Is Whit Merrifield on his way back to Kansas City?
Merrifield, a 28-year-old utility man, was conspicuously absent Monday as the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers began a day game against New Orleans at Werner Park, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The Royals have an opening on their 25-man roster after optioning right-hander Jake Junis back to Omaha on Sunday evening.
The Royals have not confirmed any corresponding roster move. General manager Dayton Moore did not immediately return a message on Monday afternoon. On Sunday, club officials said the move would come Tuesday, before the start of a two-game series against the San Francisco Giants.
Merrifield is batting .412 (14 for 34) with a .423 on-base percentage in nine games for Omaha. After a solid rookie debut in 2016, he was caught in a roster crunch during spring training.
The Royals opted to go with 21-year-old Raul Mondesi at second base following a breakout spring performance. They also selected infielder Christian Colon over Merrifield, in part because the 27-year-old Colon is out of options and would need to pass waivers in order to be sent to Omaha.
Mondesi is batting .125 (4 for 32) with a solo homer in 12 games. He has struck out 10 times while drawing one walk. Colon is hitless in five plate appearances while making two starts at second base. He has drawn one walk.
The Royals opted to carry eight relievers last week after optioning struggling left-hander Matt Strahm to Omaha and outfielder Terrance Gore to Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Strahm entered Monday having logged four scoreless innings in three appearances at Omaha. He is not eligible to return to the major-league roster until Friday; players must spend 10 days in the minors after being optioned, barring an injury.
The performance of starting pitcher Ian Kennedy on Sunday and a day off on Monday could ease the need for eight relievers. Kennedy delivered eight innings in a 1-0 victory over the Angels. Closer Kelvin Herrera worked one inning while earning the win.
The club could also face another roster decision in the coming weeks. Outfielder Jorge Soler could begin a minor-league rehab assignment this week, Royals manager Ned Yost has said. Soler is recovering from a strained oblique muscle, sustained during the final weeks of spring training. Soler was scheduled to travel to Chicago on Monday to pick up his 2016 World Series ring. The Royals have not announced when he will begin his rehab assignment.