SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Kansas City Royals pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on Tuesday, though the club didn't hold any formal on-field workout, and pitchers were told they didn't have to be at the facility.
Veteran left-hander Danny Duffy will report late to camp because of the recent death of his grandmother. He's not expected to arrive until Friday.
Wednesday's first workout for battery mates marks the start of a rapid plunge into baseball season — even for those still shaking off a Super Bowl hangover.
The first full-squad workout takes place in less than a week (Monday) and Cactus League play begins in a week and a half (Friday, Feb. 21).
The club didn't make any high-priced, high-profile splashes in the free-agent market this winter, but this year's camp will not lack position battles, position changes, question marks and new faces.
Here are a few of the most important things to track during camp as the Royals prepare for their regular season opener against the White Sox on March 26 in Chicago.
Return of Salvador Perez
Before last year, the Royals hadn't played an entire season sans Salvador Perez since 2010. Tommy John surgery in March wiped out the entire year for Perez, a six-time All-Star with five Gold Gloves, a pair of Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series MVP on his resume.
His return, the emergence of AL home run champion Jorge Soler, and the addition of third baseman Maikel Franco potentially give the club a significantly more formidable lineup.
It remains to be seen if Perez will be able to have as big an impact post-surgery. It's also uncertain how much the club will lighten his catching duties as he attempts to bounce back.
Dozier to the outfield
Hunter Dozier will follow up his breakout 2019 season with a move to right field. Though, the club has still left open the possibility that he could still play corner infield. Regardless of position, 26 home runs, 84 RBIs and a slash line of .279/.348/.522 will bolster a lineup.
Dozier's transition to the outfield, which started in the final months of last season, creates more flexibility. Perhaps having him as corner infield depth allows the club to be creative when making decisions on outfielders Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips.
"Dozier is a good athlete, he really is," Whit Merrifield told The Star during FanFest. "Right field is hard. Right field and left field, some teams seem to put their weaker athletes in the corners because it's less ground to cover. But if you're going to be good out there, the ball comes off the bat and does funny things.
"Dozier is a good enough athlete that once he gets reps in right field — if right field is where he's going to play — and he starts getting the feel for how the ball comes off the bat, he's going to be a good right fielder."
General manager Dayton Moore said during FanFest that shortstop Adalberto Mondesi's rehab from shoulder surgery was still on schedule for him to potentially be available to play on opening day. Mondesi spent the offseason rehabbing in the Kansas City area.
In a recent video update on Mondesi's rehab posted on the club's Twitter account, director of physical therapy/rehab Jeff Blum said Mondesi received clearance on Jan. 22 to play catch, take ground balls, and hit left-handed. He's being re-evaluated by doctors about every two weeks.
Mondesi showed flashes of his elite ability last season with 109 hits, 58 runs scored, 20 doubles, 10 triples, 43 stolen bases and 62 RBIs in 102 games. The 24-year-old also showed he's still got room for growth, posting a strikeout rate of 29.8% and an on-base percentage just below .300.
Who's on first?
While new manager Mike Matheny has expressed the utmost confidence in left-handed slugger Ryan O'Hearn's ability despite a largely dreadful 2019 season that included a demotion to Triple-A, O'Hearn will likely have to fend off Ryan McBroom at first base.
McBroom, who the Royals acquired via trade from the New York Yankees at the end of August, made his MLB debut and appeared in 23 games for the Royals in September. He posted a slash line of .293/.361/.360 in that stint. He's shown significant power in the minors last season. He hit 26 home runs in 117 games for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate.
Perez could also factor into playing time distribution at first base in his first season after Tommy John surgery, and Dozier could also be an option at first base.
Finding fifth starter
The search for a fifth starter will be intriguing alone, but the Royals have added a bevy of options to their overall pitching staff this offseason in the form of low-risk free agent acquisitions and non-roster invitees such as Trevor Rosenthal, Braden Shipley and Greg Holland. That's on top of re-signing Jesse Hahn and picking up Stephen Woods Jr. in the Rule 5 Draft. They also traded for Yankees reliever Chance Adams.
Ian Kennedy returns in the closer's role, while left-hander Tim Hill and right-hander Scott Barlow showed promise last season. Kevin McCarthy has had success in the past, while Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont have elite arms.
With Glenn Sparkman and Jorge Lopez ideally slated for relief roles, the configuration of the bullpen could be as interesting a quandary as any this spring.