Infante learning to accept backup role

Infante learning to accept backup role

BALTIMORE -- Veteran second baseman Omar Infante did not start for the fifth straight game on Tuesday, and while Royals manager Ned Yost hasn't officially proclaimed it yet, Infante finds himself a backup to rookie Whit Merrifield.

Infante, 34, hasn't started since making a costly error in the Royals' 5-4 loss last Thursday in Cleveland.

Even Infante appears to see the writing on the wall.

"It's a business," Infante said before Tuesday's game. "Whit is playing good. Cheslor [Cuthbert] is playing good. I'll keep working and wait for my opportunity."

Still, a veteran such as Infante has pride. He was instrumental in the Royals' 2014 run to the World Series -- he had a career-high 66 RBIs that season and had a .924 OPS in the World Series.

But Infante battled with shoulder and elbow issues in 2015 and posted a .552 OPS. This season, his OPS is .600.

"It's not easy," Infante said. "I understand. I understand I have to be on the bench. But I'll have to keep working and try to change things."

The offense is disappointing enough. But Infante's defense has been well below his high standards.

"I feel like I'm struggling with my defense," Infante said. "I haven't played good defense this year. I don't know why. I'll try to be better."

The question for the Royals is how Infante fits on the 25-man roster going forward because of his lack of versatility. He can only play second base. The Royals still owe him in the neighborhood of $14 million, as he is signed through 2017 with a club option in 2018 ($2 million buyout).

Worth noting

• Rookie Brett Eibner (sprained left ankle) will head out on a rehab stint with Triple-A Omaha starting on Thursday.

• Right-hander Kris Medlen (right rotator cuff) will throw one more live batting practice on Friday in Arizona. If all goes well, he will be sent out on rehab after that.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.