Orlando making most of regular time in center

Though not permanent, Cain's shift to right gives club strong alignment

Orlando making most of regular time in center

DETROIT -- In late July when Lorenzo Cain was activated from the disabled list, Royals manager Ned Yost said he would use Paulo Orlando in center field and Cain in right as Cain continued to heal from a left hamstring strain.

"We'll go a couple of weeks just to give Cain's legs a break," Yost said at the time.

But 19 games later, Orlando remains the Royals' center fielder and Cain remains in right field. And it's working so well, fans may see this alignment for quite some time.

Orlando has looked amazing in center field, taking away numerous potential hits.

Defensive metrics are still in their infancy and often are too subjective for coaching staffs to value. But for argument's sake, according to Baseball-Reference, Orlando already has a total of eight defensive runs saved in his short time in center field this season. Over the course of 135 games, Orlando would have a total of 47 runs saved, the site estimates.

Orlando certainly passes the eyeball test.

"His closing speed is as good as it gets," one opposing scout said. "Wow."

Yost, too, has been impressed.

Orlando's fine sliding catch

"He's made incredible plays," Yost said. "There have been plays I didn't think he had any chance at catching, and then you look up, and bam, he's got it."

But Yost isn't about to suggest the alignment of Orlando in center and Cain in right will stick for the rest of the season. Cain posted a plus-18 in defensive runs saved last season in center field.

"We'll go day to day with it," Yost said. "It's working right now. That takes pressure off Lorenzo, and Paulo is doing a great job. I don't even think about it.

"Lorenzo is still a great center fielder. If it wasn't [for the injury], Cain would be back out there in center. I'm not going to look down the road and predict what happens in the future. It takes pressure off Lorenzo's legs right now, so if it's working, why change now?"

Orlando played only five games in center field last season, and Wednesday's finale against the Tigers, his 89th game in the field this year, was just his 24th game of the season in center.

But center field was Orlando's primary position in the Minors.

"I've played center all my life, so it is the most natural position for me," Orlando said. "I think it's easier for me to read the ball off the bat. Plus, you don't have to worry about the wall, like you do in right field. You just go as hard as you want to either side."

The key in center field is to communicate with the other two outfielders and gain their trust that any ball in the gap will be grabbed.

"Yes, you have to communicate, and I think we do that pretty well," Orlando said. "And [coach] Rusty [Kuntz] does a good job of getting us aligned the way we should. I'll play wherever they want. I just want to do what helps us win."

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.