, while Mondesi has options remaining.