The Royals began to cull their spring training roster on Monday, offering some clarity as the club attempts to set a 25-man roster for opening day.
Three of the team’s top prospects were among the cuts: outfielder Bubba Starling was optioned to Class AA Northwest Arkansas, while pitchers Kyle Zimmer and Miguel Almonte were optioned to Class AAA Omaha.
Also assigned to Omaha were outfielders Brett Eibner and José Martinez, who were fringe candidates to claim a reserve outfield spot after an injury to Jarrod Dyson, and infielder Cheslor Cuthbert.
The Royals also optioned pitchers Alec Mills and Matt Strahm, infielder Ramon Torres and outfielder Jorge Bonifacio to Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Nine players were reassigned to the minor-league camp: pitchers Christian Binford, Jonathan Dziedzic, Aroni Nina, Brooks Pounders and Sam Selman; infielders Hunter Dozier and Balbino Fuenmayor; and catchers Zane Evans and Cam Gallagher.
Still present in the major-league clubhouse on Monday were outfielder Reymond Fuentes, a candidate to win a reserve spot; outfielder Travis Snider, a non-roster invitee with big-league experience; and utility man Whit Merrifield, a non-roster invitee who has emerged as a bench option. Outfielder Terrance Gore, a member of the 40-man roster, also remains in big-league camp.
The Royals are searching for at least one reserve outfielder on their opening-day roster, and perhaps two, to slot behind roster locks Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Paulo Orlando.
Eibner, 27, batted .143 (2 for 14) while appearing in 10 games. Martinez, 27, hit .278 (5 for 18) while seeing action in 10 games. Both players spent the 2015 season at Class AAA Omaha.
“They showed enough,” Yost said. “But right now, it starts to get tough getting them regular at-bats.”
Yost said both Eibner and Martinez needed regular playing time in minor-league games, positioning them as secondary options in the event of injury.
“If something happened,” Yost said, “they could be called upon.”
In all, 44 active players remained in major-league spring training (14 are non-roster invitees) on Monday morning. Among the non-roster position players that remained: Merrifield, Snider, infielder Clint Barmes, infielder Orlando Calixte, infielder/utility man Cody Decker, catcher Parker Morin and infielder Dusty Coleman.
Yost also said the club wanted Zimmer and Almonte to get more innings in minor-league games. Both players appear headed for the rotation at Class AAA Omaha after impressive showings this spring.
Zimmer allowed one run in six innings in three appearances. He also struck out five while issuing zero walks. Almonte allowed two earned runs in six innings while striking out eight and walking two.
Starling, meanwhile, had two hits in 18 at-bats, including an inside-the-park homer. He appears poised to begin the season at Class AA Northwest Arkansas, where he finished last year.
Infielder Raul A. Mondesi, who has four hits in 15 at-bats, is among the prospects who still remain in camp.
“Right now, you look at it,” Yost said, “my job is to get my 25 guys ready, but get everybody else ready in case something happens.”