Bonifacio making strides to improve defense
KANSAS CITY -- Royals fans have seen the obvious impact rookie right fielder Jorge Bonifacio has had offensively.
Bonifacio, 24, entered Thursday's series finale against the Astros with a .333 on-base percentage, eight home runs and 17 RBIs. His steely approach at the plate earned him a recent promotion to the No. 2 spot in the order.
But what really has caught the eyes of Royals coaches is Bonifacio's improvement defensively. He has taken better routes to balls, and notched his third assist after throwing out Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki at second base on Monday.
Bonifacio works daily with coach and outfield guru Rusty Kuntz, as well as studying the movements of four-time Gold Glove Award winner Alex Gordon.
"He mimics Gordo all the time," manager Ned Yost noted.
But both Yost and Bonifacio acknowledge that the improvement comes mainly from gaining experience.
"It's not so much working with Rusty, it's just getting acclimated to big league parks," Yost said. "There are more decks, more lights. But he is reading the ball better."
Earlier this season, Bonifacio struggled to pick up the ball out of stadium lights, losing at least two catchable balls.
"Yeah, I feel more comfortable," Bonifacio said. "It's a big park here. Sometimes the light in front of me is tough. Rusty has helped me with little things about that. [Center fielder Lorenzo Cain] helps me, too, by moving me to the right spot.
"I'm just trying to do the best I can."
Part of Bonifacio's education, as mentioned, is simply studying Gordon.
"When he's jogging after balls in practice, I watch him," Bonifacio said. "He's probably the best [outfielder] there is."
So far, most of the tutelage from Gordon has been unspoken.
"He doesn't like to talk a lot," Bonifacio said, smiling. "That's him. Some people don't like to talk a lot. That's OK."
Bonifacio also has learned how much greater the stakes are at this level.
"There's more focus up here [than in the Minors]," Bonifacio said. "It's more mental. Players here know more of what they have to do. They miss things, but it's less of a miss up here."
For now, Bonifacio continues to soak in as much knowledge as he can, from anyone who'll offer it. He hasn't made any four-star or five-star catches, per Statcast™, yet. But Yost believes they'll come.
"He's 24 years old," Yost said. "He will continue to get better and grow out there."