How Venezuelan winter ball sparked Garcia's growth ahead of '24

Newly acquired Schreiber willing to take on any role out of 'pen

February 21st, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- wasn’t supposed to debut in the Venezuelan Winter League until the end of November this past offseason, but when the Tiburones de La Guaira needed him and a couple of other players, including his cousin Ronald Acuña Jr., to help snap a losing streak, Garcia called up Royals manager Matt Quatraro.

“I asked if I could play before Nov. 24 because the team needed me,” Garcia said Tuesday. “He said, ‘Let me call [general manager] J.J. [Picollo],’ and J.J. said, ‘Do it.’”

Garcia debuted on Nov. 16 and had three hits, including three doubles. He and Acuña helped their team out of the losing streak and all the way to a championship. The Tiburones de la Guaira won the Liga Venezolano de Béisbol Professional and represented Venezuela in the Caribbean Series earlier this month.

Along the way, Garcia hit .424/.543/.576 in 29 games (99 at-bats) with nine doubles, two homers and 21 RBIs. Had he played the full season, he would have been in the running for MVP honors.

His energy was palpable watching the videos circulating on X, formerly known as Twitter, and other social media sites -- including his massive tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Winter League finals against Cardenales de Lara.

“Amazing,” Garcia said about playing in his home country every winter. “Every time I go and play there, I have fun. I enjoy it a lot.”

And the Royals enjoyed seeing their third baseman electrify a fan base with his performance -- something they hope he does for Kansas City this season in his second year in the Majors.

“He loves to play, and you can’t take that away from him,” Quatraro said. “He wants to play every day, he wants to play all year round.”

“He’s getting better at the same time,” Picollo added. “He’s growing in confidence, he’s going to continue to be a better hitter. I think his hard-hit rates are going to continue to go up. And that happens when you get a lot of at-bats by him playing all winter.”

Garcia is looking forward to attacking the "sophomore slump" head-on and helping the Royals play better in 2024. The 23-year-old didn’t make the team out of Spring Training last year, but he came up in May and never left, establishing himself as part of the core on the left side of the infield.

“I’m happy to be here again,” Garcia said. “Try to play better here, bring us to the playoffs. Bring the energy to Kansas City. We want to win.”

Schreiber arrives
Going from Fort Myers, Fla., all the way out to Surprise, Ariz., makes for a long travel day, but new Royals reliever completed it Monday and was in camp for the first time Tuesday, a few days after the Royals acquired him in a trade from the Red Sox.

Schreiber knows a few Royals pitchers already, including Michael Wacha and Josh Taylor, but otherwise, he spent Tuesday getting to know his new clubhouse.

“Being with the Red Sox organization for a few years, you’re going to miss a lot of people that you’ve known,” Schreiber said. “But this is just how the business goes, and I’m excited to meet new people and have new friendships. I’m going to go out there to the best of my ability and give everything I have out there.”

Schreiber, who had an injury-plagued season in ‘23 after posting a 2.22 ERA in ‘22, will be valuable in middle innings for the Royals this year, bridging the gap between the starter and the back-end of the ‘pen. He also does have nine saves in his career, so on days the higher-leverage relievers are unavailable, they’ll push Schreiber up to those bigger spots.

“I think my role is going to be whatever situation they want me to be in, and that’s kind of how my mindset has been over the last few years,” Schreiber said. “I want to take the ball in whatever situation and go out there and compete.”

Broadcast schedule drops
The Royals announced their Spring Training radio and TV broadcast schedules Tuesday ahead of the Cactus League opener on Friday that will be aired live on 610 AM. The flagship radio station will broadcast 17 Spring Training games on KCSP-AM, including the March 25 exhibition game against Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Bally Sports Kansas City will televise four games this spring, beginning on March 17 at 6:05 p.m. CT when the Royals host the Brewers at Surprise Stadium. Coverage continues on March 20, March 21 and the Cactus League finale on March 23.

Three additional games will stream on the Bally Sports app and This Sunday, March 13 and March 15. Those games will be available for streaming to fans who sign in with their cable login and password or with a subscription to Bally Sports+.