WBC '17, injuries keeping KC manager from using all his regulars
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Among the challenges of this Spring Training for Ned Yost has been pulling his team together with several key players still playing in the World Baseball Classic. First baseman Eric Hosmer and staff ace Danny Duffy are fighting for advancement with Team USA, while shortstop Alcides Escobar's Team Venezuela is hoping for an improbable series alignment of outcomes that could see them advance through a tiebreaker.
Couple that with starting catcher Salvador Perez being down for about a week with inflammation in his left knee, and Yost has yet to see anything like an Opening Day lineup on the field. But with just over two weeks before the regular season, he's barely started thinking about it.
"We haven't sat down and discussed it like we do, generally as a group, decide what the best lineup is for us," Yost said before Saturday's game with the Indians. "We get input from our analytical people. We get input from our eyes. We get input from the coaches, before we sit down and decide as a group what we think our best lineup is going to be."
Escobar held down the leadoff spot for the last couple of seasons, making 82 starts atop the lineup in '16. He's hitting .250 in 16 Cactus League at-bats with a triple and a homer, but he was at .429 (9-for-21) in the Classic heading into play Saturday.
"Esky's a primetime player, always," Yost said. "You look at what he does in the playoffs, the World Series. You look at what he does in these big types of games, he's always been extremely productive."
Alex Gordon hit leadoff Saturday. He was hitting .400 (12-for-30) with a homer, but Yost said the leadoff hitters this spring have mostly been there "so they get more at-bats without having to play as many innings," and cautioned against making more of spring lineups than the coaching staff has.
"Alex has been traditionally an on-base guy -- that's why we like him at the top," Yost said. "After the year that he had last year, and he feels good, I just want to get him going.
"He looks like old Gordy. He's getting to inside pitches. He's driving the pitch away. He's staying on his feet against offspeed stuff. He's not swinging and missing at a bunch of it. He looks good."
Yost isn't in a rush, but he'd like to get the lineup clicking together for at least four days to a week before the season opens.
"The three and four spots are locked up with [center fielder Lorenzo] Cain and Hos," Yost said. "For one, two, five, six, still debating on those spots. At least we got two of them locked down."
Yost said he expects to see Perez back by the middle of next week.
"That gives him plenty of time," Yost said. "Sal will be ready to go once he heals up."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.