Yost isn't tipping his hand as to who is the club's No. 1 starter
By Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- Coming off the greatest Royals season in nearly three decades, manager Ned Yost obviously is eager to get to Spring Training in a couple of weeks.
It's just that once he gets there, Yost knows he won't be searching for all that many answers.
"I tell you what, we're pretty set," Yost said on Friday at the Royals' annual FanFest event. "There won't be much competition. There won't be a whole lot of battles, position-wise.
"It's the mark of a good team. You'll always get a surprise or two in spring, some in a good way and some in a bad way. But we're pretty set."
Yet there are a few mysteries, perhaps, to uncover.
With the departure of ace James Shields to free agency, Yost will be searching for a new No. 1 starter. But Yost cautions not to read too much into that decision-making process.
"We don't need someone anointed with a sword or anything," Yost said, laughing. "It will work itself out."
Yost won't indicate who will top his rotation yet, though the choice would seem fairly obvious given the sensational rookie season Yordano Ventura delivered, a season that included Ventura's impressive run in the playoffs.
Last year, Yost waited until two days before the season opener to announce Shields would be his Opening Day starter. He may just wait that long again to announce this year's starter.
"But if you guys got to wait until [April 4] to figure it out," Yost said, grinning and shaking his head.
Yost hinted he likely already knows.
"It doesn't mean I have to tell you," he said. "But you can figure it out."
Yost also will use Spring Training to tinker with his lineup, something he usually isn't fond of. But he made a dramatic change midway through September last season with the lineup, moving his speed, namely shortstop Alcides Escobar, right fielder Nori Aoki and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, to the top.
That move ignited the offense and triggered a 9-5 run to close the regular season. Yost stuck with that lineup through the playoffs when the Royals went 11-4.
"That worked out really good," Yost said. "We can still do that. But we want to look at everything."
Escobar has said repeatedly that he wants to learn to become an effective leadoff man.
And Cain admits he loves hitting third, though he has his suspicions on whether he'll remain there.
"I mean, I'm a guy who hit five homers last year," Cain said. "I could wind up hitting eighth."
Yost said he doesn't care about Cain's home run numbers.
"Just win games," Yost said. "I don't care about the stats. I care about winning. Just win games. Goodness, look what [Cain] did."
Cain hit .321/.367/.429 over the final two weeks of the regular season from the three-hole. Then, he hit .333/.388/.417 from that spot in October.
"Home runs are overrated anyway," Yost said, before adding with a wink, "but I'd like to have more, sure.
"But really, that's what Spring Training is for. We'll experiment with a lot of orders and see what works best."
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.