Yost: Youth will be served for Royals in '12
Skipper doesn't foresee any big deals, confident in team's talent
DALLAS -- With things so quiet for the Royals that even a decent trade rumor was difficult to stir up, Tuesday was a good time for manager Ned Yost to ponder the players he already has on the roster.
Yost's turn to field questions from reporters on the Major League managerial carousel came in late afternoon at the Winter Meetings in the press room at the Hilton Anatole hotel.
No surprise that the first query was about the possibility that Joakim Soria might be tried as a starting pitcher now that the Royals have signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. Yost left no doubt about his view on Soria's role.
"Closer, he's our closer," Yost said firmly. "He's been very successful in that role, he's tailor-made for it. He doesn't get excited, he doesn't panic in tough situations and continues to throw strikes. There were some mechanical issues last year in his delivery which got him to a point where he was elevating his pitches, and when he got those smoothed out he was back at the knees on the corners, impeccable control. So he's our closer going into next year."
There's no switch planned, such as the Rangers' announced move of closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Yost did add an escape clause, however.
"Can Soria go back and be a starting pitcher? Yeah, absolutely. We think he's durable enough, we think he's got the pitches to do that, but right now we like him where he's at," he said.
No blockbuster deals are seen in the Royals' future. There are more modest possibilities, such as a deal for a left-handed relief pitcher who could specialize in facing (and presumably neutralizing) left-handed batters.
"Situational guy, somebody to match up with [Tim] Collins in the 'pen. You know, the thing about Collins, he's very durable, he's a guy that can pitch multiple days back-to-back-to-back," Yost said. "I'm looking at Collins as more of a one- or two-inning guy. I'm looking for a guy that maybe in the eighth inning and there are two or three lefties up in a row, we can start the inning with a lefty and have Broxton or [Greg] Holland finish the inning off and just look for ways to try to keep Broxton and Holland strong and healthy all year."
A major move of the offseason was trading center fielder Melky Cabrera to the Giants for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. That left the middle of the outfield open, although Lorenzo Cain -- an acquisition in last winter's Zack Greinke trade with the Brewers -- is the front-runner in center field.
"Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson will be the two going into it as we sit here today. Dyson can do a lot of things for you off the bench, can pinch-run, tremendous defender in center field," Yost said. "We think a lot of Cain's defense in center field, too. We think it's going to be a bit of an upgrade. And we think he's going to hit."
Yost is prepared, however, to nurse Cain through the difficulties of a Major League learning curve, such as third baseman Mike Moustakas and second baseman Johnny Giavotella encountered in 2011 as rookies.
"But in talking to Dale Sveum, who was the hitting coach in Milwaukee when Lorenzo was there, he was very impressed with the kid's ability to make adjustments," Yost said. "When the league adjusted to him, he in turn made adjustments back. He swung the bat very, very well for them, put up really good numbers last year in Triple-A. And I'm excited to give him an opportunity and see what he can do."
The only other position that might be unsettled is second base, where Giavotella and Chris Getz are candidates. Yost, at this point, is inclined to go with Giavotella despite his limited range defensively.
"I think Johnny has got the upper hand in that job. He's recovering really, really well from his [hip] surgery," Yost said. "I don't know how much that hampered him last year -- he never said a word about it. ... I don't know how much that affected his range last year, but we thought it was a good experience for Johnny coming in and getting close to two months in the big leagues.
"He'll come into camp along with Getz, and I think he'll get the majority of the playing time at second base. But Chris Getz is a valuable piece to our infield, too, right now."
Yost was asked about his young catcher, Salvador Perez, who was called up in mid-August, and the manager didn't hold back.
"This kid is the best young catching prospect I've seen. I mean, we didn't have any in Milwaukee. We had Javy Lopez in Atlanta, and Javy was spectacular," Yost said, drawing on his earlier coaching and managing stops. "This kid is better in my estimation as a total package. So yes, I've got all the confidence in the world in this kid, and I just think he's going to be a tremendous player when it's all said and done. I think he's going to be a Gold Glove, I think he's going to be an All-Star player."
In fact, as the interview wound down, Yost happily exhibited his enthusiasm for his entire young club.
"These kids think they can win. You know, they know they're going to win. They know it. They feel it -- their attitude tells you that they feel it. I mean, at the end of the year last year, I was really impressed with the way that they were so focused on finishing the year out strong and taking momentum into next year," Yost said. "These kids, they've got a plan and they know what they want to accomplish and they know how they're going to go about accomplishing it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.