Mailbag: Will Royals find spots for trio?

Mailbag: Will KC find spots for trio of players?

How are the Royals going to play Billy Butler, Ross Gload and Ryan Shealy?
-- Luke E., Lincoln, Neb.

That's one of the biggest unanswered questions of Spring Training. If I had to guess, I'd say it's going to be Butler as the designated hitter, with Gload and Shealy sharing first base and Gload taking an occasional turn in left field or right field.

Is there room for Shealy on the roster? Yes, if the season begins with just 11 pitchers instead of 12. You need a fourth outfielder (Joey Gathright) and a couple of backup infielders (Esteban German, Alberto Callaspo). Count those three, plus a backup catcher, plus nine regulars in the lineup, plus 11 pitchers and there's 24 players and room for Shealy. If the Royals keep 12 pitchers, well, Shealy has an option remaining.

But let's not count our 25-man roster players before they're hatched. For one thing, Jose Guillen has that 15-day suspension still pending. Miguel Olivo has his five-game suspension under appeal, too, although whether it's him or someone else, there has to be a backup catcher. Right now, Mark Grudzielanek has a stiff back, and who knows how that will be?

And maybe general manager Dayton Moore is in his office right now, brewing up a big trade. In short, even at this late date, the final 25 still is guesswork. Also keep in mind it probably will be a final 24 at least for the first five games because the Royals will start a man short unless the Olivo suspension is wiped out or reduced. The Guillen suspension will not cost the Royals a roster spot.

I've been wondering about Hideo Nomo and his progression with the Royals. Is there anything new you can share with me?
-- Chris M., Garden City, Mo.

On Sunday, Royals manager Trey Hillman announced that Nomo no longer was in contention for a starting job, but that he was being considered for the bullpen. The 39-year-old right-hander has looked good at times, picking up velocity in each outing and flashing his old devastating split-finger pitch. But he was charged with five runs on seven hits in three innings on Saturday against the Brewers, and after that, the Royals took him out of the rotation picture.

Mike Aviles is one player who keeps producing but often seems overlooked. With the hot spring he's had, what are the chances of him making the Opening Day roster?
-- Brenton, Yonkers, N.Y.

Aviles is not being overlooked this spring -- not with the .423 (11-for-26) average he'd posted through Sunday. He was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2007 after batting .296 with 17 homers and 77 RBIs for Triple-A Omaha.

Though primarily a left-side guy at third base and shortstop, he was moved to second base for part of last season and adjusted well. He's been a consistent performer, working his way up steadily since being taken in seventh round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.

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However, the Royals are stacked with more experienced backup infielders, such as German, Callaspo and Jason Smith. So Aviles, 27, is likely to start the season at Omaha for the third year and further polish his skills at second base. Although he's seen as a probable utility player in the Major Leagues, he could be in the picture as a possible successor to second baseman Grudzielanek.

I know Damon Hollins is a long shot, but if he continues to tear it up, will he have a legitimate shot at making the club?
-- Tom M., Hays, Kan.

Hollins, through Sunday, was batting .344 (11-for-32) with two home runs and a club-high 12 RBIs. Somewhat of an oddity for a position player because he bats right-handed and throws left-handed, Hollins is a 33-year-old outfielder whose primary Major League exposure was with Tampa Bay in 2005-06. In those two seasons, he batted a combined .239 in 241 games and showed some pop with 28 homers.

Last year for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, he hit .257 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 124 games. He's spent most of his career in Triple-A, and that's his probable destination at the start of this season. There just isn't much wiggle room, position-wise, on the Royals' roster, and Gathright is the fourth outfielder. Hollins could be a valuable guy to have at Omaha as a backup.

I was just thinking about the Royals' possibilities for the fourth and fifth starter slots this year, and suddenly it hit me: Where is Luke Hudson and why is he not pitching in the Spring Training games and in consideration for one of the spots?
-- Jason M., Parkville, Mo.

Hudson is coming off shoulder surgery last June 28, and he's being brought along slowly this spring so he doesn't risk re-injuring the arm. So far, so good. He's had some minor soreness recently, but he seems to be just fine again. Hudson isn't likely to pitch in a game this spring, and he will open the season somewhere in the Minors, preferably at a warm temperature spot.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.