As the sound of bass echoed through the walls of the visitor’s clubhouse here Wednesday, Lorenzo Cain exited the weight room and took refuge in a chair along a side wall, resting his legs after an early afternoon workout.
He barked toward teammate Jarrod Dyson, who was 20 feet across the room. He bobbed his head to the music playing in the background. For the first time this season, Cain was not in the Royals’ starting lineup. Mired in an extended slump during the opening weeks of April, Cain had a day to rest his body and his mind.
The timing of the rest was by design, manager Ned Yost said. The Royals will have another day off Thursday before opening a three-game series at the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Cain will have two full days to reboot after batting just .203 with a .573 OPS (on-base plus slugging) during the season’s first 20 games.
“He’ll get going,” Yost said. “Just a matter of time. Sometimes it just takes one big hit to get him going.”
Cain is not the only member of the Royals’ core who has suffered from a slow start. Alex Gordon entered Wednesday batting just .235 with two homers. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales was batting .233 with two homers and five doubles.
But Yost views Cain’s production as paramount to the team’s offensive attack, a catalyst and producer in the middle of the lineup.
“He’s a big part of our offense,” Yost said. “He’s a run-producer. He’s a table-setter. He’s tremendous on the bases.”
A year ago, Cain posted the best offensive season of his career, batting .307 with a career-high 16 homers and 34 doubles. His OPS-plus soared to 126 (league average is 100), turning him into a Most Valuable Player candidate in center field. He finished third in the voting, behind Toronto’s Josh Donaldson and Los Angeles’ Mike Trout.
A year ago, Cain did not bat worse than .267 in any month. His 2016 has begun with a rare slump. On Tuesday night, he finished 1 for 4, facing off against Angels starter Jered Weaver. His average rose to just above .200. Cain believes he is capable of much more.
“Each at-bat, I felt like I put good swings on him,” Cain said. “But just trying to stay up the middle.”
Yost said he sees no common theme in the slump, no mechanical flaw that needs to be fixed. For Cain, the stretch has been just as baffling. The numbers illustrate an offensive player who is striking out at a career-high clip (25.3 percent) and swinging and missing more often. For much of the month, Cain was also hitting more balls in the air than usual. Those numbers have leveled off over the last week. A few hits have followed. Cain is still waiting for a full breakout.
“There’s been numerous instances throughout the league,” Yost said, mentioning Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. “Guys get off to slow starts.”
Yost believes it’s a matter of time before Cain heats up. For now, Cain is still waiting.
“He’s really developed into a real proficient offensive producer for our lineup,” Yost said. “He can hit to the ball to all fields. He’s got power. There’s a lot of things he can do.”
Moustakas still four homers from team record
After clubbing his seventh home run in a 9-4 loss on Tuesday night, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas would still need a torrid finish this month to threaten the Royals’ record for home runs in April. The current mark belongs to Jermaine Dye, who hit 11 homers in April 2000.
Dye finished the 2000 season with 33 homers. Moustakas is also pacing for the best power display of his career. Moustakas hit a career-high 22 homers in 2015, but 15 of those homers came after the All-Star break, including seven in September.
Hosmer extends hitting streak
Eric Hosmer extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games on Wednesday night, crushing a two-run homer in the top of the first inning. It’s the longest active streak in the majors.
Hosmer also reached base for a career-best 29th straight game, dating back to Sept. 27 of last season. It’s the longest streak by a Royal since Billy Butler reached base in 32 straight games in 2013.