SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There's something about the first day of full-squad workouts that produces a heavy dose of youthful exuberance from 39-year-old Reggie Sanders. "It's like starting school for the first time all over again," the Royals veteran outfielder said with a smile on Thursday. "The first day is always nerve-racking, but it's fun to be back with the guys. You feel like you've never played baseball before because you have been off for so long." The past offseason was longer than usual for Sanders.
For only the second time since 1999, Sanders was a spectator during the postseason. "It was different," he said, "but also somewhat good because I got a chance to be with my family earlier than usual. I was so used to spending October in the playoffs and having fun being involved in that." Before he signed with the Royals as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, it seemed that one of the best ways for an organization to reach the postseason was to have Sanders on its team. After making his first playoff appearance for the Cincinnati Reds in 1995, Sanders returned to October action in 2000 with the Atlanta Braves. He played for the Arizona Diamondbacks during their 2001 World Series season and then signed with the San Francisco Giants, who lost the Fall Classic in seven games to the Anaheim Angels in '02. Sanders played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in '03, missing the playoffs, but returned to the October fun and games in '04 and '05 with the St. Louis Cardinals, but went home early last season to recover from minor knee surgery to, "remove a cyst on my patella tendon." "It was a minor tear, like a hairline fracture of the tendon, but the biggest concern was the cyst resting on the patella tendon," Sanders said. With no workout restrictions, Sanders returned to work on Thursday with a nice resume. He has played in 1,753 regular-season games during a 16-year MLB career, participated in 23 Division Series games, 24 Championship Series games and 17 World Series games. "Before I retire, I want to play in the postseason again," Sanders said. And when might retirement be? "I am trying to get to 20," he said. "That's my goal. Twenty years in the big-leagues." Off and running: The first full-scale workout of camp started about 30 minutes later than scheduled. "We have a lot of new people here, in the clubhouse and front office, so there was a lot of ground to cover," manager Buddy Bell said. "We did get a lot accomplished [in the team meeting] and we're ready to go." Bell was one of the speakers during the clubhouse session and reminded the 59 players in camp that, "This is a heckuva good place to be right now. I really believe that. This organization has been down for a long time, but there's something about it that people back home and in the Kansas City area are really going to enjoy this group of players, and I told them that. "I expect to win and expect us to play the game the way it's supposed to be played so we can win," Bell added. "You don't just talk about winning. There has to be a process involved and I expect us to do that." broadcaster Denny Matthews had been selected as the Ford C. Frick Award winner. "It's very exciting news for Denny, his family, the Royals family and Royals fans. "He's a guy that's been in the organization since its inception and has seen just everything there is to see -- including cutoff throws hitting guys in the back." Brett called Matthews "very entertaining. One thing about Denny is he injects his humor into certain situations during a game." Brett, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, has attended every induction since then and will definitely be there again in July when Matthews is enshrined. "This will make it even more fun for me," Brett said. Bell also offered his congratulations. "That's terrific," the skipper said. "It's a tremendous honor and he was up against some pretty strong names. This is great for Denny and I'm really happy for him." A camp misnomer: The first day of "live" batting practice every spring is actually more about watching than swinging. "It is pitching practice rather than batting practice," Bell said. "I would rather have the hitters look at the pitches the first time than swing at them." The pitchers have had organized workouts for almost a week, putting them far ahead of the hitters, most of whom haven't faced a big-league pitcher since the end of last season. So it was no surprise when Mike Sweeney was in the "take" mode during his first stint in the batting cage against right-hander Todd Wellemeyer. "That's too hard, slow it down," yelled Sweeney after the first pitch zoomed past him. After two rounds of five pitches each -- and not taking even one swing -- Sweeney told the pitcher, "I couldn't pick up the spin on your slider. Way to go." Asked to describe the first live BP session of the spring, Sweeney said, "Unpredictable." Mark Teahen said every pitch seemed to be coming at about 150 mph. "I think I saw one and heard the others. Actually, I made one swing and made contact, so that's a plus." Medical report: Right-handed pitchers Joe Nelson and Joel Peralta have been put on the shelf for awhile, Bell said after Thursday's workout. "Nelson has a stiff shoulder and is not going to throw for awhile," Bell said. "Joel Peralta went into the hospital yesterday with flu-like symptoms. They did a spinal block on him, so he's not going to be able to pitch for a few days either. He seems to be OK. It is just more of a viral thing." Signings: Pitchers Zack Greinke and Luke Hudson, along with infielder Angel Sanchez, agreed to one-year contracts on Thursday, leaving eight players unsigned.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.