02/13/2013 6:30 PM ET
Collins excited to play for Team USA
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
"I'm excited. You don't get many opportunities to play with a group of guys like that, besides the All-Star Game," Collins said. "To me, this is similar to an All-Star Game, so I feel to play with those guys at the same time on the same field is really an honor."
This isn't his first turn on a Team USA. He was one of six Royals Minor Leaguers to play in the 2010 Pan American Qualifying Tournament and had a 2.57 ERA in five relief appearances.
"That was fun and that's one of my favorite memories to share with guys that I came up to the big leagues with," he said. "This is on a higher stage and top-of-the-line baseball, so you can't get any better than that."
Collins won't have to travel far to practice on March 4 as Team USA will train at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. The first game is against Mexico, which has Royals pitcher Luis Mendoza on its roster, on March 8 at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Collins, who grew up in New England as a Red Sox fan, nevertheless was looking forward to playing for an old Boston nemesis, USA manager Joe Torre.
"He's one of the great managers, so he knows how to win and I'm sure that's what he's expecting us to do, is win, Collins said. "So it'll be pretty exciting to play for him -- although he was with the Yankees and beat our Red Sox quite a few times. But he's a winner."
Yost pleased with pitchers' early workouts
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- After the first two days of pitcher-catcher workouts, the Royals' Ned Yost is a happy manager.
"Everybody's gone through one round of BP -- a five-minute side and a five-minute on-the-mound session -- and to a man, they all looked tremendous," Yost said. "Everything we do is geared around their conditioning and getting them in shape to play baseball."
Among others on Wednesday, he watched starting pitchers James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis work against hitters in batting practice.
"You get everybody through it healthy -- that's the goal. And then you get 'em all through it healthy and throwing strikes and that's a real plus," Yost said. "And everybody, to a man, has felt really good when they come off the mound and they've all been banging strikes. So I'm pleased with all that."
Yost was asked if he sensed any difference in his pitchers this year because of the significant offseason upgrades to the staff.
"We're seeing much more consistency in the strike zone than we have in years past here, which is a real plus -- because it only gets sharper from here," Yost said. "But it's been pretty fun to watch."
Johnson joins large group of reserve candidates
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Elliot Johnson, the last piece of the Royals' trade with Tampa Bay, will join a large group of candidates for bench roles when full-squad workouts begin on Friday.
If the Royals go with 12 pitchers and one backup catcher, there will be just three spots for reserve infielders and outfielders. The in-camp contenders will include infielders Johnson, Miguel Tejada, Irving Falu, Xavier Nady, Brandon Wood, Christian Colon, Anthony Seratelli and the loser of the second-base battle between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. Potential extra outfielders are Jarrod Dyson, David Lough, Endy Chavez, Luis Durango, Willy Taveras and Nady.
Manager Ned Yost will do some tinkering as he evaluates the group.
"We're going to do a lot of stuff. Tejada's going to play third, second, short and first. Falu is going to play some outfield. Nady's going to play some outfield and some third and first in Spring Training," he said. "We're going to look at Elliot at second, shortstop, some in left and maybe a little in center -- just to see what we've got. Try to be as versatile as we can."
Johnson, obtained on Tuesday, is the player to be named by the Rays to go along with pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis in the deal for prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.
Yost sees Johnson as a possible fill-in for shortstop Alcides Escobar.
"He's a very solid, not flashy, but very solid player in all aspects of his game," Yost said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.