Grudzielanek eyeing Opening Day

Grudzielanek eyeing Opening Day

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don't exclude Mark Grudzielanek from the Royals' Opening Day lineup just yet.

Grudzielanek certainly is not.

"Why would you rule it out?" Grudzielanek said. "There is too much time between now and then."

The Royals will open the season on April 2 against the Red Sox. Grudzielanek had arthroscopic surgery on March 5 to repair a medial meniscus cartilage tear in his left knee.

The projections are Grudzielanek will not return to the Kansas City lineup until mid- to late-April. Grudzielanek would like to prove that timetable wrong.

"I wouldn't rule out Opening Day," Grudzielanek said. "I think it is very possible I would be ready Opening Day. I think it is very possible I could play some games in Spring Training -- but that is allowing no setbacks and that is not having any problems. Knock on wood, we haven't had any problems."

Royals manager Buddy Bell, however, said on Friday he is not counting on Grudzielanek to be his Opening Day second baseman. Esteban German, who hit .326 as a utility player last year, would start at second if Grudzielanek is on the disabled list.

"I don't really know where Grud's at," Bell said. "Grud keeps telling me the same thing [about being ready for the season opener]. We've got to put all of our thoughts together and do what is best for the team. The best thing for Grud is the best thing for the team."

Team physician Dr. Steve Joyce, who performed the surgery in Kansas City, is scheduled to examine Grudzielanek's knee again on Saturday. The Royals may have a better idea of how soon Grudzielanek could return after Joyce looks at him.

"That will be almost two weeks," Grudzielanek said. "The following week I will do some lateral stuff and start putting weight on the knee a little more than we have now, and kind of feel it out that way.

"There are still some limitations we're on. We're still a little time away from doing full activity. I feel real good. A lot of it doesn't bother me -- the throwing and [hitting off] the tee work. I think defensively would be the next step, the last step we need to do and overcome."

While Grudzielanek, who won a Gold Glove last year and hit .297 in 134 games, wants to be introduced with the starting lineup for the Kauffman Stadium opener, he also knows the ramifications of pushing the envelope too fast.

"We don't want problems down the road, in the middle of June or something like that, where I need some time off or I'm having problems," he said. "I definitely want to give it the time to try to heal. And taking the pounding on an everyday basis is going to be the question, too."

Alan Eskew is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.