SURPRISE, Ariz. — The theme for the Royals in spring training this year seems to be ready for anything. That could mean roster moves, adding a player via free agency or trades, or some players stepping up when the inevitable injuries strike.
But if we look beyond what could happen and focus on what’s happening now, it seems the Royals are clear on one piece of the infield puzzle, at least for now.
Manager Mike Matheny acknowledged that the team is considering Adalberto Mondesi as its starting shortstop when the season begins.
“For our team to be as good as it can be, right now, it’s with Mondesi at short,” Matheny said. “Right now, being so early, everyone is talking about the best possible scenario. And we want Mondesi at shortstop. How often, we’ll see. We will be watching it.”
The news wasn’t entirely surprising, as the Royals entered the offseason trying to help Mondesi develop a training plan, hoping to help him stay on the field for the entire season. The 26-year-old played just 35 games last year after missing time with two strained obliques and a hamstring injury. He returned late in the season to play third base because Nicky Lopez was having a Gold Glove performance at shortstop, putting together a stellar middle infield key with second baseman White Merrifield.
Heading into 2022, the Royals hope to see Mondesi at shortstop, Lopez at second base and Merrifield in right field. That would give top prospect Bobby Witt a chance to make his major league debut as a third baseman and potentially give the Royals the best possible defense in the infield, as well as flexibility in the event of injury.
Mondesi said he is “open” to what the Royals want to do with him this year.
“I just want to play,” asked Mondesi. “I just want to feel good and help the team win. Wherever they want to put me, I’m going to play. I’m working on shortstop, but things can change. I’m getting ready for whatever they want to do. I just want to play. That’s it”.
Injuries have plagued Mondesi in every year he’s spent in the majors. When he is on the field, however, he has shown flashes of an electrifying player, with a mix of speed, power and elite defense. He just hasn’t been able to put all that talent into play for long stretches.
“That’s always the theme, wherever I am, it’s all about, ‘How do I stay healthy? How do I manipulate the work I’m doing to stay healthy?’” Matheny continued. “He spent the offseason training to play 162. Let’s see. But we also have to learn from what we have seen. How can we help? How can we keep it on the ground?”
Before the job shutdown restricted contact between team officials and any player on the 40-man roster, the Royals expressed interest in Mondesi spending part of the winter in Florida. There, he could work with special assignments coach Mike Tosar and implement the training regimen the sports science department had created to help Mondesi stay on the diamond.
But without that possibility on the table, Mondesi spent the offseason at home in the Dominican Republic but found a trainer in the Tampa area who traveled with him.
“We began to study my body, to see what was going to work for me and what wouldn’t,” Mondesi explained. “And from there, we started. I focused on things that I had never focused on. I feel healthy. I feel good. I’m ready to play”.
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“I just want to play.” Mondesi arrived healthy