Several Royals vying to start in center field

With Cain gone, Orlando, Gordon, Gore to compete with others

February 15th, 2018

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals manager Ned Yost is adamant that no one, not even , has the inside track for the center-field job.

"It's a phrase I don't like," Yost said on Day 2 of camp Thursday. "It means you have deemed Paulo Orlando already is the center fielder.

"No, he isn't. He has an opportunity, just like [] has an opportunity [at third base] or [] at first base, or whomever. They all have opportunity. No one has an inside track."

With having signed with the Brewers, the Royals will be looking to fill the spot among Orlando, Billy Burns, Bubba Starling, , and even .

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"We have a bunch of different looks," Yost said. "With Alex Gordon, he's not the prototypical center fielder. But he has the knowledge to make good jumps to make fantastic plays. It's not always about speed. If you have the knowledge, you can make up for it."

Orlando seemingly would get the first and longest look, however. Orlando played regularly in 2016 in right field and hit .302. And he won the right-field job out of camp last season before nonproduction and injuries derailed his season -- he hit just .198 in 39 games at the big league level.

"I'm looking forward to this spring," Orlando said. "We'll miss Lorenzo, but we'll all have to compete for the job now."

Orlando suffered a fractured shin last May while at Triple-A Omaha and never fully recovered. For that reason, he decided not to play winter ball.

"After last season, I just felt like I was hurt all year and I wanted to be fresh," Orlando said.

Orlando also still thinks about all that went wrong last April, when a subpar start cost him his spot in the big leagues.

"Sometimes I tried to do too much," Orlando said. "I put too much pressure on myself wanting to play every day."

Burns likely will get a serious look as well, considering he is out of options.

"Billy's game is a little unorthodox, but he gets it done," Yost said. "He can run, put the ball in play, switch-hits, plays the outfield well."

Yost also will have his eye on Gore, the speedster who will have to prove he is more than a one-dimensional player at the Major League level.

"Gore has continued to improve each and every year," Yost said. "He's so much better offensively and defensively from where he was two years ago."

Yost suggested even Whit Merrifield, the Royals' super utility player who found a home at second base last season, could see some time in center field.

"I don't know who will be better in the corners for us right now," Yost said. "I don't know what Collins will bring. You look at the makeup of your team and you go with it."