Infante, Rios in danger of losing jobs
BOSTON -- Royals manager Ned Yost has been a staunch supporter of second baseman Omar Infante and right fielder Alex Rios, even as they both have struggled mightily to produce offensively.
But that support has been tested to the point where even Yost, prior to the Royals' 6-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday, finally has acknowledged that he needs more production from both. The clock is ticking, because when Alex Gordon returns from his rehab stint, either Rios or Infante could lose their position to utility man Ben Zobrist, who primarily is filling in for Gordon now.
"We need some [production from them]," Yost said. "We need to get [Infante] and Rios going a little bit. Both are having years that they are not accustomed to."
Infante snapped his 0-for-31 skid with a sixth inning single. On the season, he's batting just .215 with a .525 OPS. The club record for at-bats without a hit is 44, set by Joe Keough in 1969.
"It was nice to see him end the streak," Yost said.
Rios bounced back with a three-hit game. He also had an RBI. All three of his hits were to center field or right-center, though he said he wasn't consciously trying to use the middle of the field.
"Really, I'm just trying to get comfortable at the plate and focus on that," Rios said. "I want to get comfortable in my stance and with my footwork. That will allow me to take better swings. I'm getting close."
Yost has stuck with Rios, who has a slash line of .242/.279/.310, and Infante through their season-long struggles.
"I've just been trying to get them going," Yost said of his commitment to them. "You see flashes. The last two nights, the ball is starting to jump off Rios' bat a little bit more. He's the more experienced guy. But it will get to the point where you'll have to make a decision [on them]."
Infante had missed five games recently with back spasms, and Yost is hoping that break will help him relax at the plate.
"He's had a little break, so we'll see how he bounces back from that," Yost said. "But we'll have to make a decision when Alex Gordon comes back. We have some built-in time to let them get going. Gordy is still at least two weeks away."
Batting coach Dale Sveum is puzzled that Infante hasn't hit more like himself. Infante is a career .272 hitter, and two years ago, he hit .318 with 10 homers.
"The strange thing is that there's really nothing mechanically wrong," Sveum said. "A lot of times you can look at the video and spot something immediately. With him, he looks the same. It's just that they keep killing him with soft stuff inside and hard stuff away."
Whatever decision Yost makes about where to put Zobrist when Gordon comes back, he promises it will be well thought out.
"You have to weigh all your options and look at it," Yost said. "All those decisions are made organizationally. They just don't come off the top of my head. We'll meet with [general manager] Dayton [Moore] and make a decision."