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Royals demote Nicky Lopez, Whit Merrifield to play second base

This could mean Kyle Isbel has made the team.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Royals have optioned infielder Nicky Lopez to Triple-A Omaha, and Whit Merrifield will play second base, according to Alec Lewis of The Athletic. Lopez had a rough spring, hitting just .118 with 13 strikeouts in 39 plate appearances. He was trying to re-work his spring to hit for more contact after hitting just .228/.279/.307 in 594 plate appearances over the last two seasons. Lopez was a Gold Glove finalist last year at second base, but at the outset of this season the job will belong to Whit Merrifield.

With Merrifield back at second base, that leaves an opening in right field, which would strongly imply that Kyle Isbel is making the team. Isbel has had a strong spring, batting .341, including a double in three tries in this afternoon’s game against the Rockies. Manager Mike Matheny said this week that Isbel was “in the mix” and that the team wanted to get a look at him in the last few exhibition games.

The Royals have also talked to Hunter Dozier about moving back to right field, particularly for when Bobby Witt, Jr. is ready to join the big league club. It is possible that Dozier moves to right field with Hanser Alberto to play third base. Either way, it looks like the offense should improve, and this is another clear indicator that the Royals intend to emphasize winning, rather than waiting for players to develop. Lopez may still have a future as a big leaguer, but the Royals don’t feel the luxury of spending an entire season waiting for him to figure it out.