Royals start spring optimistic about playoffs
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Starting pitcher James Shields entered Royals camp on Friday wearing a shirt with the word "propaganda" on the front.
The Royals begin spring training with hopes of ending a 29-year-old playoff drought since winning the 1985 World Series.
"The Royals’ propaganda, I think we’ve going to have a really good spring training," Shields said. "I’m real excited to be here and get going. Hopefully, we can continue doing what we did at the end of the year last year.
"We’re in high spirits. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I think spring training is where it all starts. Our main goal this year is to go to the playoffs and win the World Series, bottom line. We don’t take anything for granted."
The Royals went 86-76 in 2013, their first winning season since 2003 and their most victories since 1989 when John Wathan managed the club to a 92-70 record.
They remained in the chase for a wild-card playoff berth until the final week of the season, but finished 5 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay for the final spot.
"I think our players were able to have some quality experience of being in a pennant race," general manager Dayton Moore said. "Prior to that, battling through a real tough May when the expectations were high, they battled through it."
The Royals lost 20 of 28 games in May and were six games below .500 at the All-Star game, but finished 43-27 after the break.
"Credit Ned (Yost) and the coaching staff getting through that tough time and got the ship righted and start very well," Moore said. "It was predicated primarily on our pitching and defense. I think that quality experience allowed them hopefully understand the rhythm of the Major Leagues, kind of the ups and downs."
The Royals welcomed 31 pitchers and six catchers, including All-Star and Gold Glove winner Salvador Perez, to the opening of spring training on Friday, but several have been at the Surprise complex for several days for volunteer workouts.
Although the reporting date for position players is not until Wednesday, several are already working out, including 2013 Gold Glove winners left fielder Alex Gordon and first baseman Eric Hosmer, designated hitter Billy Butler and newly acquired second baseman Omar Infante.
Spring training is no longer a six-week period for players to get in condition.
"Everybody comes in in shape," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They like to work. It doesn’t really get stale for them, so no need to really freshen up on anything. They’ll all been here for the most part. I told the position players not to come in tomorrow as they’ve been working hard down here.
"As a player I didn’t like standing around. I didn’t like doing things that I didn’t think helped us in anyway just to be doing things, so we try to eliminate all of that. Spring trainings have run really smoothly the last eight or nine years, do I don’t have to tweak it much."
Shields will be a big key to the Royals’ success this season.
He went 0-4 last May, despite his 2.92 ERA for the month. He was 4-1 in September with a 3.18 ERA to finish 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA.
"We know it’s a long season, 162 games in 181 days, that’s a lot of games," Shields said.
Shields, who pitched in the playoffs three years with Tampa Bay before being traded to the Royals after the 2012 season, believes this season could be longer, extended into October.
"Last year I compared the two teams," Shields said. "I’m not going to do that. We’re our own team now. We’ve established ourselves as a good team. I think the dynamic of this team is from top to bottom, whether its defense, base running, pitching, our bullpen and our offense, I think overall we’re really good. We just need to be able to put it together."