SPRINGDALE, AR - The unofficial beginning of the 2013 baseball season took place on Monday as pitchers and catchers from the Kansas City Royals reported to camp in Surprise, AZ for the beginning of Spring Training. They were joined by the position players on Thursday in time for the first full squad workout on Friday. The Royals are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985 and after a major offseason trade that sent former Naturals outfielder Wil Myers (2012) to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, the playoff drought could finally end this year.
Former Naturals starting pitcher Will Smith (2011), who was part of the Royals Caravan that came to Springdale on Jan. 21, is likely to be part of the battle for the final spot in the starting rotation as well as two spots in the bullpen. The first four spots in the starting rotation appear to be set with Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana and Davis. Smith reportedly will compete with former Natural Everett Teaford (2009-2010) as well as Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Guillermo Moscoso and Nate Adcock for one of the three spots. If Smith pitches out of the bullpen, he will join former Naturals Greg Holland (2009), Aaron Crow (2010), Louis Coleman (2010) and Kelvin Herrera (2011) along with Tim Collins.
Noel Arguelles (2012) Chris Dwyer (2010-2012), Juan Gutierrez (2012), John Lamb (2010-2011) and Justin Marks (2012) are on the 40-man roster and in major league camp. Three Naturals pitchers from the 2012 squad, Yordano Ventura, Sugar Ray Marimon and Michael Mariot, will try to make the team as non-roster invitees.
Another position battle will take place at second base. Former Natural Johnny Giavotella (2010) played in 53 games at second last season while Chris Getz spent time on the Disabled List. The two will compete for the starting job this spring. Naturals alum Irving Falu (2008) could make the team as a backup infielder but will be challenged by Elliott Johnson, who joined the Royals this week as the player to be named in the Myers-Shields trade and Tony Abreu, who was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants earlier this month.
Former Naturals Mike Moustaskas (2010), Salvador Perez (2011) and Eric Hosmer (2010) are expected to be the Opening Day starters at third base, catcher and first base. Alcides Escobar, acquired during the 2011 offseason trade of Zach Greinke, is the starter at shortstop. Reigning Puerto Rican League Rookie of the Year and Naturals Player of the Year Christian Colon as well as Anthony Seratelli (2010-2011) are among the other infielders looking to make the team. Manny Pina (2010-2012) and Julio Rodriguez (2012) reported with the other catchers on Monday and will be among those looking to break camp with the Royals as the backup catcher.
The Royals opened camp with five outfielders on the 40-man Roster and of those five, four have worn the Naturals uniform. Alex Gordon, who played for the Naturals in 2009, will start in left field. Center field is likely to be occupied by Lorenzo Cain, who played in seven games with the Naturals last season as part of a major league rehab assignment. Jeff Francoeur is the probable starter in right field, while former Naturals Jarrod Dyson (2009-2010) and David Lough (2009) battle to make the team as a fourth outfielder.
Naturals at Spring Training: Several former Naturals players have joined other major league teams as non-roster invitees. Myers, who was recently named the No. 4 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, joins the Rays major league players for the start of Spring Training. Infielder Yuniesky Betancourt (2009), who was the Opening Day starter at second base for the Royals last season, has signed on with the Philadelphia Phillies. Betancourt is joined in Phillies camp by fellow Naturals alum, pitcher Zach Miner (2011). Pitcher Juan Abreu (2009) is in camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pitcher Kevin Chapman (2011) has reported with to Houston Astros, while infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff (2012) hopes to make the Miami Marlins roster. 2008 Texas League Player of the Year Kila Ka'aihue signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and will look to make their Opening Day roster. Derrick Robinson, a member of the 2010 Texas League Championship team, has reported to Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds. Dusty Hughes, a pitcher on the inaugural Naturals team in 2008, and outfielder Jordan Parraz (2009) are in Florida with the Atlanta Braves. Hughes and Parraz are joined at the Braves camp by Ernesto Mejia (2010), who was added to the Braves 40-man roster after batting .296 in Triple-A last year. Mejia was a non-roster invitee with the Braves in 2012.
Duffy Continues Comeback: Former Natural Danny Duffy (2010) continued his recovery from Tommy John Surgery earlier this week as he threw off of a mound for the first time since June. Duffy, who was also part of the Springdale Royals Caravan stop, is expected to be ready for major league action around the All-Star break in mid-July.
Smith Signs with Baltimore: Former Naturals outfielder Tim Smith signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Smith played in 69 games for the Naturals in 2011, batting .311 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI. Smith spent last season as a member of the Atlanta Braves organization.
Games are Coming: The Royals will play their first Spring Training game next Friday, Feb. 22 against the Texas Rangers in Surprise at 2 p.m. Central Time. The Royals and Rangers will play each other over the weekend in Surprise, with the Royals as the home team on Saturday. The Royals will host the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday at 2 p.m. All of the Royals Cactus League games will be available as a webcast on royals.com.
Check nwanaturals.com for our Spring Training Report, where we'll continue to follow Royals' minor leaguers in spring training as well as cover other baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans. Opening Day for the 2013 All Star Season is Thursday, April 4 against the Midland Rockhounds.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.