The familiar cackle boomed across the Royals clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, a noise that had been missing for much of the last week. Left-hander Jason Vargas could hear it — and name it — even though he couldn’t see its source behind a wall of reporters and cameras. The sound belonged to outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who was officially back with the Royals after missing close to seven weeks with an oblique strain.
As the club re-instated a key piece of their outfield puzzle, they also opted for a focus on speed while clearing a spot for Dyson on the 25-man roster. Before opening a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals optioned outfielder Reymond Fuentes to Class AAA Omaha, electing to keep pinch-running specialist Terrance Gore on the bench. Dyson is expected to draw significant playing time in right field, splitting up the starts with the right-handed hitting Paulo Orlando. Gore will remain in Kansas City as a threat off the bench in late-game situations.
For some, the move to keep Gore, a full-time pinch-runner, on the roster ahead of Fuentes could be viewed as a progressive or unorthodox tactic. Royals manager Ned Yost saw it as the logical move.
“It would limit Fuentes’ playing time dramatically,” Yost said of Dyson’s return. “So we don’t want him sitting on the bench. We want him playing every day, continuing to work on his defense, so that when we have a need, he’ll be ready to go.”
The Royals made a second roster move on Tuesday, placing long reliever Dillon Gee on paternity leave after the birth of his daughter, Charlotte, on Monday. Gee’s wife Kari Ann underwent a cesarean section, Yost said, which required a longer hospital stint. He is expected to return on Thursday. The Royals recalled right-hander Miguel Almonte to fill Gee’s spot until then.
For the Royals, the more meaningful return belonged to Dyson. After entering spring training as the projected starter in right field, he suffered a Grade 2 oblique strain on March 2 in the spring training opener. He was sidelined close to six weeks before embarking on a rehab assignment at Class AAA Omaha. He hit .318 with a .464 on-base percentage in 22 at-bats for Omaha. The Royals deemed him ready for a return.
For now, Yost described the Royals’ right-field position as a “loose platoon” between Dyson and Orlando. Dyson is expected to draw most of the starts against right-handed pitching and a majority of the starts in general. Yost would not commit to anything more than a day-to-day decision built on matchups.
Dyson, 31, batted .250 with a .311 on-base percentage while appearing in 90 games in 2015. According to advanced metrics, he was worth 2.2 wins above replacement. For years, he has been an integral part of the Royals' bench. In the offseason, the club sought a replacement for right fielder Alex Rios, who departed via free agency. They opted to give Dyson an opportunity to win regular playing time.
The injury to Dyson opened up an opportunity for the left-handed hitting Fuentes, who had a breakout spring training. He batted .238 (5 for 21) with a .273 on-base percentage while appearing in six games in April. As Dyson returned, the left-handed hitting Fuentes was viewed as somewhat redundant on the 25-man roster. For now, the Royals will move forward with Gore, but Yost saidTuesday that he still views the final bench spot as somewhat fluid moving forward.
“We don’t pinch-hit for anybody, so there’s no” need there,” Yost said. “Gore, you can use him.”