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Kuntz's work with Soler paying dividends

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When the Cubs came to Surprise Stadium last week to play the Royals, Chicago manager Joe Maddon was impressed with the defensive improvement of his former outfielder, Jorge Soler.

In fact, word got back to the Royals' coaching staff that Maddon was somewhat amazed at Soler's new quick first step.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When the Cubs came to Surprise Stadium last week to play the Royals, Chicago manager Joe Maddon was impressed with the defensive improvement of his former outfielder, Jorge Soler.

In fact, word got back to the Royals' coaching staff that Maddon was somewhat amazed at Soler's new quick first step.

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"[Maddon] hadn't seen that before," Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz said.

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That comment was validation for Kuntz, who has been working so hard with Soler this spring that he refers to Soler as "my new best friend."

"That's the thing he's been working on the most, the quick turns," Kuntz said. "That gets him into a better route, and that increases his range, and now he has a chance to make better plays. He has the speed for a big guy.

"That first-step quickness is what we'll keep working on. He's doing a good job of that."

Soler has been more than willing to learn.

"During games, his eyes lock right on me," Kuntz said. "He understands hand signs. He moves into position well, he backs up plays. We do a lot of moving around in the outfield per situation, and he's picking it up fast."

Although Soler's English continues to improve, the Royals also have paired him with Paulo Orlando as often as possible during drills and during batting practice so Orlando can communicate in Spanish "the Royal way" of playing outfield.

"It helps having Paulo [tutor] him, too," Kuntz said. "There are a lot of things we do with outfielders in terms of positioning and responsibility. Paulo understands, and he can communicate that, too."

Moustakas at third: Manager Ned Yost said that Mike Moustakas likely will get his first start of the spring at third base on Tuesday. Moustakas is coming off ACL surgery on his right knee last May, and the Royals have been using him as a DH during the first week of games.

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

Kansas City Royals, Jorge Soler