CLEVELAND -- Royals second baseman Omar Infante struggled filling in for rookie Whit Merrifield, who had the day off in Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Indians. Infante went 0-for-4 and was unable to turn a double play in the eighth inning that could've allowed the Royals to escape unscathed.Instead, a
CLEVELAND -- Royals second baseman Omar Infante struggled filling in for rookie Whit Merrifield, who had the day off in Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Indians. Infante went 0-for-4 and was unable to turn a double play in the eighth inning that could've allowed the Royals to escape unscathed.
Instead, a run scored in the eighth before the Indians rallied in the ninth for two runs, including a walk-off sacrifice fly.
On Friday night, Merrifield was back in the lineup and playing second base, where he's expected to stay for most of the season. He went 0-for-3 with a walk in a 6-1 loss at Progressive Field.
When Merrifield was called up on May 18, manager Ned Yost said Merrifield's versatility was a key reason for the move. But a few weeks into Merrifield's career, it seems his role is less ambiguous than being solely a plug-in utility player.
"He's going to play a lot of second base," said Yost, who gave Merrifield a routine day off on Thursday. "The majority of the time, he'll play second base."
Overall, Merrifield's transition to the Royals has been fairly seamless. He's even surprised Yost to some extent.
Yost acknowledged before Friday's game that Merrifield's impact was somewhat greater than he expected it being, even though Yost did have high expectations for the rookie. Part of that has shown itself on offense, as Merrifield entered with a .360 average through 50 career at-bats.
"I know what I'm capable of doing," Merrifield said. "I'm not saying I'm a .360 hitter by any means, but I know I can handle pitching at this level."
However, where Yost really credits Merrifield is on the defensive side.
Entering Friday, Merrifield had not made an error at any of the three positions he's played through 11 starts, with six starts coming at second base. He's also played third base and left field.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer called Merrifield one of the most intelligent players he'd been around, and credited Merrifield's fundamentals in whatever spot he was playing.
"He asks a lot of questions, a lot of stuff before games, so he's always prepared," Hosmer said. "He's at the right place at the right time, always. He's a heads-up baseball player."
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.