by John Viril—
Royals manager Ned Yost declared George Kottaras the winner of the backup catcher job Friday. This decision completes the Royals 25-man roster for the season-opener on Monday, April 1.
The 29-year-old Kottaras won the job over Brett Hayes, who cleared waivers and accepted assignment to AAA Omaha. Yost told KCRoyals.com that Kottaras won the job in large part due to the advantage of having a left-handed bat to spell right-handed hitting starter Salvador Perez. “They both did a great job, both kids fit the bill nicely, The difference came down to a left-handed or a right-handed bat, and we opted to go with the left-handed bat.
“It was a coin flip. It was really tough. They both did a nice job behind the plate, both guys swung the bat really well.”
Kottaras also adds the flexibility of a pinch hitter with some power. Kottaras has slammed 24 HRs and a .421 slugging percentage in 592 career ABs spread over six major league seasons. Brett Hayes only hit 8 HRs in 332 career ABs and slugged a mere .361. The combination of more roster flexibility and a better MLB track record proved decisive for Kottaras despite a better spring OPS for Hayes (.931 vs. .848).
The Royals also finished Cactus League play Friday with a 5-1 victory over Cleveland. The Royals leave Arizona with a 25-7-2 record and the Cactus League title. Kansas City also had the best record of any major league team during spring training.
More importantly, Yost feels good about his club. The manager told KCRoyals.com, “I’m not bummed about anything. I don’t have any concerns. You always feel good, but you’ve got, inwardly, three or four guys you’re a little concerned with. I don’t have that this year at this point in Spring Training.”
Of course, all of those “good feelings” will only matter so long as the Royals keep winning when the games actually count.