Opinion

A quick primer heading into today’s Royals spring opener

The field at Surprise Stadium is ready for the Cactus League opener between the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Central time.
The field at Surprise Stadium is ready for the Cactus League opener between the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Central time. The Kansas City Star

The Royals begin their 30-game spring training schedule today against the Texas Rangers. First pitch at Surprise Stadium is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Central time. Aaron Brooks will be the Royals starter. The game will be broadcast on KCSP (610 AM).

This marks the 13th year the Royals have trained in Arizona. They spent 1969-87 in Fort Myers, Fla., and 1988-2002 in Baseball City, Fla., near Orlando. Baseball City Stadium was torn down in 2005.

The defending American League champions don’t have many questions heading into the most anticipated season in decades. But here are a few to ponder as the opener approaches.

Who are the new faces?

Not as many as in past years.

Alex Rios is the new right fielder, replacing Nori Aoki. Kendrys Morales will be the designated hitter, assuming Billy Butler’s role. The Royals also bid farewell to starting pitcher James Shields and reliever Aaron Crow in the offseason.

The other major off-season acquisitions are starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Kris Medlen.

What are major roster decisions?

There aren’t many. The Royals enter the exhibition season as settled as they’ve been in manager Ned Yost’s tenure. The biggest issue figures to involve the final relief pitchers. Who joins the core group of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar?

Hochevar may not break camp with the team as his recovery from Tommy John surgery continues. The battle in the pen is among Brandon Finnegan, Ryan Madson, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman, Franklin Morales, Joe Patterson, Joe Blanton and Jandel Gustave.

If Hochevar is available, there are two or three spots to fill.

Does spring training success portend regular-season achievement?

They are hardly related.

The Royals went 12-16-2 in exhibition games last year and reached game seven of the World Series. The champion San Francisco Giants fared better, finishing 17-12-1.

In 2014, the best Cactus League winning percentage belonged to the Indians (20-9, .690). They finished 85-77.

A year earlier, the Royals topped baseball with a 25-7 spring record, and the team was improved, winning 86 regular-season games in 2013. But that team started the year 23-32.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments