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Aoki reports early to familiarize himself with new club

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Just as the Royals' pitchers and catchers were wrapping up the second day of their workouts Sunday morning, new right fielder Norichika Aoki arrived in camp.

Acquired from the Brewers in exchange for pitcher Will Smith, Aoki is expected to lead off and play right field.

Aoki checked in with his translator, Kosuke Inaji, and started to get acquainted with his new teammates. He doesn't know too much about the Royals.

"For me, I played in Kansas City in 2012 and I remember the stadium being a really nice field and that's my impression of the Royals so far," he said. "I feel like I could fit in real well with this team. It's a team that I'm happy to be on."

Aoki, 32, played two seasons for Milwaukee after a long career in Japan. Although his average dropped only from .288 to .286 last year, some other numbers dipped significantly. For example, his doubles dropped from 37 to 20, his RBIs from 50 to 37 and his stolen bases from 30 to 20. He played in 155 games, compared to 151 in his first Major League season.

"I know what I can do to get better and get back to where I was," Aoki said. "That's what I did in the offseason and will do in Spring Training as well."

Aoki's arrival enables Alex Gordon, last year's primary leadoff batter (119 games), to move down in the order.

"Just from what I heard, they loved him in Milwaukee -- the fans, the organization," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a player that really kind of fits our profile, very energetic, very athletic, a guy that's really going to open up the top of the order for us. We really haven't had that player the last couple of years. Alex Gordon profiles so much better in the middle of our lineup than at the top, so I think that's going to help us out a lot."

With Aoki in camp, the only everyday regular still missing is shortstop Alcides Escobar. He doesn't have to report until Wednesday, the day before the first full-squad workout.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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