Royals’ success hinges on ending injury epidemic…
Do you believe in omens?
News of reliever Brian Flynn’s bizarre mishap – falling through the roof of a barn, which resulted in a broken rib and three non-displaced fractures in his vertebrae – probably drew an exasperated eye roll from most Royals fans.
After all, it was just about a year ago when Jarrod Dyson suffered a strained oblique in the very first spring training game of 2016.
Dyson didn’t miss much of the regular season, but his injury seemed to foreshadow a wave of physical setbacks that contributed to an 81-81 finish.
And hopes for a bounce back in 2017 will hinge largely on the Royals having better health and luck.
So, come on, man, leave the high-risk chores to somebody else.
Anxiety levels around Kauffman Stadium are set to spike at any hint of disappointment this summer, as general manager Dayton Moore tries to squeeze one more playoff run out of a corps of pending free agents.
Moore continues to push financial boundaries, setting a franchise record for payroll (exceeding $140 million) while shoring up his roster with promising additions such as Jorge Soler and Jason Hammel.
None of that will matter, however, if mainstays such as Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain spend as much time on the disabled list as they did last season.
Moustakas, a veteran third baseman in the final year of his contract, played just 27 games in 2016 due to a fracture thumb and torn ACL.
Cain, a centerfielder who could also hit the open market next winter, missed more than two months with wrist and hamstring issues.
Departed closer Wade Davis, who was traded to the Cubs for Soler, was sidelined by elbow stiffness.
Left fielder Alex Gordon continued to play with a sore wrist and suffered through one his worst seasons as a professional, batting .220 with a .312 OPS and slugging .380.
Add it all up, and it’s actually fairly remarkable the Royals only finished eight games out of a wild card spot.
And maybe, if optimism is your thing, that’s reason to be hopeful.
Moustakas seemed to come of age during the 2014 playoffs and became an All-Star in 2015. During the early months of 2017, he clubbed seven home runs and six doubles in 104 at bats.
The absence of Cain was even more striking. Before he was shelved for good in September, the Royals posted a 58-45 record when Cain was in the lineup, but went 20-30 without him.
And it’s hard to imagine Gordon grinding through another dismal campaign, even if you expect him to experience the normal statistical regression of a 33-year-old outfielder.
If those three can perform up to standards on a daily bases, and the revamped pitching rotation proves to be reliable, Kansas City could again be playing meaningful games in August and September.
Is that too much to ask?
Cleveland appears to be the class of the American League Central, but with teams in the West and East carving each other up, the Royals and Tigers could find some wiggle room in the wild card chase.
So, consider this an open plea to Moustakas, Cain, Gordon and anyone else on Kansas City’s 40-man roster: Be careful out there.