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Notes: Starling, Phillips valuable defenders

@FlannyMLB
February 20, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When the decision was made by the Royals to sign third baseman Maikel Franco in the offseason, the domino effect could be felt all the way to outfielders Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips. With Franco at third, Hunter Dozier was shifted to right field -- new manager

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When the decision was made by the Royals to sign third baseman Maikel Franco in the offseason, the domino effect could be felt all the way to outfielders Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips.

With Franco at third, Hunter Dozier was shifted to right field -- new manager Mike Matheny has said Dozier will play very little third base this season -- and that, in turn, moved Whit Merrifield to center field.

And with Alex Gordon’s return to left field, Starling and Phillips are no longer in the competition for starting jobs.

But because both Starling and Phillips are out of options, their odds of making the 26-man roster are high. The Royals simply don’t like to give away inventory. And besides, Starling and Phillips are both excellent defenders, which could be of value to Matheny.

“This organization, the inventory thing means something,” Matheny said. “It’s important. But it’s also about how good we can be as a team. [Being out of] options works for their favor in that regard.”

Matheny said it shouldn’t be a problem finding playing time for Phillips and Starling this season if they both go north with the team.

“I think we’ll have to be creative,” Matheny said. “We need all 13 of our guys to be on top of their games.

“But I like to go defensive late in games and that will always keep them in the conversation. There might be guys we’d be willing to pinch-hit for to maximize the matchup. Pinch-hit, pinch-run, bad matchup gives you the opportunity to make defensive changes then.”

Starling and Phillips both excel in the field.

“As a fan, just watching them was impressive last year,” Matheny said. “No doubt they can catch it. Some of the catches Bubba made last year and some of the catches that Brett made in the gaps was impressive. And I watched Brett at Triple-A, too, last year, and knew him from the National League.

“They’re good defenders. When Brett first came up with Milwaukee, [his arm] is what everyone talked about -- he could throw in the 90s.”

López ready to go

Right-hander Jorge López will get the start Friday at 2:05 p.m. CT in the Royals’ Cactus League opener against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

López will be followed by Stephen Woods Jr., Trevor Rosenthal, Braden Shipley, Josh Staumont, Eric Skoglund, Jake Newberry and Chance Adams.

López, who is being shifted to the bullpen in 2020, said he is ready for the challenge.

“I want to be more on the attack this year,” López said. “I just got behind too many hitters last year, too many walks, too many pitches. I have to come in and attack right away.”

Intrasquad game

The Royals ended practice on Thursday with a makeshift intrasquad game, umpired by Mike Sweeney, Reggie Sanders, George Brett and Joe Randa, against a pitching machine.

The highlights were home runs by Nicky Lopez and Alex Gordon.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.