SURPRISE, Ariz. - In the baseball world, spring is really just around the corner. Pitchers and catchers have reported to the Kansas City Royals' major league camp in Surprise, AZ. The attendees include several players who played for the Naturals last season.
Virtually everyone expected had already reported prior to the 11 A.M. Friday check-in time. By next Wednesday, when position players have reported and the first full-squad workout is scheduled, the Royals expect 63 players to be in the Major League camp.
Current and former Naturals who are in Major League camp include pitchers Devon Lowery, Julio Pimentel, and Carlos Rosa, all of whom are members of the Royals' 40-man roster, in addition to non-roster invitees Roman Colon, Dan Cortes, and Tim Hamulack. Henry Barrera, another 40-man roster pitcher, is in Major League camp and is expected to start the 2009 season in Northwest Arkansas.
Two Naturals catchers from last season, Cody Clark and Kiel Thibault, are also in Major League camp and will soon be joined by 1B Kila Ka'aihue and SS Mario Lisson, who are 40-man roster members, and OF Jose Duarte, who is a non-roster invitee. Another catcher, John Suomi, who the Royals acquired in the minor league Rule 5 Draft, is in Major League camp and could see time with the Naturals this season.
One name not reporting to the Major League camp will be flying to Arizona on Monday to get a head start on spring training. Springdale resident and Major League veteran Vance Wilson, signed last month to a minor league contract, will report to Surprise to continue his rehab as he returns from two Tommy John procedures on his throwing elbow. Wilson is expected to be healthy by May, at which point he will return home and play for the Naturals.
This is the Royals' seventh season at the Surprise complex that they share with the Texas Rangers. Before that, the Royals were camped at Baseball City, Fla., 1988-2002, and Fort Myers, Fla., 1969-1987.
Games at the 10,500-seat Surprise Stadium will begin on Feb. 25 when the Royals and Rangers meet at 2:05 p.m. MT in a charity game. The 36-game spring schedule is the largest in the Royals' 41-year history.
Training stretches beyond seven weeks this year, allowing extra time for players to travel, train and play in the World Baseball Classic. Seven players in the Royals' Major League camp are on the provisional rosters of the Classic teams. Minor leaguers, including the rest of the Naturals, are expected to begin reporting to Royals camp at the end of the month, and play their first spring training game on March 19th.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and will open the home portion of their 2009 season on Thursday, April 16th against the San Antonio Missions. For season ticket packages please call (479) 927-4900 or visit nwanaturals.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.