All-Star Game fan voting starts; Royals’ Ned Yost will manage AL team again

All-Star Game voting started Sunday. Fans can vote up to 35 times at
All-Star Game voting started Sunday. Fans can vote up to 35 times at

A year ago, one of baseball’s most peculiar controversies took place in the digital realm, where Royals fans nearly turned the All-Star balloting process into chaos by voting in a starting lineup of eight or nine Royals. In the end, just four Royals earned starting spots, but the American League squad had a Kansas City theme. Three Royals joined the team as reserves, and Ned Yost and his staff made the trip to Cincinnati after the club won the American League pennant in 2014.

A year later, Yost will return to another All-Star Game in July, managing the American League All-Stars for a second straight year. But how many of his players will join him in San Diego for the 87th annual midsummer classic on July 12? That will be decided over the next two-plus months as online All-Star voting began Sunday.

The Royals have nine players on the ballot, the customary number for all teams. One mild surprise: Outfielder Paulo Orlando appears on the ballot, in part because Jarrod Dyson was on the disabled list when the Royals sent in names for the ballot in March.

In 2015, Royals catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain were voted in as starters. Third baseman Mike Moustakas made the team as a reserve. Relievers Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera were also selected.

For the second straight year, balloting will take place exclusively online at Fans can vote up to 35 times, including no more than five times in any 24-hour period. For the second straight year, Yost will have a hand in filling out the roster as the manager of the American League, an honor reserved for the managers of the defending league champions.

“It’s not a bother,” Yost said on Sunday. “Is it a lot more work? Yeah. For me, I like to just stay focused on my team, and this definitely takes away from the focus on the team sometimes. (It’s) not as much taking away, but it’s just another team you’ve got to deal with.”

Yost said his staff will put together an “All-Star board” in the early days of May, keeping track of potential All-Stars and possible pitchers for the game. The process will ramp up in June. The American League has won the last three All-Star Games, and the Royals have benefited the last two seasons, earning home-field advantage in the World Series.

“It’s something you’ve got to take very seriously, because home-field advantage in the World Series is huge,” Yost said. “And it’s huge for, not only us, but the whole American League. So it’s a thing that you’ve got to take real seriously, and you got to try to do your best to build a team that’s capable of winning.”

Zimmer progressing in extended spring training

Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals’ top pitching prospect, made his first appearance in an extended spring training game on Friday, throwing 20 pitches during inning in Arizona. Zimmer, who is recovering from a case of “shoulder fatigue,” is expected to throw again on Monday, assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said.

Zimmer’s season was put on hold after he battled the shoulder issue during the final weeks of spring training. He continued his throwing program in Arizona and began throwing side sessions off the mound in recent weeks.

Picollo said Zimmer could depart extended spring training at some point in May. His eventual destination will be Class AAA Omaha, but his return could include a brief stint at a lower league.  

Early attendance figures up over 2015

The Royals completed a six-game home stand by drawing 34,748 fans on Sunday. In 11 home games this season, the club is drawing an average of 33,097 fans per game, which is ahead of last year’s average (29,594) through the same number of games. The Royals have already drawn a total of 364,070 fans this season.