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Ankiel to play center field for Royals

Ankiel to play center field for Royals

KANSAS CITY -- So it'll be Rick Ankiel in center field, Scott Podsednik in left field and David DeJesus in right field for the Royals next season.

Oh, and Jose Guillen as the designated hitter.

At least that's the way Royals general manager Dayton Moore sees it.

Moore's lineup preview came on Monday as he introduced Ankiel at a news conference to formally announce the left-handed hitter's signing to a one-year contract. An agreement was reached late last Thursday night but was contingent on Ankiel undergoing a physical examination on Monday.

Ankiel signed a one-year deal worth $3.25 million, including a base salary of $2.75 million for 2010 and a $500,000 buyout on a $6 million mutual option for 2011.

So one of the first questions to Moore was where Ankiel would play.

"Center field. That's why we acquired him. David will move over to right and Scott Podsednik will play mostly left and Rick will be our center fielder," Moore said.

And Guillen, the oft-injured right fielder?

"DH and he'll play some outfield, too, but primarily his at-bats will come in that role," Moore said.

It also means a change for DeJesus, who played left field last season after moving from center. DeJesus has played right field just 33 times in his 785 Major League games.

DeJesus is an agreeable type who had no objection to moving out of center field and is likely to adjust easily. Guillen, however, has been vocal about avoiding the DH role.

Guillen couldn't be reached on Monday but, as recently as November, he said: "I'm an outfielder, not a DH, and I want people to understand that. We'll see when Spring Training comes how I feel. But I'm a right fielder, not a DH. I want everybody in Kansas City to get that out of their mind."

Well, it's not out of Moore's mind, obviously. Moore said that he expected Guillen to approach the task with professionalism.

Moore also sees Chris Getz, who came from the White Sox in the Mark Teahen deal, to give the Royals improved defense at second base. But, with Getz there and Guillen at DH, where does that leave Alberto Callaspo, the .300-hitting second baseman of last season?

"I think there's plenty of opportunity for Alberto and it's something we have to work through as well in Spring Training and the first 40, 50 games of the season, making sure we're getting the right players in there," Moore said.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Ankiel, the Royals designed infielder Mario Lisson for assignment. Lisson, a shortstop and third baseman, hit .236 last year for Triple-A Omaha with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in 95 games.

Before Ankiel was signed, center field seemed to belong to Podsednik with another newcomer from the White Sox, Brian Anderson, and the returning Mitch Maier also in the picture.

But Ankiel signed with Kansas City after hearing other offers -- he said the Yankees, the Marlins and the Nationals were other late contenders for his services -- because he'd be in center field for the Royals.

"This just seemed like the best fit, the opportunity to play center, which is what I wanted," Ankiel said. "Not only that but just the up-and-coming organization, where I think they're headed and what they're doing."

Moore, intent on improving the Royals' defense after they ranked last in the American League in 2009, said: "We feel very good about our outfield defense, three guys that can play center field, and we just felt that Rick is best-suited and has the best skills to put him there in center field."

Podsednik, Ankiel and DeJesus also would give the Royals an all left-handed throwing and hitting outfield.

Ankiel, noted for his strong arm and ability to cover ground, played mostly center field for the Cardinals after he converted from pitching to the outfield.

His production slipped last season to .231 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs after a .264/25/71 season in 2008 for the Cardinals. But Ankiel agreed with a consensus that he probably rushed his return after a frightening collision with the St. Louis wall last May 5. Chasing a line drive, he went in headfirst and his right shoulder was banged up.

"That was tough. Just coming back was a long process, just getting over the stiffness and soreness and I think I tried to come back and do some things I wasn't capable of doing," Ankiel said. "It seems like I never got a groove after I hit the wall, but that's all behind me now and I'm just looking forward to starting the season."

Ankiel, a hard-throwing but wild left-handed pitcher for four years with St. Louis, chucked that career and became an outfielder in 2005. That was delayed when he missed the 2006 season because of knee surgery. But he was back in the Minors in 2007; he belted 32 homers in the Pacific Coast League and was called up by the Cardinals in August.

"One thing that helped me throughout it all is that I always viewed myself as a hitter, from high school on. I never lost that aspect that I liked to hit, I liked to be a [complete] ballplayer," he said. "I've just been fortunate that I've always been able to do both."

It was mentioned that, with Ankiel now swinging a bat, Royals pitcher Zack Greinke might be inspired to renew his campaign to become a hitter, too.

"I keep hearing that," Ankiel said, laughing. "All day we've been hearing that."

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

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{"content":["hot_stove" ] }