Royals ready to run with plethora of speed
Hamilton, Gore join lineup that features MLB steals leader Merrifield
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As Royals All-Star and American League Gold Glove Award catcher Salvador Perez began answering a question about the acquisitions of Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore, he suddenly stopped and offered this warning:
"Catchers, you better be ready when you play us," Perez said, smiling.
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Perez knows as well as anyone what a speed game can do to opponents.
"It would be in my head all the time, the whole game," Perez said of trying to defend the 2019 Royals.
Speed will be an essential theme for a Kansas City club that already boasts the Major League steals leader in Whit Merrifield (45) and a rising star in Adalberto Mondesi, who stole 32 bases in 75 games.
Now add Hamilton, who over a recent four-year period averaged 57 steals per season for the Reds, and Gore, who as a late-inning pinch-running specialist could swipe 40 as well.
The Royals' first workout for pitchers and catchers is on Wednesday, but on Tuesday's report day, several position players also milled around the clubhouse, including Hamilton and Gore.
"I had a few options this offseason," said Hamilton, who signed a one-year deal in December. "You just pick where you think you'll be the most successful. And I thought this style of play is what I like. We will like to run, take the extra base whenever we can."
The Royals have made no secret their desire to return to their identity of 2014 and '15 when they went to back-to-back World Series aided by elite defense and speed.
Hamilton, 28, will figure prominently in that plan. General manager Dayton Moore said repeatedly this offseason that his team missed Lorenzo Cain's expertise at patrolling center field last season. Enter Hamilton, who should have no issue covering spacious Kauffman Stadium.
"If you play in our ballpark," Moore said, "you have to be able to defend. Billy Hamilton will give us that."
Of course, it didn't take long on Tuesday before Hamilton was asked to address the burning issue with this group of Royals: Is he the fastest or is Gore?
"I don't know what that means," Hamilton deadpanned. "You don't know unless you race. I mean, [Gore] can say he is. I can say I am. The media can say what they think. You never know unless you race. I know he's fast."
But don't expect an actual race to ever occur.
"Someone would get in serious trouble if we had a race and someone got hurt," Gore said.
Still, there will be plenty of friendly competition among Hamilton, Merrifield, Mondesi and Gore this season.
"Definitely, we'll compete with each other," Hamilton said. "I mean, I'll be all over Whit, like 'Hey, I'm going to beat you in stolen bases,' or 'Hey, Whit, I'm getting two steals today.' It'll be fun competition with all of them."
One of the questions or concerns with Hamilton, though, will be the number of opportunities to steal. Merrifield, who led the Majors with 192 hits last season, will get plenty of chances. So likely will Mondesi, and even Gore, who will be the late-inning base-stealing specialist.
Hamilton, after nearly stealing 60 bases a season for four straight years, saw his told dip to 34 last season. It wasn't because the Reds started flashing the stop sign.
"You got to get on base to run," Hamilton said. "It's not their fault. It's all on me. They never gave me the hold sign. But you got to get on base to make things happen."
Hamilton's on-base percentage was .299 last season. He knows he needs to improve on that.
"Some of it was just being smarter about when to run," he said. "I've been in the game long enough to know when to go and not to go. But I've always had the green light. But it needs to be the best situation. You just have to be smart. You don't try to steal just to [pad your stats]."
The Royals, though, certainly will encourage Hamilton to go at every opportunity.
"We want to be a motion team," said Moore, who confided at the Winter Meetings that he has tried to acquire Hamilton for years. "We have to be elite at some aspects of the game, and defense and speed is something we can be elite at."