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Optimism abounds after full-squad workout

Optimism abounds after full-squad workout play video for Optimism abounds after full-squad workout

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals Spring Training is officially on. The first full-squad workout was held on Friday, ending in mid-afternoon sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s.

How did it go?

"Awesome!" shouted right fielder Jeff Francoeur as he headed for the clubhouse. "Day one is in the books!"

How did it go?

"Horrible," grumbled designated hitter Billy Butler, going through the door. "It definitely doesn't feel like April 1 to me."

Well, there are 42 days to go at the Arizona camp, plenty of time to iron out that swing or refine that pitching delivery.

How did it go?

"Wonderful," enthused outfielder Jarrod Dyson, dripping with sweat at his locker. "That's what you want to do -- get the blood flowing, get going, get in the flow of things, get used to it. This is day one, we've got a lot more days to go. Everybody's doing fine for day one. If we can get past day one, we'll make it past the rest of 'em."

Of the 62 players on the spring roster, two were absent. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was helping his new bride get a visa in Venezuela and infielder Miguel Tejada was delayed by illness in the Dominican Republic. Both were hoping to arrive on Saturday when there will be a late start, noon MST, to accommodate more physical examinations in the morning.

With the temperature taking an upward turn after a few chilly days, manager Ned Yost held a clubhouse meeting and then oversaw a long blue line of uniformed players out on the conditioning field, doing stretches, high kicks, and shuffle-and-runs.

Taking to the manicured grass of six practice fields, the players followed a schedule with Yost blowing an air horn to signal changes in the workouts.

Jeremy Guthrie and Wade Davis were among the starting pitchers who threw batting practice on one field. Closer Greg Holland threw to Butler, Eric Hosmer and Chris Getz on another field.

On yet another field, Hall of Famer George Brett -- just arrived from Kansas City -- wore his No. 5 uniform and lent batting practice expertise to Francoeur, Alex Gordon and Xavier Nady. The pitches were more convivial, lobbed across the plate by the coaching staff's Brian Poldberg. Baseballs shot across the green outfield.

"I can still give 'em up with the best of 'em," Poldberg said with satisfaction.

The symbolic first day was met with considerable optimism by the Royals, notably because of the offseason deals that brought James Shields, Davis, Ervin Santana and Guthrie.

"Any time you try to improve a team, you start with the starting rotation," Gordon said. "Pitching always beats good hitting and that's what we feel like we have now -- a lot of depth in the rotation and there's going to be a lot of battles this Spring Training to try to get in that rotation. So, that's good."

Third baseman Mike Moustakas also was encouraged by the addition of several other veterans to the camp roster.

"You know, it's exciting," he said. "We go out and get Santana and Shields and Wade Davis. Guys like Haysie and X [catcher Brett Hayes and outfielder Nady] that have got some time around the league and can show us young guys the way to do things, the way to approach things. You look around the clubhouse and you've got a chance to win every time you step on the field."

Even Yost, never one to get overly exuberant, indicated there was more than a trace of optimism in his annual message to his team. Usually he emphasizes the need to make substantial improvements in various aspects of the game.

"This year, we've got talented players, we've got depth, we can play defense, we can pitch, we've got a great bullpen, I think we're going to swing the bats really well," Yost said after his meeting. "I think the focus this year for us as a 25-man group is becoming a team. This is of utmost importance."

Yost doesn't expect any trouble on the scale of the 12-game losing streak in April that waylaid his club last season.

"The way to avoid things like that is talent," he said, "and we've increased our talent level so that we feel with the caliber of starting pitching that we have, we're not going to have long losing streaks."

There's no doubt that there's a touch of pennant fever making the rounds. Moustakas caught it at last month's Royals FanFest in Kansas City.

"It was sold out. There was walking room only and there was barely walking room," Moustakas said. "I mean, that's what the fans want -- they want a winner and Dayton [Moore, general manager] went out and did what he could to help us to our goal, a championship."

And Friday's first full-squad workout went well.

"It was a great day," Yost said. "Everybody got through it fine, everybody got a bunch of swings, the infielders got a bunch of ground balls, the outfielders got their defensive work in, the pitchers all did great. It was a good day, we got everything we set out to accomplish accomplished."

Dyson looked around the Royals' clubhouse and gave his take on the mood.

"Rarin' to go," he said with a big smile. "I think everybody in here is rarin' to go."

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

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }