Gore eyes more than speed role with Royals

February 27th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yes, Royals speedster Terrance Gore knows the name Herb Washington, the famous designated basestealer for the A’s and flamboyant owner Charley Finley in the 1970s.

Gore just detests the comparison.

“I know the name,” Gore said, his eyes rolling. “I hate [the reference].”

When the Royals re-signed Gore to a Major League deal last December, team officials suggested that Gore’s role likely would be as a designated pinch-runner/late-game weapon for the 2019 club.

“That was the initial mindset,” manager Ned Yost said.

But as Spring Training marches on, Yost is emphasizing that Gore can be more. He won’t just be the Royals’ version of Herb Washington.

“He’s come into Spring Training with a different mindset,” Yost said. “Is he better than last year at this time? Oh, yeah, he is. That’s been evident from the time he got here.

“Is he going to play every day? He thinks he can.”

Of course, that isn’t going to happen, not with Alex Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Jorge Soler and Brian Goodwin in the outfield mix.

But Gore, Yost said, is beginning to understand his skillset, which could allow him more opportunity to play. Gore already has three hits this spring, and he has put the ball in play eight out of 10 times, a contact approach that will be crucial for him, entering Wednesday's Cactus League contest against the Giants. Remember, Gore has just one hit (off Max Scherzer no less) in 19 big league plate appearances.

Yost also believes Gore’s defense has improved, which will allow Yost to use Gore in the outfield at times without hesitation.

“I thought [my role] would be a little like [Jarrod] Dyson was before,” Gore said, “which is come in the seventh inning or so. I think I’ll get a couple of starts. It depends on whether guys are tired. But I think I can come in the seventh inning or so and finish games off, or when there’s a particular [baserunning need].”

That role as a late-inning weapon still will be Gore’s primary role. The Royals believe if Gore were to get 80 or more pinch-running opportunities this season, he could easily steal 60 bases.

It’s just that Yost doesn’t like that scenario.

“For me, the guys he’ll pinch-run for -- Alex Gordon, a Gold Glover, Salvador Perez, a Gold Glover, Ryan O’Hearn, maybe Jorge Soler -- those are guys you still want in the game,” Yost said. “The only time you’ll pinch-run [Gore] is when you’re desperate for a run. If you’re behind by one run in the ninth, you go for it. It’s a little trickier in the eighth.

“But I don’t want to be behind 100 times a year. Hopefully, it’s more like 50-60. I won’t pinch-run when we’re ahead.”

Yost, though, was all in when general manager Dayton Moore broached the idea of bringing back Gore, who had been traded to the Cubs last summer before becoming a free agent in the fall. Yost loved the idea of having that speed on his bench.

“It was early in the offseason [when Moore called about Gore],” Yost said. “Dayton started talking about the direction the organization wanted to go. We both liked the action game. We like the speed game. [Gore] just fits with what we wanted to do. The more I thought about it, I thought about our bench, our versatility, it made sense to get Gore.

“I thought about what would help our bench. We didn’t need pinch-hitters. Are we going to defend for anyone? Maybe a little, but not really that much. So, who is going to help us win more games? It was blatantly obvious -- Terrance Gore. He can steal a game. It didn’t take long for me to figure out.”

But just how Yost uses Gore may continue to evolve.