When Ben Zobrist joins the Royals on Friday, manager Ned Yost will receive a player capable of aiding his club in various ways, both short-term and long-term.
In the immediate present, he can fill the void created in left field by Alex Gordon’s strained groin muscle. In the weeks leading up the playoffs, Zobrist can also play enough positions to provide days off for starters Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios and Omar Infante.
“We’re going to start giving guys days (off) here,” Yost said before Wednesday’s series finale against the Indians. “Try to make sure everybody’s well-rested. We couldn’t do it last year, because we were fighting tooth and nail for every game. Now, when you’ve got a little breathing room, it’s easier to do.”
The team has yet to announce the corresponding roster move to make room for Zobrist. Infielder Cheslor Cuthbert is likely headed back to the minors. With Zobrist, the team now has a player who can spell shortstop Alcides Escobar on an emergency basis, in addition to being able to play first, second and third base.
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The addition of Zobrist also gives Yost more freedom to deploy Jarrod Dyson as a pinch-runner in late-game situations. In addition to designated hitter Kendrys Morales and catcher Salvador Perez, Dyson can now run for Infante, Rios and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
“Those guys can all steal bases,” Yost said. “But Dyson’s almost a guarantee. They’re good base-stealers. But they’re not Dyson.”
Yost began handing out off days on Wednesday. Both Cain and Perez sat. Cain will likely not play on Friday in Toronto, so he can face a pair of Blue Jays lefties on Saturday and Sunday. Alex Rios will have Thursday off. On Sunday, neither Moustakas nor first baseman Eric Hosmer will likely play.
“Just try to keep them all as fresh as we can,” Yost said. “Because those guys haven’t had much of a break. Especially Omar.”