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Jay likely to open as Royals' leadoff hitter

Veteran outfielder has career .288 average from top spot
Special to MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jon Jay will likely start the season batting leadoff for the Kansas City Royals.

Jay, who signed a one-year deal with the Royals on March 6, has a career .288 batting average and a .339 on-base percentage in 225 games as the leadoff hitter. Whit Merrifield was the Royals' primary leadoff hitter last season. In 115 games from the No. 1 spot, Merrifield hit .269 with a .299 on-base percentage.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jon Jay will likely start the season batting leadoff for the Kansas City Royals.

Jay, who signed a one-year deal with the Royals on March 6, has a career .288 batting average and a .339 on-base percentage in 225 games as the leadoff hitter. Whit Merrifield was the Royals' primary leadoff hitter last season. In 115 games from the No. 1 spot, Merrifield hit .269 with a .299 on-base percentage.

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"Right now, we're probably inching a little bit more toward Jon Jay," Royals manager Ned Yost said. " ... Whit stays pretty consistent offensively; we can back him up to the two or the three spot.

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"We still haven't finalized it. The options are probably Whit or Jon Jay and I'm kind of leaning toward Jon Jay right now."

Jay played in 53 games as the leadoff hitter for the Chicago Cubs last season, hitting .267 with a .325 on-base percentage.

The Royals have struggled to get production out of the top spot in recent years. Last season, the club's leadoff hitters combined for a Major League-worst .279 on-base percentage, with a .655 OPS and 89 runs scored, both of which ranked 29th in the Majors (and last in the American League).

Jay should upgrade those statistics. He broke into the Majors in 2010 with the St. Louis Cardinals, and has hit .288/.355/.383 across his eight-year career. Jay hit .296 overall in 141 games last year with the Cubs.

Video: CHC@WSH Gm5: Jay rips a leadoff double to right field

"I like what he brings," Yost said. "He's a very experienced player. He's a very routine-oriented player. He's a very smart player. I watch him during the game and he's never not on the top step, watching and really paying attention to particulars and detail. He's always been a very solid offensive player. He's going to hit somewhere between .290 and .300 and he's going to play a very, very smart game.

"He's just a very solid outfielder. I don't think he's flashy, by any stretch of the imagination. He's very smart. He knows how to position himself and be at the best spot at the right time."

Jay went 1-for-4 in a 7-6 victory over the Rangers in a split-squad doubleheader for both teams. In six games this spring, he is hitting .368 (7-for-19).

In addition to the Spring Training signings of left-handed bats Lucas Duda and Mike Moustakas, Jay helps give Yost a more balanced lineup.

"When we came to camp, my only left-handed bat in the lineup was [Alex Gordon]," Yost said. "Now we've got a pretty good left-right, left-right [balance]."

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Royals on Saturday.

Kansas City Royals, Jon Jay, Whit Merrifield