SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With the center-field job up for grabs, switch-hitter Billy Burns has good reason to believe he can grab a roster spot.And perhaps Burns' biggest advantage is that he is out of options. The Royals will be forced to keep him on the 25-man roster or designate him
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With the center-field job up for grabs, switch-hitter Billy Burns has good reason to believe he can grab a roster spot.
And perhaps Burns' biggest advantage is that he is out of options. The Royals will be forced to keep him on the 25-man roster or designate him for assignment -- and Kansas City is normally loathe to part with inventory.
"As of right now, I think the opportunity is there," Burns said. "I think it's just a matter of showing them what I can do now and during the season."
Acquired in a trade with the A's in 2016, the Royals hoped Burns would be a weapon off the bench as a baserunner or as a defensive replacement.
But Burns has never really recaptured the form from his breakthrough season in 2015 with Oakland, when he hit .294 with a .334 on-base percentage and 26 steals.
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Burns hit just .235 in 2016 between the A's and the Royals, and then spent almost all of last season at Triple-A Omaha.
The 28-year-old admits it has been a confusing time since his breakthrough season.
"It's not really frustration for me," Burns said. "I really haven't performed to that caliber [in 2015] since then. I just have to show them I can be consistent every day.
"There was definitely a time I was down on myself. I really screwed up a great opportunity. Now I want to get back up here."
Burns posted a .369 on-base percentage with 24 steals at Triple-A last season.
"I think I learned a lot last year in Omaha," Burns said. "I think I learned not to take any day for granted. Being in the Minors again gave me new appreciation for what it's like to be in the big leagues."
Pitching to hay
Scott Barlow's name has come up a few times already in camp, especially by manager Ned Yost, who has been impressed with the right-hander's side sessions.
Barlow signed a one-year Minor League deal last December. He revealed that he had a rather interesting way to keep his arm in shape over the winter -- by throwing bales of hay.
"My wife's brother has a mini farm with three or four cows in Arkansas," Barlow said. "So, of course, there were hay bales around. That was my throwing partner. I'd just throw into the hay.
"Sometimes at night we would shine car lights on the hay so I could see. Cars would drive by and people would be, 'What is he doing?'"
A lefty to watch
The Royals put southpaw Tim Hill on the 40-man roster last fall, and he is getting a close look this spring. The 28-year-old has an extreme submarine-type delivery that Kansas City's coaching staff finds intriguing.
"It is funky, isn't it?" Yost said, as he observed Hill throw his first live batting practice on Saturday.
The Royals could be in the market for a left-hander out of the bullpen.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.