KANSAS CITY -- To a man, Royals players and coaches talked all spring about the renewed energy and enthusiasm surrounding camp under new manager Mike Matheny.
And now, as baseball prepares for Spring Training 2.0, it will be up to Matheny and his staff to amp up that energy once again.
The Royals, coming off two straight 100-plus-loss seasons, nonetheless do not view 2020 as a rebuilding year. Matheny and general manager Dayton Moore have said repeatedly that it’s time this young team takes the next step -- competing to win each night.
The Royals now will be gauging those results through a 60-game regular-season sprint.
“This was so important internally as an industry to get back to [playing] baseball,” Moore said. “It’s especially important for our fans in Kansas City. They look forward so much to [watching baseball] on summer nights.”
Here’s what Royals fans need to know about this Spring Training and the regular season.
When does the regular season start?
After the July 1 report date for Spring Training and an abbreviated camp, the regular season is anticipated to begin on July 23 or July 24. The official schedule will need to be approved by players before being released so, for now, we still don’t know if the Royals will start at home or on the road, or who they'll play in the opening series.
Where will Spring Training be?
The Royals had considered going back to Surprise, Ariz., for camp, because the facilities obviously are much larger and more spread out. But the Royals will conduct Spring Training 2.0 at Kauffman Stadium.
There is a possibility that the Royals also could utilize neighboring Arrowhead Stadium for workouts as well, though it seems more likely the Royals will use baseball facilities elsewhere.
“We’ll look to stagger the workouts throughout the day,” Moore said. “We may use different facilities throughout Kansas City as well. We’re looking into that.”
Will fans be allowed at this Spring Training?
No. Just as fans will not be allowed to attend the regular-season games once they begin, at least in the beginning, they will not be allowed inside Kauffman Stadium for Spring Training. There is a chance that MLB cameras set up inside Kauffman Stadium will at least allow fans to get a glimpse of this Spring Training.
Which teams will be on the schedule?
A schedule has not been finalized, but travel will be limited to the Royals' American League Central foes -- 10 games each against the Indians, Tigers, Twins and White Sox -- as well as 20 additional games vs. National League Central teams -- the Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates and Reds.
What will the rosters look like?
Teams can field a 30-man Opening Day active roster, which they must reduce to 28 players at the season’s two-week mark. Two weeks later, on Day 29 of the season, they must reduce that roster to 26 players. They will carry 26 players for the rest of the season.
In addition to the 40-man roster, teams will be allowed to carry 20 additional players on a taxi squad or, as the Royals prefer to call it, a “satellite team.” The Royals’ taxi/satellite squad could well have pitching prospects such as Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and others, perhaps even this year’s first-round Draft pick, Asa Lacy.
“We have a pretty good idea of who the 60 will be,” Moore said on Wednesday. “Nobody’s going to be surprising on that list. We may look forward to adding some of our top prospects to that list. That’s something we’re looking at and talking about.”
Inclusion on the satellite team would not affect a player’s service time, per the new rules. Teams can take up to three taxi squad players on the road (if three, one must be a catcher).
The regular injured list will be for 10 days in 2020 for both position players and pitchers, as was the rule in '19. MLB is also instituting a special COVID-19-related injured list for players who test positive, have confirmed exposure or are exhibiting symptoms. There is no minimum or maximum number of days players can spend on this list.
Players optioned or outrighted off the roster must remain that way for a minimum of 10 days before they can be recalled.
What did the Royals' roster look like when camp was suspended?
The Royals made a flurry of roster moves right before camp was suspended, including optioning left-hander Foster Griffin, outfielder Nick Heath and catcher Meibrys Viloria to Triple-A Omaha. The last transaction the Royals made was selecting the contract of reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who was having a terrific camp, and designating for assignment left-hander Eric Skoglund.
The Royals officially have 46 players in camp, including 15 non-roster invitees, though now they can have 60, in theory. Right-hander Greg Holland , who also was having a great camp, is among the non-roster invitees still in camp. His opt-out date was March 26, but that was extended because of the shutdown.
What is the injury situation with some Royals?
Catcher Salvador Perez, who missed 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, was on schedule to make the Opening Day roster anyway and now will benefit from almost three more months of recovery. Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who had left shoulder surgery in the fall, had been a big question mark for Opening Day. In fact, Mondesi was scheduled to make his first Cactus League start on the day camp was shut down. Like Perez, Mondesi surely will benefit from the extra recovery time and be ready for the season opener in late July.
Rule 5 Draft pick Stephen Woods Jr. had been sidelined with a left ankle sprain and would have been doubtful to make the Opening Day roster. He has since recovered and will compete for a spot.
What were the position or roster battles?
When camp was suspended, manager Mike Matheny had yet to decide on a possible fifth starter beyond Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis and Mike Montgomery. Also, Ryan O'Hearn and Ryan McBroom, vying for the first-base job, were having solid camps. O’Hearn likely was the favorite to start, though McBroom’s big spring put him in a position to possibly platoon. O’Hearn and McBroom have options.
There was still competition for the final two or three bullpen spots -- that was based on a 26-man roster. Now several pitchers on the bubble -- Woods, Randy Rosario, Jesse Hahn, Josh Staumont, Tyler Zuber, Daniel Tillo, etc. -- certainly are in better position to make the team as the rosters have been expanded to 30 initially. Rosario and Hahn are out of options.
Is there any way a 60-game season benefits the Royals?
Possibly. Strange things can happen in those short sample sizes. As a team, the Royals didn’t have any particularly great 60-game stretches last season. But a couple of players sure did:
• Jorge Soler (July 24-season’s end): .292/.395/.653 (63-for-216), 13 2B, 21 HR, 46 RBIs, 35 BB ... Soler’s 21 homers during that stretch led the American League and were only one behind Cincinnati's Eugenio Suárez for most in MLB.
• Whit Merrifield (May 11-July 19): .325/.373/.498 (83-for-255), 20 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 32 RBIs, 8 SB ... Merrifield’s 83 hits during that 60-game stretch led the Majors.
Will there still be a Trade Deadline?
Yes. But instead of a July 31 Deadline, it will be Aug. 31. Players must be on a club's roster by Sept. 15 in order to be eligible for postseason play.
How can you watch the games?
The Royals and Fox Sports Kansas City still have a handshake agreement for a multi-year deal that is expected to be finalized before the regular season begins. A source told MLB.com that a finalized deal is still expected prior to the regular season starting in late July. You can also stream out-of-market Royals games LIVE on MLB.TV on your favorite supported devices.
How can you listen?
Royals Radio Network, or listen to every Royals game LIVE online or on the go with MLB Audio.