The Kansas City Royals launch their quest for their first post season appearance since 1985 today at noon Central with a road match up against the AL Central champions, the Detroit Tigers.
There is good news right away. According to Andy McCullough, the Royals insider for the Kansas City Star, second baseman Omar Infante is healthy enough to start the season with the ball club in Detroit against his former team. He has been struggling this spring with an elbow issue.
The Royals start the season with 6 pitchers in the bullpen, and 5 bench players. Because of Infante’s uncertain health, Kansas City is starting the season with Pedro Ciriaco on the roster to serve as the back up middle reliever. It was thought the Royals would start the season with no utility infielder but that is not the case.
Catcher Brett Hayes, Ciriaco, third baseman Danny Valencia, outfielders Jarrod Dyson, and Justin Maxwell will serve as reserves. The bullpen will be manned by Wade Davis, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, Francisley Bueno, and closer Greg Holland.
The bullpen could get stretched rather quickly if the starters don’t pitch deep into games early. Once Infante proves his health is definite, the Royals will probably add another arm.
The Royals will get a chance to see just how they match up against the best. Kansas City will get to face maybe the best pitching threesome in Major League Baseball in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez. The Royals counter with Shields, Jason Vargas, and rookie Yordano Ventura.
The Royals have to be able to compete with, and defeat, their fair share of match ups with the Tigers if they want to challenge for the division, or even a wild card.
Kansas City is in a win-now mode as they have raised the payroll to a franchise high $92 million, which is the second highest payroll in the AL Central. The Detroit Tigers, on the other hand, have the largest payroll, by a huge margin, in the division. The Tigers are spending $162 million this , according to Deadspin.com.
The Royals can’t worry about how they compare in payroll at this point. They have upgraded at right field and at second base with Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante, plus added Jason Vargas to replace the departed Ervin Santana. Ventura hopes to improve mightily on the numbers Wade Davis put up as a starter last season.
As always, the pitching is key but the Royals really need the hitters in the middle of the line up to produce. Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon need to be the run producers, with Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas to contribute in a big way. If these 5 guys can have big seasons, the Royals will be in the race.
Opening Day is one of the most exciting days of the sports year, and I am very excited for the season to get under way. I am cautiously optimistic, as all fans should be at this point.
Let’s PLAY BALL!