The Kansas City Royals came to spring training with a fresh face at second base in Omar Infante and one of the most respected defensive shortstops in the game, Alcides Escobar. They also came to camp with a thin roster of backup options for either position.
After two weeks of spring training games, the duo have yet to take the field at the same time.
Infante was no doubt brought to Kansas City to provide much-needed stability to second base. His offense is a huge plus, and the Royals will need him to take the field on a consistent basis given the lack of depth behind him.
The Royals will likely break camp with one backup infielder. Signs are starting to point to Danny Valencia being that infielder. Valencia has played third base in the majors and first base in the minors. He has also put some work in at second base this spring. When asked if he felt he could play shortstop, he had a few thoughts to share with MLB.com's Dick Kaegel:
Am I a Gold Glove shortstop? Who you gonna compare me with, a J.J. Hardy or an Escobar? Am I one of those guys? Probably not, but can I do the job and hold down the fort for a game or two games? I'm sure I can.
The Royals may need him more than they care to admit.
As Kaegel points out in another piece, the Royals have yet to put the tandem of Escobar and Infante on the field for a game. Both have battled sore shoulders, with Infante back on the field after working through his pain, and Escobar currently battling stiffness.
Spring training is a time for players to get acquainted with each other on the field, and some would argue that the relationship between a second baseman and a shortstop requires that work. The team needs the two men on the field, working together and getting a feel for each other's style.
Escobar has never struggled to stay healthy, playing in at least 155 games in each of the last three seasons. Meanwhile, Infante has had a harder time staying on the field. He has yet to play in more than 149 games in his 12-year career.
Come Opening Day, they need both men healthy. The alternatives are few. The team's success may be at stake.
Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
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Statistics in this article are from Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted