Quiet but effective, Infante fitting in with Royals
Second baseman not one to court attention, but production hard to ignore
KANSAS CITY -- Royals second baseman Omar Infante doesn't say much.
"He's quiet. Strictly business," said Eric Hosmer.
Infante made a whole lot of noise on Sunday, though, when he had six RBIs in the Royals' 9-3 drubbing of the Orioles. That gave him 17 RBIs to lead the club, ahead of Alex Gordon (14), Mike Moustakas (12) and everybody else.
The franchise record for most RBIs in a game is seven, achieved 12 times, last by Billy Butler on April 7, 2013, at Philadelphia. But Infante is just the third second baseman to have at least six RBIs in a game for the Royals, joining Frank White (seven in 1986) and Alberto Callaspo (six in 2010).
"It was a nice day," Infante said.
Infante drew attention from the Royals last year, when he was with Detroit, with a .375 average against them and his first six-RBI game last Sept. 6 in Kansas City. So when they needed a second baseman, they went after him and signed him to a four-year deal for $30.25 million plus an option for 2018.
"We knew right from the beginning of last winter that he was the guy we wanted to target," manager Ned Yost said. "He fits our style of play."
Infante was slotted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order behind another new acquisition, right fielder Nori Aoki, and so far he's hit .279 with five extra-base hits, a .344 on-base percentage and all those RBIs in 22 games.
"He's been productive in every phase of the game," Yost said. "He's been great defensively, he's done a great job of running the bases aggressively, he's been a very productive hitter for us."
Infante, who has a .333 average with runners in scoring position, has helped take up the slack early in the season when big guns Butler, Hosmer and Salvador Perez have been slow gearing up in run production.
"It works like that," Yost said. "You've got to have three or four guys that are producing in a nine-man lineup to make it work. You're always going to have somebody that's struggling."
That hasn't been Infante. Where he did struggle some was getting playing time in Spring Training. He got into just eight of 30 games because of a sore shoulder and then a sore elbow. He was disappointed.
"I was coming to a new team and I wanted to play, I wanted to do the best that I can," he said. "I just kept working hard on my shoulder and my elbow to be OK. That was the most important thing."
Infante was ready by Opening Day but on April 7, in the season's sixth game, he was hit on the jaw by a pitch. Fortunately, the jaw wasn't broken and he missed only two games.
"I'm very happy. I didn't lose too many games, just two games. It's surprising," he said shortly after returning to the lineup. "[At first], I felt a little scared and nervous. My body tended to go back just a little bit -- but that's normal. The more at-bats I get, the more comfortable I am at the plate."
Since then, he's become very comfortable and he's been in the middle of most everything.
Infante has just one error in 71 chances and he's steady -- and sometimes spectacular -- in the field. In Saturday's game at Baltimore, Cruz was stationed near second base for right-handed power hitter Nelson Cruz. Infante darted to the shortstop side of the bag to grab his grounder, and while moving toward left field, was able to throw across his body for the out at first base. Dazzling.
Hosmer, the Gold Glove Award-winning first baseman, teams with Infante to form a strong right side of the infield. The left-handed Hosmer can edge to his right and help cover the hole while Infante moves more toward second base.
"He can go more up the middle, because he's got a lot of range. His game just overall is smooth -- how his hitting is, his fielding is," Hosmer said. "You can tell he's a guy that's been around the league a long time. He's intelligent, consistent and is a proven professional player."
Infante has also teamed well with his partner at shortstop, fellow Venezuelan Alcides Escobar.
"The best thing is communications. In order to do my job, I have to communicate with Omar a lot, and I feel like I can really talk to him," Escobar said.
"I've known him for a long time, although I've never played with him before. This is the first time we've played together and it's really going well."
Yost sees Infante's influence going beyond hits, runs and double plays.
"I think he's been a tremendous influence on Esky, too, [because of] Omar's work ethic," Yost said. "Esky's as good as I've ever seen him right now, in terms of his total play. He's doing everything. He's been working as hard as I've ever seen him in all phases of his game -- his offense, his defense, his batting practice, his pregame workout, his weight room conditioning. I think Omar has helped him in all that, too."
Infante grew up in Puerto La Cruz in Venezuela. His late father, Omar, was a baseball player.
"He was a good player, but didn't sign professionally. He was a good player in the city," Infante said.
Infante, wife Yohanna, and their 5-year-old son, Yomar, live in Lecheria on the northeast coast of Venezuela. They like to spend time on the beach and on their boat.
"Beautiful city with a beach. It looks like Miami. On the water, nice," he said.
That's for the offseason. This summer the family -- his mother, Carmen, will be a visitor -- becomes part of the crowd at Kauffman Stadium. Everybody will be seeing a lot of No. 14 around second base and at the plate.
He'll be going about his work quietly and efficiently. That's what Yost notices and appreciates.
"His calm demeanor in the field," the manager said. "His game never speeds up. It's always nice and calm and controlled. "
Whether he's on the field or in the clubhouse, he doesn't say much, but he has other qualities.
"He smiles a lot," Yost said.