The Kansas City Royals open spring training on Feb. 18 when pitchers and catchers report to their complex in Surprise, Ariz. The full squad is due on Feb. 22.
The first game will be March 2 against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium. The regular season begins against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on April 3, when the franchise will raise its second ever World Series championship flag.
Before the Royals report to spring training next week, The Star is looking at five key questions heading into the 2016 season. This week, we have looked at the position battles in right field and at second base; the re-tooled starting rotation; and possible breakout candidates in the pitching staff. On to question four:
4. Who’s in position to fill out the bench?
The makeup of the Royals’ bench will hinge, in part, on the position battles at second base and right field. But for the moment, a framework is in place. If Omar Infante leaves camp as the starting second baseman, that would leave Christian Colon available to serve in a utility role of sorts, backing up Infante, Alcides Escobar at shortstop and Mike Moustakas at third.
Paulo Orlando will likely pencil in as the fourth outfielder, while the backup catching position will come down to incumbent Drew Butera and newcomer Tony Cruz, who was acquired in an offseason trade. Cruz has options remaining and could be sent to Class AAA Omaha.
Assuming the Royals begin the season with a 12-man pitching staff, that would leave the club with one final opening on the 25-man roster. If the Royals desired to keep five outfielders, the options would include Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez, speedster Terrance Gore and nonroster invitee Travis Snider. Other outfielders on the 40-man roster include Bubba Starling, Reymond Fuentes and Jorge Bonifacio.
If the Royals wanted to keep another infielder, the most logical choice would be Cheslor Cuthbert, who batted .217 with a .280 on-base percentage in 50 plate appearances while filling in at third base last season. Either way, the final roster spot could prove to be fluid, with a rotation of guys cycling through from Class AAA Omaha.