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Moustakas makes 'hat-tipping' return to 3B

Hot-corner vet has been taking it slow this spring after knee surgery
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, recovering from ACL surgery on his right knee last May, made his first Cactus League start in the field this spring.

And sure enough, the first hitter for the opposing Diamondbacks hit a ball to Moustakas' left. He scooped it and threw against his body in time for the out at first.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, recovering from ACL surgery on his right knee last May, made his first Cactus League start in the field this spring.

And sure enough, the first hitter for the opposing Diamondbacks hit a ball to Moustakas' left. He scooped it and threw against his body in time for the out at first.

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"Had to happen that way, right?" Moustakas said. "It was a good thing to get my feet wet. Nice to have to go to my left and make that play."

When Moustakas looked back toward the dugout, his teammates saluted him by tipping their caps.

Tweet from @Royals: First out of today's game:Fielded by #8. #RoyalsST pic.twitter.com/jC0IHtKq3F

Moustakas' next chance came two innings later on a weird, spinning blooper that Moustakas thought was over his head. Instead, as he retreated, the ball fell in front of him for an infield hit.

Moustakas' teammates again tipped their caps, this time to rib him.

"The boys don't let anything slide," Moustakas said, smiling. "Not my best. It was definitely a play that has to be made. It will come with time. But I made a good backhand play later and made a good throw. Very comfortable. Felt like I was back [to normal]. It was definitely fun today."

Moustakas also started a pretty 5-4-3 double play.

"It just felt great to be out there playing again," he said. "We've been taking a lot of practice. It's a little like riding a bike, but nothing compares to the adrenaline of a game."

Playing in the field also gave Moustakas an opportunity to perform what has become his routine in the first inning. He draws the initials of his mother, Connie, in the dirt by third base. She died in 2015 from cancer. Moustakas also draws his mother's initials outside the batter's box before his first at-bat.

Moustakas also will draw "ACE" by his mother's initials in both places this season to honor the late Yordano Ventura as well.

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

Kansas City Royals, Mike Moustakas