Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Soler right hitter to help jolt Royals' offense

MLB.com @philgrogers

CHICAGO -- Ned Yost has managed the Royals for eight seasons and has never been blessed with a deep stable of sluggers. He knows this drill.

The first of the two consecutive seasons that his team won the American League pennant, it was last in the Major Leagues in home runs. There are times when things are clicking for your hitters, and times when it's not clicking.

View Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- Ned Yost has managed the Royals for eight seasons and has never been blessed with a deep stable of sluggers. He knows this drill.

The first of the two consecutive seasons that his team won the American League pennant, it was last in the Major Leagues in home runs. There are times when things are clicking for your hitters, and times when it's not clicking.

View Full Game Coverage

This April is one of the latter.

The Royals are an offensive wasteland, even though their lineup includes six regulars from the 2015 World Series, when they knocked off the Mets in five games. Kansas City is last in the Majors with an average of 2.5 runs per game, including a franchise record two or fewer in its past eight games.

"It's just a matter of time," Yost insisted on Monday night, when right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and Anthony Swarzak held the Royals to two hits in a 12-1 loss to the White Sox. "We've been through this numerous times. Stay the course and you'll break through."

Yost was asked what he would do to break out of a slump when he was a player.

"I just lived in a slump," he said. "I never could break out of it. I was a .220 hitter. I'd go three days feeling good and then screw it up. I just was what I was. But the way you get out of it is through patience and work. You just keep working and try to eliminate as much frustration as you can. That just leads to more [frustration] and a longer stretch. So just stay calm, just keep working."

Eric Hosmer (.192/.253/.247), Alex Gordon (.178/.259/.219), Alcides Escobar (.182/.217/.242) are doing that, and you know they're going to get turned around soon.

But Kansas City's best hope to climb out of its early hole and pursue one more postseason run before free agency arrives for the team's core after the season lies elsewhere at the moment, for a little while longer.

Video: KC@CWS: Moustakas lines an RBI double to right field

General manager Dayton Moore traded closer Wade Davis -- like Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Escobar and Mike Moustakas eligible for free agency after the season -- to get Cuban right fielder Jorge Soler from the Cubs.

Soler hasn't yet set foot on the field at Kauffman Stadium because of a strained oblique muscle he sustained late in Spring Training. But Soler homered on Friday in the first game of a rehab assignment to Triple-A Omaha, so it shouldn't be long until he arrives.

"He's swinging the bat well," Yost said. "He's feeling better. He missed that time. You just have to make sure he has enough time down there to get his timing back so when he gets here he hits the ground running."

Soler was signed as a 19-year-old defector to a nine-year, $30 million contract during Theo Epstein's first season running the Cubs. Soler teased his teammates and coaches with his potential, but he was unable to stake a lasting claim on an outfield spot, his last real chance coming when Kyle Schwarber collided with Dexter Fowler last April, opening a hole in left field.

Soler hit .238 with 12 homers and had returned to a bench role by the time the Cubs reached the postseason. There wasn't room for him on a roster that became crowded after Epstein signed free agents Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon points to a series of injuries -- most notably a strained oblique in August 2015, and a bad hamstring issue last June -- for keeping Soler from making a bigger contribution while he was with the Cubs.

"It's just a matter of keeping Georgie out there as much as we possibly could," Maddon said. "Georgie [in 2015] made quite a dent in the NLCS. He did a great job."

Soler showcased his talent in the Cubs' postseason run against the Mets, Cardinals and Pirates two years ago. He was 9-for-19 with three home runs, five RBIs, six walks and six runs scored in seven games.

That's exactly the kind of jolt the Royals need from one of their hitters.

Nobody around Kansas City's club is going to say they expect Soler to be a savior. They're not putting any extra weight on his shoulders. Not with so many veterans around.

But this is a great spot for Soler to get his second chance, this time as a 25-year-old who knows his way around the Major Leagues. He has already impressed Yost with his work ethic and his play in right field.

Video: OAK@KC: Soler makes an acrobatic grab in the 6th

Some scouts raised outfield defense as a concern before the Royals acquired Soler, but Yost was impressed in Spring Training. While Soler was searching for consistency at the plate -- he hit .143 with two homers in 49 at-bats -- he was doing good work in the outfield with coach Rusty Kuntz.

"He did a really, really nice job for us," Yost said. "You hear stories about his defense in Chicago, but with Rusty, his routes were good, his drop steps were good. We know he has a good arm. He handled right field, left field, remarkably well."

Is Kansas City the right place for Soler? It's way too early to know that, but the time is right to start finding out.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Kansas City Royals, Jorge Soler