Opinion

After rookie season, Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando excelled during winter ball

Royals players autograph authenticated bats, balls and jerseys

Kansas City Royals players signed thousands of items from bats, balls, jerseys and even mini-helmets that were authenticated before being shipped back to Kauffman Stadium. Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star
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Kansas City Royals players signed thousands of items from bats, balls, jerseys and even mini-helmets that were authenticated before being shipped back to Kauffman Stadium. Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star

When the World Series was over, outfielder Paulo Orlando was ready to return to his home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He yearned to celebrate a memorable rookie season with family and friends. He desired the cuisine of his home country.

First, though, he completed another offseason ritual.

For the fourth straight year, Orlando played winter ball in Venezuela, batting .295 with a .396 on-base percentage and four homers in 27 games for Cardenales de Lara, a team in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. The trip to Venezuela offered additional at-bats and a chance to refine his hitting stroke, Orlando said. It also served as a warmup for big-league camp, where Orlando is attempting to lock down a spot on the 25-man roster.

“I wanted to come in with the same mind as last year,” Orlando said. “Be on the roster and make the team again. That’s my focus now. Make the team now.”

A year ago, Orlando made the team out of spring training as a 29-year-old reserve outfielder. He appeared in 86 games as a rookie, batting .249 with a .269 on-base percentage. But much of his offensive production was concentrated in big moments. Orlando opened his career with three triples in his first two games. He hit a walk-off grand slam against the Tampa Bays Rays and clubbed a tie-breaking homer in an 11-10 victory over Toronto in the final game before the All-Star break.

“It surprised me,” Orlando said, “because it was my first year in the big leagues. I just tried to do my best.”

This spring, Royals manager Ned Yost has said that Orlando will likely occupy a spot in a right-field platoon with Jarrod Dyson. But both players must fend off challenges from a group of outfielders that includes former fourth-round pick Brett Eibner, minor-league signee Travis Snider, Reymond Fuentes and Jose Martinez.

“When I got the opportunity, I tried to do my job,” Orlando said of his first season in Kansas City. “I helped sometimes. But this is a new year. They know me now — the other team’s pitchers. So hopefully I make the adjustment.”

Rustin Dodd: 816-234-4937, @rustindodd

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