This is a good year for the Royals to have baseball’s spring training return to a normal schedule after three years of shortened or revised calendars.
With a new manager, in first-year skipper Matt Quatraro, and several new coaching staff members, the Royals will use this time to get to know each other better.
“One thing I kind of underestimated is that it’s a big change for a lot of people, a lot of new faces,” Quatraro said. “I had all winter acclimated to that whole idea of change.
“It’s just being consistent, letting them know who we are and what things are important to us,” she continued. “And listening to what’s important to them. But it won’t be forced with meeting after meeting.
Quatraro opened the lines of communication soon after being hired in late October to replace Mike Matheny. The first call went to veteran leader and perennial All-Star Salvador Perez. Subsequently, the process has become a mixture of availability and location.
“I quite literally planned it based on time zones,” Quatraro said. “Who gets up early and who should I wait to call. … These were short introductory conversations. As the off-season has progressed, there have been follow-ups on what’s important and what they’d like to see come spring.
Quatraro spoke to reporters at the Royals’ spring training facility on Tuesday, a day before the pitchers and catchers officially showed up.
But most of the team worked at the facility for several days, with some clinching the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII victory Sunday in nearby Glendale. Quatraro, in his first major league executive job, was there for a week, and some players were here in January.
The new staff is the next step in the evolution of the Royals. The change on the court came in a big way in 2022, as 13 players made their major league debuts and 21 rookies appeared in games, tied for third most in franchise history. The team’s Les Milgram Player of the Year award went to infielder Bobby Witt Jr., in his rookie season.
Infielder Nicky Lopez, starting his fifth season, said he would open the year with a younger roster — the Royals had baseball’s third-youngest pitching staff and youngest positional group of eight players in 2022 , according to baseball-reference.com – brings a new approach.
“When I made my debut we had a lot of guys who knew they weren’t going to be here long term, a lot of guys who were maybe traders,” Lopez said. “But these guys who are here will stay. These core guys will be for a while. It’s exciting to know that this will be our team moving forward.”
The Royals’ emphasis on pitching will be evident as the field opens. There are 24 pitchers on the 40-man roster, the most executive vice president and general manager JJ Picollo can remember since he joined the organization in 2006.
“It was very intentional,” Picollo said. “Now, by keeping them all healthy and having healthy competition for the bottom two spots in the rotation and the bottom two spots in our bullpen, our pitchers know they need to be focused from the start.”