Ned Yost remained stone-faced, even as he delivered news that allowed the Royals to breathe a sign of relief:
Second baseman Omar Infante is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
On Saturday evening, after once more testing his sore right elbow in a minor-league game, Infante was expected to board a flight from Arizona bound for Detroit, where the team opens the season on Monday. He will work out with his teammates on Sunday morning, and Yost plans to insert Infante back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup for the opener.
“I figured he’d be fine,” Yost said. “We just had to play it out, and see where we were going.” He added, “We’ll still see how Omar feels. But he’s rebounded really nice the last couple of days, and felt good going into each workout, and each game down there.”
Still, the possibility appeared dicey for the past few weeks. Infante received a cortisone injection to combat a bone spur on March 18. He has not appeared in a major-league game since. Team officials allowed Infante to dictate the pace of his rehabilitation; he requested to remain in Arizona this weekend while the team played at Miller Park.
As insurance for Infante, utility man Pedro Ciriaco made the club as the backup middle infielder. Jason Donald, his primary competition for the job, was re-assigned to Class AAA Omaha. Yost does not know if Infante will be able to play every day.
“I’m not a mind reader,” Yost said. “I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t know. We’ll go day to day, see how he feels, and go from there.”
The team also placed Louis Coleman (bruised right middle finger) and Luke Hochevar (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Coleman’s stint is back-dated so he can be available on April 8. The team will carry only 11 pitchers for the first week of the season, at least.
Having lost out to Brett Hayes for the backup catching position, Ramon Hernandez requested his release. The team granted it. He is now a free agent.
The Royals put former bench coach and current instructor Chino Cadahia in charge of Infante’s drills these past two days. Cadahia guided Infante through an intensive regimen, designed to test both his hitting and his throwing. Infante had said he felt a “pinch” when he completed both activities.
In addition to six at-bats in the game, Infante worked out with Cadahia beforehand. He swung in the batting cage, took soft toss, completed full rounds of batting practice, fielded groundballs, made throws to first and executed double-play drills.
“He got a full day’s work in the last couple of days,” Yost said.