Salvador Perez flipped a dark bag on his back, clutched two bats in his right hand and sauntered across a practice field here Wednesday morning. As the Royals catcher prepped for a short workout under a cloudless sky, his equipment load also included a dark mitt and a blue T-shirt with his own likeness and three letters emblazoned on the front.
As the Royals prep for the start of another spring training here at the team’s complex in Surprise, Ariz. — pitchers and catchers are set to report Thursday — the franchise’s defense of its World Series title has already begun in earnest — unofficially, at least. An assortment of regulars, including first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and second baseman Omar Infante, were on site Wednesday. A collection of pitchers, including starter Yordano Ventura and reliever Kelvin Herrera, worked through conditioning drills. And then there was Perez, the reigning World Series Most Valuable Player, who has been back in Arizona for weeks, working out with the team’s strength staff and catching bullpens for a collection of hurlers already in town.
“It’s a close-knit group,” Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said Wednesday after observing a group bullpen session. “They want more.”
Officially, Royals pitchers and catchers must report to town Thursday, either in person or by phone, in advance of the first pitchers and catchers workout Friday. The Royals’ full squad will report Monday before the first full-squad workout Tuesday. The spring training schedule begins March 2 with the first of two games against the Texas Rangers, who share the complex in Surprise.
Gordon ready to go
One player who has yet to land in Arizona is left fielder Alex Gordon, who in January signed a four-year, $72 million contract to remain a Royal. When he does arrive, he will possess something else he did not have for most of last season: his health.
A year ago, Gordon arrived at spring training after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a ligament in his right wrist. He ran into more injury issues in early July, suffering a groin strain that kept him out until September. This year, Gordon says, he was able to take advantage of the offseason in normal fashion, working out near his home in Lincoln, Neb. This year, he will be ready to go from the start, a clean bill of health that includes both his wrist and groin.
“Last year at this time was horrible,” Gordon said in late January. “I missed pretty much the whole offseason training, which I dedicate myself to. I came into (camp) banged up, not being able to play and having to rush things.”
Gordon, who turned 32 on Feb. 10, said his groin injury lingered into late October. He had only minor limitations during the Royals’ playoff run, he said, but the groin was not 100 percent. This year, Gordon said, he will be able to enjoy a more traditional spring-training schedule.
“My whole focus (last year) was to not start the season on the disabled list,” Gordon said. “Now, in retrospect, should I have (been on the DL)? Maybe. I don’t think I was completely ready to go.”
Upgraded facility awaiting
As the Royals arrive in town for the start of camp, they will also move into a renovated complex here. The reported $22 million renovation, which was funded by the city of Surprise, included clubhouse upgrades for both the Royals and Rangers. The Royals redesigned their major-league clubhouse, adding a players lounge and other offices, while also installing new technology in the weight room and more amenities to the coaches’ locker rooms.
The renovations on the Royals’ side included an addition that cut into the right-field of George Brett field, creating a short porch on the club’s main practice field.
The final pieces of the move-in, club officials said, were slated to be finished late this week.