Infante’s a gamer, but Yost might need to consider other options
Royals second baseman Omar Infante is hurting. That is clear to everyone watching the Royals these days to see.
The latest in a series of injuries for Infante is an inflamed right shoulder that he has been trying to battle through since late August.
Last week, manager Ned Yost suggested that Infante probably was only at about 80 percent healthwise and that the inflammation likely wouldn’t subside the rest of the season.
Infante’s efforts to play through pain during this intense playoff push is admirable. No one is questioning his will to win. He is a gamer, and it is that quality that attracted general manager Dayton Moore to him last winter when Moore signed Infante to a four-year deal.
Infante fought through elbow and shoulder inflammation through almost all of spring training. He was nailed in the jaw with a pitch in early April, a frightening scene that narrowly missed having horrific health consequences.
Infante battled through a nagging lower back injury in May.
Through every injury, Infante has tried to play hard and aggressively. And now he is trying to contribute despite his shoulder issues, and judging by his baserunning lately, perhaps even more back issues.
The Royals missed a key double-play opportunity in the third inning Monday when J.D. Martinez rolled a hard grounder to shortstop Alcides Escobar. Infante’s throw back to first was late, which was startling, considering how hard the grounder was.
Yost, always quick to defend his players, said after the game that Infante’s throw had plenty on it. But a double play there seemed routine, and it would have limited the damage in the Tigers’ big six-run third.
And there may be other issues affecting Infante as well. He was thrown out over the weekend in New York trying to get from first to third on a single in the gap. He did not seem to be running at full speed. On Monday, he was thrown out on a ball to deep short that he normally would have beat out.
The question now becomes whether it is worth it to have an 80 percent Infante on the field as opposed to a healthier replacement.
At this stage, Yost’s options are not exactly great. The loss of Christian Colon (broken finger) handicaps Yost, who now must choose from recently acquired Jayson Nix or the long-forgotten Johnny Giavotella.
Nix would be a substantial upgrade defensively over the hobbling Infante, or Giavotella. But Nix isn’t likely to bring any offense to the lineup.
And at the very worst, the Royals need someone to provide offense. Since the All-Star break, Infante is hitting just .218 with a .560 OPS that is the worst in all of baseball (and yet Yost continues to bat Infante in the No. 2 spot, which is nothing short of baffling).
With so few games remaining and every play in the field and every at-bat critical, it might be time for Yost to make a tough decision on whom he plays at second base from here on.
At the very least, Infante certainly seems to need a break.