Royals spring training news & notes

I found out after a I returned home from Arizona, that the KC Royals released right-hander Johnny Walter (among others). I had seen Walter pitch in a minor league game on Wednesday afternoon, so it definitely shocked me.

Johnny Walter pitching in a minor league game during spring training 2015 (Jen Nevius).

Johnny Walter pitching in a minor league game during spring training 2015 (Jen Nevius).

I thought Walter would be back in Wilmington this season after spending the entire 2014 season there, especially with the logjam of pitchers in front of him. He did a little of everything with the Blue Rocks last season, as he made three starts at the end of the year. Walter had a respectable 3.80 ERA and walked just 22 in 64 innings.

Hopefully, he can pick up with another team or at least go play independent ball (there are some teams close to home for him).

Others that were released include Cuban Noel Arguelles (who the Royals re-signed this offseason), Andrew Brockett and Austin Fairchild (who I saw on the backfields while I was there), Mike Jeffreys, Crawford Simmons, Cristian Cano, and Desmond Henry.

Now to the news of today…

  • The Royals released infielder Rafael Furcal, who they signed to a minor league deal two weeks ago. He was hurt and rehabbing on the minor league fields (though I never saw him). The signing never made sense to me, especially since he was hurt, so him being released really doesn’t make sense.
  • Ryan Madson apparently has an opt-out date at the end of camp and if given a Major
    Ryan Madson pitching against Arizona during spring training 2015 (Jen Nevius).

    Ryan Madson pitching against Arizona during spring training 2015 (Jen Nevius).

    League offer from another team, he will leave. If not, Madson is expected to head to Triple-A Omaha to start the 2015 season. However, Madson is now considered in the running for the final bullpen spot with fellow right-hander Louis Coleman and lefty Brian Flynn.

Coleman is out of options, while Flynn has options left. Both are on the Royals 40-man roster, while Madson is not. For me, the only way to tell if Madson is truly ready to return to the big leagues is to have him pitch against big league hitters. So far, he has been pitching late in games when the minor leaguers are hitting. Madson’s changeup was filthy on Saturday.

  • Joe Blanton, who also has an opt-out date at the end of camp, has decided to accept the assignment to Omaha. Considering he has been starting for that squad this spring, I am guessing that Blanton will be starting for the Storm Chasers when the season begins. That only makes me wonder how the Double-A and Triple-A rotations will set up.
  • Luke Hochevar will start the season on the DL and manager Ned Yost said he hopes he is back by May. So I guess Hochevar is further away than the Royals were originally saying. He did look good on Sunday night against the Texas Rangers Double-A team (despite the one out triple).
  • Franklin Morales is expected to be the Royals left-hander, but he has not been added to the roster yet. He also has not pitched well of late.
  • I saw Terrance Gore get hit in the face with the first pitch of the game on Friday afternoon in Peoria by a Seattle minor leaguer. He left the game after being hit and seemed woozy. The Royals announced that he had a broken jaw. So I was surprised to see him Sunday night chatting away at the Double-A game. Apparently, he fractured his right jaw (he was hit in the left).


The Royals play San Diego tonight in Peoria. They will throw out their expected Opening Day lineup (minus Alex Rios in right field), with Jeremy Guthrie starting. Meaning, the lineup will look like this:

Alcides Escobar (SS), Alex Gordon (LF), Lorenzo Cain (CF), Eric Hosmer (1B), Kendrys Morales (DH), Mike Moustakas (3B), Omar Infante (2B), and Jarrod Dyson (RF).

The Royals will also have their big 3 coming out of the bullpen in Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. Madson will also be there, along with minor league arms Malcom Culver and Andrew Triggs.

On the bench, the Royals have JC Boscan and Erik Kratz to catch, with first baseman Alex Liddi and Casey Kotchman. Christian Colon, Gabriel Noriega, Ryan Jackson, and Whit Merrifield are the infield options, while Paulo Orlando and Moises Sierra are the outfield options (along with Merrifield). The Royals also brought minor league first baseman Frank Schwindel and outfielder Ethan Chapman.

Whit Merrifield at the plate during a big league spring training game in 2015 (Jen Nevius).

Whit Merrifield at the plate during a big league spring training game in 2015 (Jen Nevius).

As much as I want Merrifield to make the Royals Opening Day roster, his chances are slim. They don’t talk about him being in the battle for the fifth outfield spot (between Orlando and Sierra) or as the utility infielder (mainly between CC and Jackson). Merrifield also hasn’t played too much or gotten many at-bats (16 games, but just 23 at-bats). He is however, starting to play a little more and I saw him at first base, third base, second base, and in left field last week. Over the last week, he had ten ABs in seven games.

I just hope that the lack of ABs this spring for Merrifield doesn’t hurt him when he gets sent back to the minors and his season begins. I am guessing he will join the logjam of position players in Omaha. It will be very interesting to see who ends up where when rosters are announced (and who gets released).

About Jen Nevius

I first became a KC Royals fan way back in 1995 when I attended my first Wilmington Blue Rocks game. I fell in love with minor league baseball then and began following the Royals as former Blue Rocks clawed their way to the big leagues. 3+ years ago I started covering the Royals for Aerys Sports, but since the site has been shut down, I am going out on my own.
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