It may be bitterly cold in the Midwest, but baseball players have assembled in the warm sun of Arizona to begin light calisthenics and baseball-like activities to prepare for the 2021 season. Royals pitchers and catchers report have their first workout today and the first full squad workout will be on Monday, February 22.
Spring training will be a bit different this year, as we are still in a pandemic, but it will be great to have baseball back in any form. What do you need to know about Royals spring training in 2021?
Where is spring training?
The Royals host their spring training in Surprise, Arizona, about 40 miles northwest of Phoenix. They share a facility with the Texas Rangers and play games against 14 other clubs that train in Arizona. The Royals play games at Surprise Stadium, which seats about 10,500 fans. David Lesky shared his thoughts on spring training games, a restaurant guide, and a list of other things to do in Arizona here.
Who will be in camp?
The Royals are limited to no more than 75 players in big league camp, with minor league camp to begin in late March, due to the pandemic. In addition to players on the 40-man roster, the Royals have invited 29 non-roster invitees to camp, including veterans like Wade Davis, Ervin Santana, and Hanser Alberto as well as young minor leaguers like Bobby Witt, Jr., Asa Lacy, and Daniel Lynch.
What safety protocols have been put in place?
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic highlighted some of the measures put in place by MLB. Players need to quarantine at-home this week before reporting to camp, and are encouraged to take a COVID-19 test. There will be an intake screening that will include a test, with continuous testing every other day. Players will also wear a contact tracing device and are prohibited from certain indoor establishments, particularly with crowds.
Games that take place until March 13 will feature amended rules that allow innings to end without three outs being recorded if the pitcher has thrown 20 pitches. Substitution rules will be loosened, allowing pitchers to re-enter games, and managers can agree to decide to shorten games. Without minor leaguers available to plug into games, baseball has instituted these measures to protect their big leaguers.
When are games?
The Royals had to revise their schedule to accommodate safety protocols. The first game will be held on February 28 against the Rangers with the last game on March 29. The Royals will play 28 games in 30 days, and will have two days off before their season opener at home against the Texas Rangers on April 1.
How can I follow games?
Games are typically broadcast online at kcroyals.com and on the Royals Radio Network, airing on KCSP 610 Sports in Kansas City.
An official TV broadcast schedule has not yet been announced by Bally Sports Kansas City, the re-branded name of the television home of the Royals in 2021.
March 1 update: The television schedule is here!
Even when a television schedule is announced, games won’t be available for most cord-cutters. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Bally Sports Kansas City, has not reached agreement with the major streaming services such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Hulu, nor does it have a deal with DISH Network. Hopefully deals can be worked out by the start of the regular season, but Sinclair has a reputation for being a tough negotiator and some fans could be left in the dark.
Will fans be able to attend games?
The Royals have not yet announced ticket sales and are awaiting the city of Surprise to sign off on mitigation plans. Games are expected to have up to 25 percent capacity with physical distancing and face masks required unless eating or drinking. You can find the latest information on Royals spring ticket sales here when it become available.
Who should we watch for in camp?
The Royals were much more aggressive this off-season, adding several established players such as first baseman Carlos Santana, outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Michael Taylor, and pitcher Mike Minor. Fans will want to see if rookie pitchers Brady Singer and Kris Bubic can build off their impressive first season. Adalberto Mondesi is also an intriguing player to watch after a roller coaster season in which he looked awful to start the season, but hit like one of the best hitters in baseball at the end of the season.
Many eyes will also be on the young Royals prospects invited to big league camp. With no minor league season last year, fans haven’t had a chance to see pitchers Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, and infielder Bobby Witt, Jr. in well over a year. This will also be the first camp for infielder Nick Loftin and pitcher Asa Lacy, who were selected by the Royals in the draft last June.
What positional battles should we watch for?
The roster is much more set than in past years. Salvador Perez will catch, but there could be a competition on who will back him up between Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria. The infield is set with Santana, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, and Hunter Dozier, although veteran free agent Hanser Alberto could win some playing time with a strong spring. Benintendi, Taylor, and Whit Merrifield will man the outfield with Jorge Soler at designated hitter, but bench roles may be up for grabs with Nick Heath, Ryan McBroom, Erick Mejia, Edward Olivares, and Bubba Starling all competing for a roster spot or two.
The rotation will feature Brad Keller, Mike Minor, Danny Duffy, Brady Singer, and Kris Bubic, but the Royals could feature a six-man rotation to ease pitchers back into a regular workload. Veteran Ervin Santana could challenge for a spot, and top prospects Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar are also possibilities.
The Royals have not had a bullpen this talented since they broke up HDH, with Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, Kyle Zimmer, Jesse Hahn, and Greg Holland all coming off a strong season. The remaining bullpen spots may be up for grabs among many young Royals pitchers, although don’t discount the possibility of another veteran free agent joining the fray.