Healthy vets should boost Royals on Opening Day

Kansas City will be happy to have Moustakas and Cain back in lineup

Healthy vets should boost Royals on Opening Day

KANSAS CITY -- As injuries and fatigue gripped the 2016 Royals, they missed the postseason for the first time since '13. Still, they finished 81-81 for their fourth consecutive non-losing season, a successful stretch they have not accomplished in more than a quarter of a century.

Expectations for 2017 are high. Kansas City will get a healthy Mike Moustakas back at third base, along with Lorenzo Cain in the outfield and Jason Vargas in the rotation. A return trip to the World Series should be within reach.

The Royals will begin the season at Minnesota on April 3 at 3:10 p.m. CT. Kansas City had its way with the last-place Twins in 2016, winning 15 of 19. Minnesota likely will open with former Royals right-hander Ervin Santana on the mound.

Left-hander Danny Duffy likely will be Kansas City's Opening Day starter. Duffy became the team's ace by midseason, finishing with a 12-3 record and a 3.51 ERA.

Duffy's complete-game victory

1. Jarrod Dyson, CF
2. Mike Moustakas, 3B
3. Lorenzo Cain, RF
4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
5. Salvador Perez, C
6. Alex Gordon, LF
7. Cheslor Cuthbert, DH
8. Alcides Escobar, SS
9. Whit Merrifield, 2B

• Getting Moustakas back at third base and a Cain back in the outfield should be worth at least five wins.

Must C: Royals' comeback in 9th

• The Royals believe they can get bounce-back seasons from Gordon, as well as righties Joakim Soria and Chris Young. They'll have to.

• Kansas City will be able to add Vargas (Tommy John surgery) back to the rotation, and it could get a boost from young arms Kyle Zimmer, Matt Strahm and Josh Staumont.

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