Kansas City manager Ned Yost may be loyal to a fault.
Yost likes to give his guys a long rope when they’re slumping, but his belief in veteran second baseman Omar Infante goes above and beyond the call of duty.
You almost have to shield your eyes right now when Infante is at the plate. The 33-year-old had a decent 2014 with a career-high 66 RBIs — that’s a lot for a second baseman — but you have to wonder if the Royals squeezed out his last good year.
He’s currently hitting .204 and mired in an awful 5-of-62 slump. Worse, he has walked only three times all year and pitchers are getting him out easily with offerings off the plate as he’s so anxious he’s swinging at a lot of balls out of the strike zone.
Waiting in the wings is former No. 1 draft pick Christian Colon, who should be making a major contribution by now. He was drafted fourth overall in 2010 out of college and you’d think at 26, he should be a starter. Kansas City passed up some quality players to take him, the reason being at the time they knew they could sign him since the pick was considered a bit of a reach and the Royals were in a penny-pinching mode.
Colon was serviceable earlier in the season when Mike Moustakas was gone for nearly a week. He’s at .261 right now, but has only 69 at-bats, which is still a small sample size. Fifteen of his 18 hits are singles, though he did show some pop in the minor leagues. He’s just never had that much of a chance with Kansas City, as Yost seems reluctant to trust him.
Yost came out Sunday and said he’s staying with Infante for the time being, hoping the veteran can work his way out of it. But since he’s been a virtual automatic out, along with the pitcher in the current interleague portion of the schedule, that’s two huge holes in the lineup. Then factor in that Alex Rios has been horrendous since coming off the disabled list, that means a third of the Royals’ lineup is no cause for concern. It’s no wonder Kansas City has been in what is now a three-week offensive slump.
The rub on Infante is that he’s owed id="mce_marker"7.75 million over the next two years and he’ll be 35 when his contract runs out. The Royals aren’t a franchise like the Yankees or Red Sox who can just eat that amount and not think anything of it. However if Infante’s still-excellent defense begins to drag down with his batting average, the Royals are going to have a quandary.
This is a trying time for the Royals. In addition to Infante’s offense having gone in the tank as well as the rest of the team, the starting pitching is a mess. Jason Vargas went back on the DL this weekend, Danny Duffy still isn’t back and Yordano Ventura is a total head case who can’t seem to make it through a game without some type of bizarre injury or a losing-his-cool incident. What happened to the Ventura who was so poised last year? He very seldom has a normal outing anymore.
Yet, the Royals still lead the American League Central, thanks in part to their 28-14 start. They have played five games under .500 since then and probably should be thankful it’s not more.
The Royals are teetering, but nobody seems to be able to knock them off their perch.