Opinion

Whit Merrifield still in mix for last spot on Royals bench

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (65) tries to catch the ball as San Diego Padres Rico Noel dives for the base to steal during the Kansas City Royals and the San Diego Padres spring training baseball game at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz., on Wednesday.
Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (65) tries to catch the ball as San Diego Padres Rico Noel dives for the base to steal during the Kansas City Royals and the San Diego Padres spring training baseball game at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz., on Wednesday. The Kansas City Star

Whit Merrifield is one of the few remaining residents on the left side of the Royals clubhouse, the designated area for minor-leaguers and nonroster invitees. Joe Blanton and Chris Young also locker in that section of the room, as do infielder Gabriel Noriega and catcher J.C. Boscan.

And then there is Merrifield, the organization’s reigning minor-league hitter of the year. He hit .340 last year during a 76-game stay at Class AAA Omaha, which was by far his best streak during five seasons in the Royals organization. As the team decides the final few spots on the big-league roster, manager Ned Yost identified Merrifield as an appealing option.

“He’s been impressive with his versatility,” Yost said.

Merrifield, a 26-year-old ninth-round draft pick from the University of South Carolina, started at second base on Monday against the Rangers. He has mostly played the outfield. But his utility around the diamond helps his case.

“He can play anywhere,” Yost said. “His best infield position is second base. His best outfield position is probably left field. But he can play anywhere, right field. He can actually play a little center field, in a bind. He can play third. I mean, shortstop is his worst position, obviously. But he can play first, he can play second, he can play third.”

Paulo Orlando still looks like the favorite to make the club as the fifth outfielder. He is on the 40-man roster. Merrifield and Moises Sierra are not. The Royals do have an opening there, due to Jandel Gustave’s departure for San Diego, but the team could seek flexibility when making roster decisions with other players.

“I don’t know where I’m leaning toward right now,” Yost said.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

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