Royals vying for spot on Opening Day roster stay positive

Kansas City Royals pitcher Matt Strahm.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Matt Strahm.

One player stands focused on the mound. He prepares to throw a pitch he’s perfected all spring training: the slider.

He is left-hander Matt Strahm, who remains in the Royals spring-training camp vying for a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster. At this time last year, he’d already been sent to minor-league camp.

“This year, I’ve been told I’m here to compete for a bullpen job and that’s what I am doing — just (taking) it day-by-day,” he said.

Strahm and the other players know that getting reassigned doesn’t mean their dream of playing in the big leagues has ended.

“We’ve got guys that are still competing for jobs and guys that do get reassigned,” manager Ned Yost said. “They know that they’re going to get an opportunity to work their way back up here by their production at the lower level.”

Left-hander Mike Minor said: “You either see them later on in the season usually — with guys getting traded (or) guys getting hurt.”

Strahm made it to the big leagues last season when he was brought up in July. He pitched in 21 games for the Royals. Strahm said this experience has served as a driving force to make the team this year.

“Obviously, you want to stay up and it’s a great group of guys … and you want to be a part of it,” he said. “That’s why I came to spring (training) — coming to compete and be a part of this team.”

With the current shuffling of players as the Royals work to get the roster down to 25 by Opening Day, there’s one thing that hasn’t left the clubhouse: positivity.

“Even the guys that do get sent down, they usually have positive things to say,” Minor said. “There’s no hard feelings there. They might come up to you and say that they learned something. Everything’s positive about it.”

Yost said: “Everybody wants to be here — that’s enough incentive to keep your morale up. We’ve got a pretty good group of guys that manage to keep the morale up all by themselves.”

Royals infielder Whit Merrifield played 81 games for the Royals as a rookie last season. He said the mood in the clubhouse has been the same since the first day of spring training and that the team remains a tight-knit group.

“Everyone is so close to each other and people care genuinely about each other,” Merrifield said. “They know that it’s a long season and there’s going to be a lot of moves made throughout the season and at some point we’re probably going to need most of these guys that are in this clubhouse to contribute. I think it’s pretty well known around here and some people try to … keep everyone in good spirits.”

As these players remain hopeful that they’ll fulfill their dream of playing major-league baseball, it’s vital they take in the experience that comes from spring training. Infielder Garin Cecchini did just that.

One day in mid-March, before he was sent from the big-league camp to the minor-league one, Cecchini said, “Just don’t worry about it — just go day-by-day and live in the present and (be) grateful to still be up here and wear Kansas City across your chest.”