Merrifield's eating program adds weight

Versatile utility man trying to crack big league roster

Merrifield's eating program adds weight

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals super-utility man Whit Merrifield was determined to get stronger this past offseason.

Merrifield, 27, decided to go on a strict training program that included multiple workouts per day and a whole lot of eating.

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

As in, seven meals per day. Seven.

"I don't know how many calories that is," Merrifield said "But it was nine eggs and oatmeal in the morning. Then chicken and rice and vegetables, three times a day. Then some red meat for dinner, and then a couple of protein shakes mixed in.

"It was hard. There was a lot of preparation and a lot of cooking."

Merrifield's sliding stop

It took Merrifield's body and digestive system time to adjust.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Merrifield said. "I got sick a couple times at first just from eating all the time and running."

But the hard work paid off. Merrifield reports that his weight increased from 175 pounds to 195, mostly through upper-body muscle.

The goal, Merrifield said, was to get stronger and help his endurance throughout a long season. And Merrifield hopes that long season will at least partly be spent at the big league level.

Merrifield hit .319 with 41 doubles in the Minors in 2014, and then hit .265 with 32 steals last season at Triple-A Omaha. He has impressed Royals manager Ned Yost and the coaching staff this spring with his versatility.

Merrifield has emerged as a candidate to be a productive 25th man on the roster.

"We were really impressed with him last year," Yost said. "We appreciate more his ability to be a super-utility guy. He can play the outfield and all infield positions. He can swing the bat, he can bunt, he can steal bases. Nice little player."

Merrifield began playing baseball as a shortstop. At South Carolina, he became a center fielder. A ninth-round pick by the Royals in 2010, he moved from position to position in the Minors.

"I do take pride that I can do multiple things," Merrifield said.

About the only position Merrifield said he can't play is catcher.

"But I do have an inning under my belt," Merrifield said. "I pitched a scoreless inning in Double-A with no hits. I gave up a 410-foot flyout. And then, poor [third baseman] Cheslor [Cuthbert]. [Randal] Grichuk hit one that almost broke his chest. But then I broke [C.J.] Cron's bat. That was the highlight of my pitching career."

Merrifield doesn't care where he would play with the Royals, just as long as he sneaks onto the 25-man roster.

"I know I can play," he said. "I know I can play in the big leagues. I'm just doing the best I can."

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.