The conversation between Royals general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost took place late Friday night, in the hour after a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The discussion resulted in a slight change of plans.
The Royals decided to activate outfielder Jorge Soler from the disabled list before Saturday afternoon’s game against Cleveland. To create room on the roster, the club was prepared to option outfielder Jorge Bonifacio back to Class AAA Omaha. But they changed course at the last moment, choosing to option right-handed pitcher Miguel Almonte, who had been summoned from Class AA Northwest Arkansas earlier in the day.
By early Saturday morning, the roster pruning shaped up like this: Soler rejoined his teammates at Kauffman Stadium and finished 0 for 3 in his Royals debut. Almonte headed back to the minors. Bonifacio remained in Kansas City, prepared to rotate into the lineup with Soler and designated hitter Brandon Moss.
“Our thought was that we were going to maybe send Boni out after the game and just let him continue to play,” Yost said on Saturday. “But he’s been doing so well up here. Dayton and I sat back and realized: There’s spots we can still move him in.
“When we first went to spring training, our mind-set was we had (Paulo) Orlando, we had Moss, we had Soler that could kind of intermingle. One could play right field. The other could DH if it’s a platoon situation. It’s the same type thing … Bonifacio has taken over for Orlando now.”
On his first day back, Soler started in right field and Bonifacio went to the bench. He struck out in his first at-bat. Acquired in early December in a trade that sent closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs, Soler was expected to begin the season as the Royals' starting right fielder. But one awkward swing in a spring training minor-league game on March 26 resulted in a strained oblique muscle. Soler missed the final week of spring training and opened the season on the 10-day disabled list, beginning a lengthy rehab.
Soler, 25, flashed a smile Saturday as he returned to the Royals clubhouse. He hit .308 with a .400 on-base percentage and three homers in 11 games for Omaha. He appeared to lock in at the plate in his second week of rehab games. Soler said he began to feel 100 percent “four or five days ago.”
“At first, when he went down there, he was a little tentative,” said Royals catching coach Pedro Grifol, who served as an interpreter for Soler. “Because he felt something and he didn’t realize if it was the same thing he was feeling before or the start of it. But once he took a few swings, he was able to let it go, and he realized it wasn’t the same injury. Then he just felt comfortable and was able to let it fly.”
For now, Yost said he would “mix and match” with Soler, Bonifacio and Moss. The extra outfielder could also allow him to offer more time off to outfielder Alex Gordon, who has provided limited production at the plate.
“Mossy has been struggling a little bit,” Yost said. “Gordon has been struggling a little bit. We can mix and match maybe a little bit more with Boni. Because he’s been swinging the bat well.”
It remains possible that the Royals will need another reliever in the next week. The club is in the midst of a stretch of 15 games in 15 days. Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy went on the disabled list on Friday with a hamstring strain, which prompted the promotion of Almonte. Their next day off is May 15, the same day Kennedy could return from the DL.
For now, Chris Young is the favorite to start in place of Kennedy on Tuesday at Tampa Bay.
“I can always make a move,” Yost said. “If I need a reliever, I can have one here the next day.”