After being cut by Royals, Brian Goodwin finds success with Angels in Los Angeles

Royals outfielder Brian Goodwin looking forward to competition

Kansas City Royals outfielder Brian Goodwin thinks competition for an outfield position is a good thing for the team.
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Kansas City Royals outfielder Brian Goodwin thinks competition for an outfield position is a good thing for the team.

Outfielder Brian Goodwin walked out of the Royals’ spring training facility in Surprise, Arizona in late March unsure where his next chance to play in the major leagues might come from.

The Royals released Goodwin, thought to have been a frontrunner for the right field job, on March 25 with the season opener less than a week away. The organization came to the conclusion that he wasn’t among their best options in right field and/or off the bench, particularly when Lucas Duda became available.

This weekend, Goodwin came to Kauffman Stadium as a mainstay in the Los Angeles Angels’ lineup and outfield, at least at this point in the season.

“I don’t think you can ever be really surprised because you know it’s a business first,” Goodwin said of having been released. “They’re going to do what they’ve gotta do, what’s best for them. You kinda just more caught off-guard. I wouldn’t really say surprised. You know, stuff happens and you‘ve pretty much gotta roll with the punches.”

Goodwin entered Saturday night batting .333 with a .427 on-base percentage, .565 slugging percentage, three home runs and 10 RBIs.

He didn’t start the season playing regularly against left-handed pitchers, but he’s worked his way into an everyday role, and he’s batting .357 with a .471 OBP against southpaws.

“My main thing was turning this into a positive,” Goodwin said. “I can play. Plain and simple. Nobody gonna tell me that I can’t. Nobody is going to make me believe that I can’t. I’m always thinking, ‘I can, I can, I will, I will.’ All of that is just going to push me to be better. I might have a little chip on my shoulder. That could help.”

Goodwin didn’t find consistent success at the plate in spring training, but he’d been candid about experimenting, trying different mechanical adjustments and tinkering with his swing through the final weeks of camp. He took the approach that he needed to risk failure in spring in order to make himself a better player.

“What I was doing wasn’t based on my position in the organization,” Goodwin said. “It was based on me as a player and where I wanted to go and where I saw myself in the future down the road. Whatever team that was — that’s not really up to me. As of now, it’s L.A. Next year, it could be somewhere else. I just like to keep my head where my butt is at, and I’m in L.A. now.”

Royals manager Ned Yost said he and his staff didn’t really want to let go of Goodwin, but they looked at Goodwin’s numbers as a pinch hitter in the NL (he’d batted .186 with a .327 on-base percentage) and didn’t see a fit. They felt like they knew Duda could have success being used that way.

The KC coaching staff also couldn’t ignore Goodwin’s struggles at the plate all spring. He batted .116 with a .188 on-base percentage. He’d had just five hits in camp, and Yost and his coaches felt their roster would be lefty-heavy if Goodwin played regularly along with Gordon, O’Hearn.

“In my mind, we were trading him for (Frank) Schwindel,” Yost said. “Now, that gave us the opportunity to have that extra right-handed bat that had killed left-handed pitching his whole career. Now you had a guy that can pinch hit against left-handers in Schwindel and you had a guy that could pinch hit against right-handers in Duda, and Gore coming off the bench. It just made more sense.”

The fact that Whit Merrifield and Chris Owings could play the outfield gave them options and depth, and the staff also believed — for the sake of his development — that Jorge Soler needed to be more than a full-time designated hitter.

The Royals doggedly pursued Owings in free agency, viewing him in a similar vein as Merrifield because of their defensive versatility, and had seen signs of progress from Hunter Dozier at third base. Goodwin would’ve taken playing time away from someone the organization wanted to see play regularly.

“We liked Goody a lot,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “We obviously traded for him last summer, and I’m glad he’s doing well.”

This past offseason, Goodwin hired a speed coach and he reported to Arizona having cut his body fat to 9 percent. Moore and Yost praised the work Goodwin had put in during the winter to prepare for the season. Ultimately, however, he fell victim to the numbers-game part of roster construction.

“There probably wouldn’t have been a lot of at-bats for him,” Moore said. “That’s where Ned and the coaching staff have got to figure out how they’re going to give him the right opportunity.

“As a general manager, we always want to make sure that we give players the right opportunity to play. Especially players that are kind of in that stage in their careers where they’ve got to go and they’ve got to have opportunity. You’ve got a small window in this game, so we look at it from that point of view as well. I think you have to be a good steward of the game, and to be a good steward of the game you’ve got to try to put players in a position where they can be most successful whether it’s with us or somebody else.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.