First baseman Lucas Duda has a pair of 30-home run seasons under his belt, but he has also played for four major-league clubs in the previous two seasons, including the Royals.
With the Royals exploring options on how to fill out their 25-man roster headed into next week’s season opener, they decided to bring Duda back into the fold on a minor-league contract on Friday. He joined the team in big-league camp in Arizona.
“Any role that (manager Ned Yost) puts me in I’ll be able to hopefully help the team out,” Duda said. “Whatever he says, I’m in for.”
A 6-foot-4, 255-pound left-handed slugger, Duda played in 87 games for the Royals last season. He batted .242 with a .310 on-base percentage and .413 slugging percentage. He hit 13 home runs, 12 doubles and drove in 48 runs.
The Royals traded Duda to the Atlanta Braves for cash on Aug. 29. He signed a minor-league contract that included an invitation to big-league camp with the Minnesota Twins prior to the start of spring training. The Twins released him on Wednesday after he’d batted .258 with a .395 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage this spring.
It didn’t take long for him to find his way back to the Royals, who will likely start the season with an additional position player on their roster (13 instead of 12) because they won’t need a fifth starting pitcher for the first two weeks of the season.
“I know the guys. I know they have a good group here, young, talented, and hopefully I can just mesh in and play my part,” Duda said.
Yost described Duda as a veteran and a bat from the left side who fits well in their clubhouse. Yost treated as though it were a given that Duda would be in the mix for the last spot on the 25-man roster to start the season.
“We wouldn’t bring him here if he wasn’t in the mix,” Yost said.
Ryan O’Hearn, also a left-handed hitter, heads into the season as the likely starter at first base. He’ll try to provide an encore after he registered 12 home runs, 10 doubles and 30 RBIs in 44 major-league games last season.
Hunter Dozier, a right-handed hitter projected to start at third base after taking over the spot late last season, has also played first base. He’d be a likely candidate to play first if the Royals wanted to platoon left-handed and right-handed hitters at the position.
Dozier batted .280 in the month of August, and seven of his 11 homers as well as 22 of 34 RBI came after the All-Star break last season.
“We’re not here to stifle O’Hearn,” Yost said. “We’re not here to stifle Dozier. Duda is a veteran presence that we like his bat. You know, will there be opportunities for a left-handed bat off the bench on our team? Yeah. We’re trying to get better.”
Viloria to Double-A
The Royals optioned catcher Meibrys Viloria, one of the candidates to replace injured Salvador Perez until the addition of Martin Maldonado, to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Friday. Viloria, who the club called up from High-A Wilmington in September, has batted .300 with two home runs, seven RBI and a .533 slugging percentage in 14 spring training games.
Royals minor-league pitcher Jonathan Perrin was suspended 50 games for violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention Program as a result of testing positive for the second time for a drug of abuse, according to MLB.com. Perrin, acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in August, pitched in five games last season for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.