Notes: Friends to battle at 1B; Lopez bulks up

February 19th, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- After being acquired from the Yankees late last season, Royals first baseman Ryan McBroom quickly became friends with fellow first baseman .

It just so happens, though, that the two friends will be competing for the starting job this spring.

But McBroom said that competition doesn’t get in the way of their friendship.

“There’s always competition, and most of the times it’s with one of your good friends,” McBroom said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s a one-on-one competition. We both can make the team. I can play a little outfield, and we have 26 guys on the team.

“So it’s not really a problem for us.”

McBroom, 27, hit .293 with five doubles in September for the Royals, showing enough to put him in the conversation for the first-base job.

“It was a big adjustment at first, the first few days coming to the Royals last year,” McBroom said. “But it got easier after that. It’s the highest level, but the players and the coaching staff really made me comfortable.”

McBroom’s only regret last September was not showing the Royals his power. He hit 26 home runs for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate before coming to Kansas City.

“I didn’t have any homers for us and I want to get that out of the way,” McBroom said, “but I felt good the time I was here in terms of swinging the bat.

“When you get traded and you are playing in front of a new set of eyes, coaching staff and players, it’s natural to want to do too much. I’m not saying I did that but you think about it.”

Nicky Lopez’s added pop
One of the goals for second baseman Nicky Lopez in the offseason was to get stronger in his upper body. He put on about 18 pounds of muscle there, he said, and does look visibly larger.

“I can feel the extra pop when I’m swinging,” Lopez said. “It feels good.”

But Lopez was careful not to lose any flexibility that would hinder his defense, especially in throwing. He has what coaches describe as perhaps the most accurate arm on the team.

“Defense is my bread and butter,” Lopez said. “I wanted to make sure the extra weight didn’t hold me back there.”

Keller’s goal
Right-hander Brad Keller, last season’s Opening Day starter, will make his first spring start on Monday (not Sunday, as originally thought).

Keller’s goal this season is cut down on walks. And make it through a full season. He pitched 165 1/3 innings in 2019 -- his most ever -- before being shut down in September.

“The main thing is I have to cut down on walks,” he said. “I just put too many guys on without a single hit. That’s where the big innings came from.”

Keller averaged nearly four walks per nine innings a season ago. He also believes his offseason conditioning will allow him to get closer to 200 innings in 2020.

“It was nice to be able to sit down and relax and get my body rested early in the offseason,” he said. “I feel more conditioned, too, than when I was going into last year and hopefully that will make for a full season.”