Mike Moustakas has opened the 2014 season with zero hits in 15 at-bats. Alcides Escobar is hitless in 14 at-bats. But Royals manager Ned Yost intends to allow them plenty of opportunities to wrench themselves out of early-season slumps.
In general, Yost explained on Saturday morning, he likes to give a player 100 at-bats to settle into the season.
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“At least 100,” Yost said a few hours before his team’s 4-3 victory over the White Sox. “These are all guys that have been here before. Not everybody starts off on fire. At the end of the year, these guys’ numbers are all going to be about what they should be, what we think they’re going to be.”
He added, “I mean, we’re three games into it. Would we like them to be getting hits? Yeah. But they do other things to help you win ballgames.”
Escobar is an excellent defender, a skill set the team relies upon each day. Moustakas is also a stalwart at third base. He contributed a bases-loaded, RBI walk as part of a fourth-inning rally on Saturday.
Escobar is expected to play every day, especially after the organization designated backup infielder Pedro Ciriaco for assignment on Saturday morning. But Moustakas could rest on Sunday as the Royals face left-handed phenom Chris Sale. Danny Valencia, Moustakas’ right-handed-hitting backup, appears in line for his first start of the season.
Outfielder Justin Maxwell is also expected to receive his first start of the season. He could play in place of either of the team’s two left-handed-hitting outfielders, Nori Aoki or Alex Gordon.
Ciriaco was removed from the roster to make room for right-hander Aaron Brooks.
He will be available to aid the club until reliever Louis Coleman returns from a bone bruise in his right middle finger. The organization hopes Coleman will be ready by next week. He is eligible to return from the disabled list on April 8. Yost felt forced to continually utilize middle relievers, this early in the year.
“I’m at 11 pitchers,” he said. “I used four or five guys yesterday. Now, I can use these guys two and three days in a row, as long as we have a lead. If we don’t have a lead, it’s senseless to use these guys to get through innings. So I needed that 12th guy to suck up innings.”
The team has 10 days to use one of three options with Ciriaco: They can trade him, release him or place him on waivers (after a seven-day waiting period). The team does not plan to just cut him loose, Yost said.
So, why Brooks? He has never pitched above Class AA. He was scheduled to make his Class AAA debut on Saturday. A quirk of the rulebook precipitated his call-up. Major-league rules prevented the team from adding a player currently on the 40-man roster to the big-league club. The team needs to allow 10 days to honor the minor-league options exercised on those players to begin the season.
So, again, why Brooks? His control appealed to Yost. In 393 1/3 minor-league innings, Brooks walks 1.3 batters per nine.
“You know, I’ve got to have somebody that can throw strikes,” Yost said. “I can’t have a guy come up, and if I get in a bind and need him to throw four innings, I can’t have him be at 70 pitches after three.”
Yordano Ventura threw a light bullpen session during the seventh inning on Saturday. He will make his first start of the season on Tuesday night against Tampa Bay.