On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before his first start of 2015, Jarrod Dyson hunkered down with first-base coach Rusty Kuntz in the outfield at Target Field. Kuntz wanted to tutor Dyson on a few of the finer points of right field, a position Dyson had manned just once in his 354 big-league games. It is a spot he will now call home, as part of a platoon with rookie Paulo Orlando, in Alex Rios’ absence.
“I’m eager to play, so I don’t give a (darn) where I’m at right now,” Dyson said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be a piece of cake out there, but I’ve got to get back into the flow of things. I’ll be all right.”
After playing a significant role in the club’s run to the World Series last season, Dyson has appeared in just one game of the first seven in 2015. He will accept any assignment the organization gives him. This latest one deviates from a formula the club utilized to great effect in 2014.
Late in games, when the Royals acquired a lead, manager Ned Yost would remove right fielder Nori Aoki, shift Lorenzo Cain to right and place Dyson in center. The outfield appeared impenetrable. But the club ditched the formula after signing Rios to a one-year, $11 million contract.
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With Rios out due to a broken left hand, the Royals reshuffled their plans on Wednesday. They promoted speedy outfielder Terrance Gore to take Rios’ place on the roster. Gore will operate mostly as a pinch-runner. Because he has minor-league options, the club could shuttle him back to the minors in an emergency if they require an additional pitcher.
To take Rios’ place in the field, Yost will split time between Dyson and Orlando. Dyson will usually face right-handed pitchers and Orlando will usually face lefties.
And both will play right field. Yost indicated this related to a vote of confidence for Cain’s ability to handle the physical rigors of center field.
“We did that more to protect Cain’s legs late in the year than we did because we thought Dyson was a better center fielder,” Yost said. “[Cain] wouldn’t have to cover those big gaps. His legs are in great shape.”
Dyson played right field for much of spring training. He still went over some details with Kuntz on Wednesday. The biggest issue for a center fielder shifting to a corner is familiarizing himself with the depth changes. Kuntz instructed Dyson to be ready to swivel his hips at a 45-degree angle to track down flyballs.
“As a center fielder, you automatically get depth, because everything is coming at you,” Kuntz said. “So you’re always at that 45-degree angle, as soon as the ball is off the bat. When you move a guy off of center to play a corner, that’s the first thing you’ve got to notice.”