Opinion

Ben Zobrist leads off for Royals as team waits for Alex Gordon to fully heal

Ben Zobrist will lead off for the Royals until Alex Gordon is 100 percent.
Ben Zobrist will lead off for the Royals until Alex Gordon is 100 percent. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

On Tuesday afternoon, after a four days filled with losses and days off for his regulars, Royals manager Ned Yost unveiled a lineup he could use when the playoffs begin next month.

The day before, Yost demoted shortstop Alcides Escobar from the leadoff spot and inserted Ben Zobrist into that position. Before his club faced the Twins on Tuesday, Yost explained why he chose Zobrist over outfielder Alex Gordon, who will bat second. His reasoning centers around Gordon’s return from a severe groin strain.

“Because right now, Ben’s faster than Alex,” Yost said. “With Alex’s leg injury, he’s still working himself back into complete running shape. They’ve both got a very high on-base (percentage). It’s just the way we like it.”

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost discusses home-field advantage for the playoffs and intensity of the team despite four-game losing streak.

Tuesday marked Gordon’s sixth game back since he injured himself on July 8. He played back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, and will likely do the same on Tuesday and Wednesday. But Yost still wants to be careful with Gordon.

From a statistical perspective, Gordon may be the team’s best option at the leadoff spot. He led the Royals with a .395 on-base percentage heading into Tuesday.

Still, Zobrist represents a fine alternative, and a significant upgrade over Escobar, whose production cratered after the All-Star break. Zobrist entered Tuesday with a .370 on-base percentage for the year and a .399 mark with Kansas City.

So as the playoffs get closer, the two could flip spots. But not until Gordon’s physical condition improves.

“It’s not back to where he was,” Yost said. “But he’s feeling much, much better. I talked to him yesterday, and he says he feels really good. Again, it’ll take time to continue to build strength and confidence in that leg.

“That was a pretty good injury that he suffered there. The more you get out there and the more you run around, the more you forget about it and the less you think about it.”

Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain discusses the team's four-game losing streak going into Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Twins.

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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