As you’ve probably heard by now, the Royals are in the midst of a less difficult part of their schedule, at least on paper. With 9 straight games against the Twins and Astros, it appeared as though the Royals would have a chance to win some games and perhaps set themselves up for a very good month of April. Obviously it didn’t start out well, with three losses in Minnesota, but perhaps last night’s win in Houston will get the team going again. You know how I feel about overreacting to early-season games, but I do think the Royals are in a very important stretch. It isn’t simply because of the weaker schedule, however. Circumstances around the league are giving the team an extra opportunity to lay claim to a spot in contention.
During a spring training episode of the Triple Play Podcast, we talked about all of the injuries around baseball, and how they might impact the Royals’ chances early on in the season. At the time, the Rangers, Tigers, and A’s were all dealing with injuries to key players, so we thought a quick start could give the Royals a bit more cushion against those teams. Since that time, though, other teams have been bitten by the injury bug.
- The Rays have lost Matt Moore for the season, after also losing Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb for a length of time.
- The Blue Jays have seen Jose Reyes and Maicer Izturis go down with injuries.
- The Angels lost Josh Hamilton for a few months.
- Shane Victorino is on the disabled list for the Red Sox.
- The Yankees are unsurprisingly dealing with a handful of injuries.
- The Mariners’ pitching staff isn’t going to be at full strength for another few weeks, at least.
It seems that no matter which way you turn, you can see a possible contender having to deal with some major injury issues. With so many teams putting so many players on the disabled list, the Royals are now in a position to make up some ground on those teams that are at less than full strength. Granted, some of these teams are doing well enough while banged up (Toronto, Detroit, and Oakland currently lead the AL divisions), but the overall point remains: there is some vulnerability in those teams now.
The only main injuries the Royals have had to work through were in the bullpen – where the team has plenty of depth – and with Omar Infante missing a few days after taking a pitch off of his jaw, though his dome remained largely unaffected. Obviously, anything can change at any moment, but thus far, the Royals have been able to remain healthy.
Despite their health, the team has yet to take full advantage of this opportunity. They looked mostly lifeless during the series against the Twins, which is something the Royals can’t afford to do very often this season. Every game matters, and losing too many winnable games early on – particularly when other teams are dealing with these injuries – could put the organization behind the 8-ball later in the season.
It’s very important for the Royals to carry over their success from the series opener against the Astros, because they appear to have a health advantage over other teams at the moment. Now is the perfect time for them to make up ground in the standings, and perhaps even vault themselves to the top.