PEORIA, Ariz. -- The “sneaky good signing” that Royals manager Mike Matheny described early in Spring Training quickly became more widely known once Cactus League action began.
Hanser Alberto, who signed a Minor League deal with the Royals this offseason, is 3-for-10 this spring in five games, and he’s showing why he’s such a good fit for the club. In the Royals’ 4-3 comeback win over the Padres on Sunday at Peoria Stadium, Alberto led off the fifth inning with a single to right field. On Saturday against the Giants, he doubled. On Thursday against the Reds, he singled in a run.
The 28-year-old dominates left-handed pitching, is versatile on defense and can show some speed on the bases.
“Top shelf,” Matheny said. “Some of the guys in the organization had some history, so we knew that going in, but to see that firsthand, how he works and competes, talks, interacts -- but then we’ve seen him get a lot of work in the game. And you can just tell, I want the ball hit to that guy.
“But he’s just a ballplayer. I think no matter where you put him on the field, he’s going to figure out how to do the right thing. And he’s a dangerous at-bat. We’ve been very, very happy with what we’ve seen so far.”
Alberto said he’s fitting into the clubhouse well and has been working with shortstop Adalberto Mondesi every day in the middle infield. Alberto feels most comfortable at second base because that’s where he saw the most time the past two years with the Orioles, but he’s able to play shortstop, third base, first base and the outfield. That’s the role the Royals see for him this year -- a utility player who can step in when needed or take over one position on an everyday basis.
“He’s got that, ‘I’ll do whatever you guys need me to do, and if it changes tomorrow from what it is today, that’s fine. Just put me somewhere, I’ll be ready,’ mentality,” Matheny said. “I think he’s also -- I know he does, because he’s done it before -- a guy who just toes the line every single day if we need him to be that or he goes in and just makes that the conversation.”
Or, as Alberto described his role: “Be ready for whatever the manager needs me to be. Just be ready to do 100% and do my job.”
Alberto was non-tendered by the Orioles after hitting .283 in 231 plate appearances in 2020. His versatility figured to land him a Major League deal somewhere, but the slow offseason led many teams to reach out for Minor League deals. He found a fit with the Royals and signed in January.
“This organization, I think it’s a good fit for me,” Alberto said. “We’ve got a lot of young talent. We’ve got veterans. I think it’ll be a good fit for me, and just bring my energy and do what I know what to do and see what happens. I feel pretty comfortable here right now.”
Taylor tweaks his timing
Michael A. Taylor launched his second home run of the spring on Sunday -- this one to deep left field on a two-strike count. He has five hits in four games. The outfielder said this is the earliest he has felt like he has his timing down in the box, and that comes with a no-stride swing rather than entering the spring with a leg kick. He worked this offseason on simplifying his swing after signing with the Royals.
“Now I have fewer moving parts, and it’s easier to just be on time,” Taylor said. “I err on the side of being early, and it’s just something that’s allowed me to be game-ready a little quicker.”
Matheny has said Taylor’s offense will fit right in with the Royals’ lineup, and that’s proving to be true after what the outfielder has done this spring.
“He’s been a good player, but he’s a better player than even he’s seen, in my opinion,” Matheny said. “You’re not seeing a guy that’s falling down when he’s taking his swing. It’s a short, compact swing that is dangerous. And with that short, compact swing, it should lend itself to being a very good at-bat with two strikes. I think we’re seeing a little bit of everything we were hoping to see.”
• Starter Jakob Junis allowed just one run in three innings of work against the Padres on Sunday, giving up a leadoff homer to Trent Grisham. It was the only hit Junis allowed, and he struck out four without walking a batter. The right-hander continues to impress with his newfound cutter, and while he had a little trouble commanding his fastball, his slider was much sharper than in his first outing Tuesday.
• Kelvin Gutierrez hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to lift the Royals to their sixth Cactus League win.