Royals' Alberto provides mix of versatility, emotion

Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Royals' Hanser Alberto throws to first base during a spring training baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on March 21.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In his first at-bat on Saturday, Kansas City Royals infielder Hanser Alberto swatted a sinker from pitcher Kohei Arihara toward the left field corner and went tearing out of the batter's box.

He slid across the dirt leading to second base, popped up like a jack-in-the-box with his left foot on the base and pointed to his teammates in the home dugout with both index fingers and a look of elation on his face.

Alberto — who started at third base in place of Hunter Dozier, who has a swollen right thumb — did the same two innings later after an RBI double in a three-run fifth inning that sparked a come-from-behind 11-4 win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.

His energy alone seemed capable of powering the entire ballclub, but he didn't have to do it alone. He simply provided the jump-start.

"He brings a lot of energy" Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor said of Alberto. "He's up there with (Jarrod Dyson) as far as chirping in the dugout. Obviously, he's a really good player. Every day he gives you good at-bats. He hit a couple doubles today to get us going."

Alberto's pure joy and excitement has only been part of the package the Royals added when they signed the 5-foot-11, 215-pound native of the Dominican Republic to a minor-league deal this winter. One of the pressing questions he had when he joined the Royals had nothing to do with playing time or positions.

"When I signed with these guys," Alberto said, "The first thing that I asked them was, 'Hey, can we be noisy in the dugout? Can I be myself?' They said yeah be yourself. They allow me to be (myself) and now I'm enjoying these moments. To me, keeping the dugout happy means a lot."

Alberto, 28, said it's always good whether playing defense or going to the plate to hit to have a "fresh mindset."

He takes pride in keeping a light atmosphere in the dugout, and he thoroughly enjoys celebrating with teammates whenever something good happens, regardless of whether he's in the game.

"My dad gave me that," Alberto said. "That high-level energy. I get it from my dad. He's always laughing, always happy, no matter the situation. I just bring that here."

Alberto took over in the field for Dozier later in Thursday's season opener, but he went 0 for 1 in his lone at-bat. Saturday, Alberto went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored in the win.

In the ninth inning, Alberto made a diving stop going to his left on a laser of a ground ball that looked destined to end up in left field. He scrambled to his feet and made a strong throw across the diamond in time to get Leody Taveras for the second out.

"That's what we've been talking about, take advantage of the opportunity, be ready for whenever the opportunity comes," Alberto said of getting inserted into the lineup. "I was just ready. When that happened (Thursday), I was ready in the dugout. ... Being around those guys, it's unbelievable. It's easy to go out there and have fun and be part of the team."

A former utility player who initially broke into the majors with the Rangers, Alberto has started games at all four infield positions. He performed well in his first chance to start regularly at second base for the Baltimore Orioles.

He started 181 games for the Orioles in the past two seasons, including 52 games in last year's 60-game season. He batted .299 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .413 slugging percentage from 2019-20.

"He's just a good ball player, all the way around," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "That ball into the hole right there, that play he made in the last inning, we've watched this now since the beginning of spring training. He just does a lot of little things well. I think that his offensive ability, a lot of times, it goes unnoticed. This guy takes a really good at-bat and he's dangerous.

"We needed him. He's the one who got us going today and he kind of broke through and gave us the opportunity to get a little momentum. He's just one of those players that loves the game, and it shows by how he plays it. It's infectious, there's no question."