As the Royals arrived here at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, manager Ned Yost slotted Kendrys Morales into the starting right field spot for the third straight day.
The experiment had begun in St. Louis on Wednesday, and after two days of adequate outfield defense from the Royals’ designated hitter, Yost saw no reason to abandon the tactic. Kansas City claimed two victories in St. Louis with Morales playing right field. Morales finished off a torrid June, recording six hits in two nights.
But what about the future? The Royals will play just two more road interleague games this weekend before settling back into American League rules. They have just one more road interleague series — a trip to Miami — remaining in late August. So could Morales log an occasional start in right field when the designated hitter role is available?
For now, Yost is not quite bullish on the idea.
“Probably not,” he said Friday.
Yost cited reasons that are mostly obvious. The Royals place a premium on outfield defense, and they feature a wealth of options in Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain (when healthy), Paulo Orlando, Jarrod Dyson and Brett Eibner. Second baseman Whit Merrifield has also made eight starts in left field. And finally, Yost said, the Royals would like to avoid putting any unnecessary stress on Morales’ body.
“There’s a toll,” Yost said. “There’s a lot of running around there. We’ve got the outfield covered. Our team is built around pitching and defense and we’ve gone Cain, Gordon, Orlando and Dyson. We’ve got a pretty good defensive alignment out there.”
For now, however, Yost is not ruling out using Morales in right field for the final two games in Philadelphia.
“We’ll put him out there every day he’s feeling good,” Yost said.
No days off for Escobar
In recent days, Yost made it a priority to give days off to a group of regulars, including Salvador Perez, Cheslor Cuthbert, Paulo Orlando and Whit Merrifield. One player has been conspicuously absent from the list: Shortstop Alcides Escobar.
On Friday, Escobar made his 79th straight start at shortstop. Other than first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has twice started at designated hitter, he is the only Royals player to play every game this season.
That may not change anytime soon. Yost said Friday he was comfortable with Escobar’s workload, saying he would only receive a rest if “he starts dragging a little bit.”
“He’s not dragging,” Yost said.
Escobar played in 162 games in 2014 before playing in 148 last season. He missed two games after being spiked by Oakland’s Brett Lawrie in early April. He missed seven games after being hit in the face by Cleveland’s Danny Salazar on April 29.
Escobar is also in the midst of an offensive surge after a choppy season at the plate. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a double in the second inning on Friday.
Morales, Duffy takes June honors
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales was selected Royals player of the month for June after reviving his season with a scorching stretch. Morales batted .402 with five homers and seven doubles, finishing the month with six straight multi-hit games.
Left-hander Danny Duffy was voted Royals pitcher of the month. He went 3-1 with a 3.25 ERA in six June starts, racking up 45 strikeouts. Duffy recorded the most strikeouts by a Royals pitcher in a calendar month since Zack Greinke struck out 49 in August 2009, his Cy Young season.