SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The intense and complicated battle for the Royals' second-base job is over. Manager Ned Yost named 21-year-old Raul Mondesi his starter Monday morning.Mondesi, the surprise of camp who is hitting .378, beat out Christian Colon, Cheslor Cuthbert and Whit Merrifield. Cuthbert likely has the team made as
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The intense and complicated battle for the Royals' second-base job is over. Manager Ned Yost named 21-year-old Raul Mondesi his starter Monday morning.
Mondesi, the surprise of camp who is hitting .378, beat out Christian Colon, Cheslor Cuthbert and Whit Merrifield. Cuthbert likely has the team made as the primary backup to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who is coming off right ACL surgery this past May and could be brought along slowly in April.
Kansas City, though, still has another decision to make: Who will win the roster battle between Colon and Merrifield?
"That will probably go right down to the end," Yost said.
Merrifield has options, Colon does not.
"It makes the decision tough," Yost said.
Mondesi was barely in the conversation for the second-base job when camp opened in mid-February.
"But the more we saw him play this spring," Yost said, "we knew we had to keep an open mind. Mondi came in and did a great job and just won the job outright."
The Royals already knew of Mondesi's elite speed and defensive skills. But they saw a different player this spring than the one who was overmatched at the plate in a two-month callup in late 2016.
"He can impact a game in so many ways," Yost said. "He can impact it with his defense, his legs, his power, his ability to bunt."
Mondesi showed that ability over the weekend. He hit a walk-off home run Saturday, his third homer this spring, then he stole three bases in the Royals' 9-8 win over the Angels on Sunday.
Yost gushed about Mondesi's skill set Monday morning.
"I'm not so sure who was the best player on the field [Sunday]," Yost said. "Was it [Mike] Trout or Mondi? I mean, that day. Trout is Trout. I'm not saying Mondi is Trout. But the best player on the field that day -- Mondi was right there with him."
Mondesi received congratulations from Merrifield and Colon in the clubhouse Monday morning.
"First of all, thank God for the opportunity," Mondesi said. "They are great guys. They came to me and congratulated me. I wish the best for them, too."
Mondesi admits he came to camp determined.
"I worked hard all offseason on the little things," he said. "Nothing is impossible. I wanted to come here and play small ball. I wanted to forget those big swings I usually have. That's not my game. I need to get on base and steal bases."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.