The questions Saturday afternoon concerned third baseman Mike Moustakas, his ongoing struggles and how patient the Royals were willing to remain and for how long.
But they could have been about first baseman Eric Hosmer or, given the day, any of several players who comprise the Royals’ youthful core. Manager Ned Yost fields these questions on a daily basis.
This time, he snapped back in vintage Yost form, an entertaining mix of biting sarcasm and a passionate defense of the player — in this case, Moustakas (who carried a .189 average in Saturday’s game against the A’s).
“You know what?” Yost said. “Maybe when we get home, I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman. … Obviously, third basemen who can hit and hit with power, they must grow on trees.
“They’ve got to. Like relief pitchers. And starting pitchers. Right fielders. Left fielders. First basemen. All of these guys must grow on trees, and you must be able to just go get another good one. A ripe one. Make sure it’s ripe.
“Those trees are at a hidden location but, obviously, they’re somewhere. Because that’s what everyone wants to do. Let’s just go pluck another one out of the tree. That’s the nonsense that really ticks me off.”
(If you’ve missed the point … no, Yost and the Royals are not close to backing away from any of the players who comprise their youthful core.)
“The kid is going to be fine,” Yost said. “Yes, he’s fighting it right now. They’re all fighting it. They want success. They want to bring a championship to Kansas City. At times, the desire to win overwhelms them.
“I’ve been in baseball my whole life. I know which kids are going to work and which kids aren’t. He’s going to work. I’ve seen it too many times. (Being patient) with young guys works. It works.
“I went through these conversations 50 times (while managing) in Milwaukee. We’re nowhere close to baling on any of these kids, but I understand I’m going to have to answer (these questions) every week until (Moustakas) starts producing.
“But I’m going to tell you something, if I’m wrong on this kid, it’ll be the first. I’ve never been wrong on one of these kids who I’ve had conviction with. None of them. We’re talking about 15 guys over a 30-year career.
“There are just too many smart baseball people who see what I see. So with Hos, with Moose, Salvy (Perez) and (Alcides) Escobar...all of these kids, they’re going to be fine. They’re going to be very productive players.
“But if you think they’re going to be productive from the moment they get here just because they had great minor-league careers … no. There are huge lessons and journeys to endure at the major-league level
“There is no third baseman tree. You don’t go grab another one. You let him develop. Look at Gordy (Alex Gordon). When I came over here (in 2010), all I heard (from fans) was this kid is never going to be anything.
“No. You’re wrong. Give them time to develop. But I understand it. I know what the fans want. They want it, and they want it now. Instant gratification just doesn’t work (in baseball).”
Everybody got that?
It was here at the O.Co Coliseum, a little more than 13 months ago, that Lorenzo Cain’s career took a year-long detour into Rehabville.
Cain suffered a strained left groin after bouncing into the center-field wall after making a running catch in a 3-0 victory on April 10. He then suffered a torn left hip flexor later in April on a minor-league rehab assignment.
The hip injury sidelined Cain until July. He then played just 61 games before a strained right hamstring in mid-September ended his season. This weekend marks his first trip to Oakland since that original injury.
“When I went out there Friday,” he said, “I just looked at the wall and nodded. It’s just another day. It’s just another game. It didn’t bother me at all.”
Cain has been injury-free so far this season and entered Saturday’s game with a .320 average.
When James Shields pitched eight innings in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the A’s in the series opener, it marked the eighth time this season that a Royals starter has pitched at least eight innings.
And that matches the club’s entire total from last season.
Shields has five of those eighth eight-or-more outings and leads the American League with 66 innings.
Royals starters, prior to Saturday, had worked at least six innings in 29 of their 38 games. The club didn’t have 29 starts of six or more innings last year until its 71st game on June 25.
Lefty Noel Arguelles continues to struggle at Class AA Northwest Arkansas in what might be a make-or-break season.
Arguelles, 23, gave up four runs in five innings Friday in a 5-2 loss at Tulsa, which dropped him to 1-7 with a 6.07 ERA through nine starts.
The Royals signed Arguelles to a five-year deal for $6.9 million in January 2010 when he was a free agent after defecting from Cuba.
Arguelles missed the 2010 season because of a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. He is a combined 9-26 with a 5.10 ERA in 55 career starts at Class A Wilmington (2011) and Northwest Arkansas.
It was 17 years ago Sunday — May 19, 1996 — that the Royals inducted their first lady, Muriel Kauffman, into their Hall of Fame. The posthumous honor came one year after her death.
In addition to being a driving force behind her husband Ewing’s decision to underwrite the expansion club, she established the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation to support and perpetuate the performing arts.