Four months and one day later, the Royals play again, this time with a new patch on their uniform sleeve.
“2015 World Series Champion”
The stakes aren’t as high as the previous contest, when the Royals beat the Mets in Game 5 of the World Series, but the first exhibition game of the spring brings its own sense of anticipation.
“To finally start playing some games, I think everyone has their feet under them, ready to go,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said.
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The Royals meet their Surprise Stadium neighbors, the Texas Rangers, at 2:05 p.m. Central. Kyle Zimmer, who missed some work on Monday with the flu, will start.
“It’s exciting,” Zimmer said. “To have the ball in the first one, I ready to go out and compete and get some outs.”
Last season’s exhibition opener started auspiciously for the Royals. Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios hit first-inning home runs in successive at-bats in a six-run inning. The Royals pounded out 15 hits in a 13-2 victory.
Both teams would go on to win their divisions, with the American League West champion Rangers eliminated in the AL Division Series by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Royals will be without catcher Salvador Perez, who signed a five-year, $52.5 million contract extension Tuesday and is expected to make his spring training debut on Saturday.
Morales, the designated hitter, and shortstop Alcides Escobar aren’t expected to play until Friday.
Manager Ned Yost said consecutive short off-seasons, a product of World Series appearances, means regulars will be eased into the exhibition season, which is a busy one for the Royals.
The Royals have 35 games scheduled through April 2, including five split-squad days. On two of those, March 18 and 19, half of the team will be playing in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, against the Rangers.
The exhibition season includes off days on March 21 and March 31 and ends with a pair of games against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix on April 1-2.
Usually, a team would have an off day before the regular-season opener, but the World Series rematch between the Royals and Mets has been moved to April 3, a Sunday night, giving the Royals an odd first-week schedule of two games in five days.
“It’s different with the off days,” Yost said. “Once you start you want to get going you don’t want to have those types of situations.”
That’s an issue for next month, and by then the Royals will have answered their biggest questions entering the season.
Will it be Omar Infante or Christian Colon at second base? Infante is expected to miss the first few games, at least in the field, while he recovers from offseason elbow surgery.
Three starting pitchers — Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Ian Kennedy — are set. The other two will come from a group of Chris Young, Danny Duffy and Kris Medlen, with one going to the bullpen.
The pen has five spots set with closer Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Joakim Soria and the starter who joins them.
The Royals have a collection of candidates with major-league experience and right-hander Dillon Gee, a former Mets starter, could have the inside track on one of the other bullpen roles. Left-hander Brian Flynn was superb in Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
The cases are made beginning Wednesday.