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Bonifacio 'excited' to rejoin Royals' lineup

Outfielder makes '18 debut after 80-game suspension
Special to MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Jorge Bonifacio's smile was as wide as his suspension was long.

"I'm so excited to be back with the team," the Royals' 25-year-old outfielder said Friday, beaming inside the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field.

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SEATTLE -- Jorge Bonifacio's smile was as wide as his suspension was long.

"I'm so excited to be back with the team," the Royals' 25-year-old outfielder said Friday, beaming inside the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field.

View Full Game Coverage

That was hours before Bonifacio returned from his 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He immediately went into the middle of a Kansas City lineup that desperately needed him.

Bonifacio went 0-for-3 with a strikeout while batting fifth and playing left field as the Royals lost, 4-1, to the Mariners in the series opener Friday night.

He hit 17 home runs while batting .255 as a rookie for the Royals last season. Then he tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug boldenone during Spring Training this March.

After some at-bats in Arizona in extended spring training at the Royals' complex in Surprise, he played 13 games for Triple-A Omaha in what was similar to a rehabilitation assignment following an injury. Royals manager Ned Yost noted Bonifacio was batting .400 for Omaha until his final day there. He finished at .392 for Omaha, with an OPS of .995.

In between his positive test and his return to the Royals on Friday afternoon, he had a lot of time to think. And to talk. He chatted daily with his older brother, Emilio, a former Major Leaguer, and had regular talks with his Royals teammate, Salvador Perez.

Bonifacio also had a lot of time to regret, and learn.

"I was thinking a lot. My brother, I was calling him every single day trying to have him help me out. It was a tough time down there in Arizona," he said. "But I learned from it. It's never going to happen again."

Kansas City entered Friday 30 games under .500. The Royals were on pace for a franchise-record 110 losses (the 2005 Royals lost 106 games).

They scored 53 runs in their first 24 games this month, by far the fewest in baseball. The next lowest-scoring team in June: Washington, with 78 runs entering Friday. Kansas City's batting average of .190 this month entering Friday was not only the worst in the Major Leagues, it was the worst for any one month in franchise history. The 1992 Royals hit .207 in April on their way to finishing 72-90.

So, yes, the return of Bonifacio could be big, even though Friday was just his 114th Major League game.

"We're glad to have him back," Yost said. "He was swinging very well down [at Omaha]. …

"I mean, the kid hit 17 homers last year. … Yeah, he was going to hit in the middle of the order, until all this surfaced."

Bonifacio played in 92 games last season in right field, nine in left field and one in center field. But he made his 2018 Royals debut in left on Friday night.

Alex Gordon started 50 of the first 80 games in left field. He got the day off that Yost had wanted to give him all week.

Gordon had played in 29 consecutive games from May 26 at Texas until Friday. The manager was going to him a day off Wednesday in the finale of the two-game series at Milwaukee, but decided against it. Gordon then had two fine catches in a 5-4 win.

Video: KC@MIL: Gordon crashes into the wall after catch

"With the off-day [Thursday], I wanted to give him back-to-back days," Yost said.

Bonifacio is likely to be in right field for the second game of this series and his season.

"We are going to move him around. He's going to play," Yost said. "He's going to play some right, play some left. What difference does it make?"

The Royals hope Bonifacio's return makes a huge difference.

"I'm sorry that this happened. [But] nobody else has been on my case," he said about his suspension. "I just want to say sorry to all my teammates and the front office."

Gregg Bell is a contributor to MLB.com based in Seattle.

Kansas City Royals, Jorge Bonifacio