Only four months have gone by since the KC Royals closed out their miserable 2022 season with a seven-run loss in Cleveland and, just hours later, fired their manager and pitching coach. The club finished in the American League Central cellar, a fitting place for a team that opponents defeated almost 100 times.
Today, though, finds the Royals on the brink of spring training and then a brand new season. Spring camp opens next week; here's what fans must know.
When and where will the KC Royals begin 2023 spring training?
Kansas City officially opens spring camp Feb. 15, the day pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report and begin working out. Position players arrive Feb. 20.
The Royals are once again based for the spring in Surprise, Arizona, and will play their Cactus League home exhibition games at Surprise Stadium. The club shares the Surprise facilities with the Texas Rangers.
Kansas City breaks camp after its March 26 Cactus League game against the Cubs, although the Rangers are scheduled to host the Royals for two exhibition games at Arlington's Globe Life Field March 27 and 28.
What players who are in the KC Royals organization attend spring training?
There are two answers to this question. All of the franchise's major and minor league players participate in spring training; however, only some of those players work in the big league camp.
Expect the club's entire 40-man roster to open the spring on the major league side. Joining that contingent will be several "non-roster invitees", the group of players who aren't members of the 40-man, have signed 2023 minor league deals, but who management believes either have a shot at making the big club's Opening Day roster or could benefit from working with the major leaguers.
Among the NRIs are some with major league experience who the club acquired this offseason, including pitchers Mike Mayers and Nick Wittgren, and utility players Matt Duffy and Matt Beaty. Other notable invitees include infielder Nick Loftin, catcher Luca Tresh and outfielder Tyler Gentry, all of whom MLB Pipeline lists among the organization's top 30 prospects, and promising Logan Porter.
Because Kansas City's regular season active roster has room for only 26 players, many of the non-roster invitees will be reassigned to the minor league side before spring training winds up. Reassignment is not, however, a bar to playing in Cactus League contests: take, for example, the case of Nick Pratto, who was moved to the minor league camp during 2021 spring training but continued to see action and put up excellent numbers in major league exhibition games.
Are there any position battles KC Royals fans should pay attention to?
Yes, and plenty of them.
Take the outfield, where the recent trade of Gold Glover Michael Taylor casts center field wide open. Expect Drew Waters and Kyle Isbel to be the primary combatants there, with whoever doesn't have the edge competing with Edward Olivares, and perhaps Nate Eaton, for the right field job.
Then there's third base. Although Hunter Dozier appears to be the club's current hot corner preference, his failure to hit well early could, considering KC's strong desire to play Bobby Witt Jr. at shortstop, force the Royals to also consider Eaton or Nicky Lopez, and possibly even hot infield prospect Maikel Garcia.
And speaking of Lopez, he may give incumbent Michael Massey a run at second base, although Massey's better bat last season makes him the favorite at the position.
First base is Vinnie Pasquantino's to lose unless Pratto's cold bat thaws, in which case things could get interesting.
Too numerous to mention yet are the battles for spots in the starting rotation and bullpen.
How can their fans follow the KC Royals during this year's spring games?
Tracking Kansas City through its spring game schedule, which kicks off Feb. 24 with an afternoon contest against the Rangers, won't be difficult. Depending on the date, the radio and TV slate includes games on KC radio stations KCSP-AM 610 Sports Radio and KWOD-AM1660 The Score, and some televised games on Bally Sports Kansas City. The Royals' official website, royals.com, will offer several games. Also monitor mlb.com for possible additional coverage.
And, as always, we'll have extensive spring training coverage right here.
Let spring training begin.