Royals welcome Zobrist, option Orlando

Royals welcome Zobrist, option Orlando

TORONTO -- Newly acquired Ben Zobrist showed up at Rogers Centre on Thursday, greeted his new Royals teammates, and donned his familiar No. 18 -- the price tag from first-base coach Rusty Kuntz for giving up his jersey will be a leaf blower.

Last year, Kuntz raked in a snow blower from Raul Ibanez for giving up No. 18.

Joked one Royal, "I think Rusty asks [general manager] Dayton [Moore] to trade for No. 18s each year. He's hauling it in."

Meanwhile, Zobrist, who batted sixth in the lineup, bounced around the clubhouse and chatted with coaches about the team's signs and about outfield positioning before going 0-for-4 in the Royals' 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays in the series opener. Manager Ned Yost envisions Zobrist playing primarily in left field, at least until injured left fielder Alex Gordon returns in about a month or so.

Zobrist, acquired from Oakland on Tuesday, seemed full of energy after going from a fading A's team to the first-place Royals.

"Sure, you feel [re-energized]," Zobrist said. "I just want keep them going where they are headed."

To make room for Zobrist on the 25-man roster, the Royals optioned outfielder Paulo Orlando back to Triple-A Omaha, a somewhat surprising move considering Orlando's speed and his recent contributions to victories lately. Instead, the Royals kept third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, even though Zobrist can play any position in the infield.

"Zobrist is going to play the majority of the time in left field," Yost said. "If I keep Paulo, I have to play Zobrist over at third against some tough lefties. Zobrist can play third, but he hasn't done it much. Cuthbert is a natural third baseman. It balances us out better."

Orlando almost surely will be back in about a month when rosters are expanded.

"He may be back sooner than that," Yost said. "We don't want Paulo sitting up here. We saw more opportunities with Cuthbert than Paulo. But hey, if it's not working out that Cuthbert is getting at-bats, we'll send him back to get at-bats. To have young guys not hitting and getting stagnant doesn't make sense."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.