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Royals no longer in developmental mode

The SportsXchange

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Kansas City Royals cracked the window last year with 86 victories, their most since 92 in 1989, and their first winning season since an 83-79 record in 2003.

But for a small market club, like Kansas City, that window does not remain open long.

They are no longer a young or inexperienced club. Their top four starters -- right-handers James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie and left-handers Bruce Chen and Jason Vargas -- range in age from 31 to 36.

Manager Ned Yost points out even the Royals' younger players -- catcher Salvador Perez, 23, first baseman Eric Hosmer, 24, and third baseman Mike Moustakas, 25 -- have two to three years experience in the majors.

The Royals are no longer in a developmental mode.

When they sent outfielder Wil Myers, the 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, to the Rays for veteran Shields as part of a six-player trade before the 2013 season, the message was clear: the time to win is now.

Shields can bolt after this season, eligible for free agency, so the Royals' window of opportunity is present.

Yost was asked if he would keep either left-hander Danny Duffy and/or right-hander Yordano Ventura, who are projected to be rotation mainstays in the future, as relievers if they don't earn a rotation spot in spring training. Or would it be better for one or both to begin the season with Triple-A Omaha, polishing their game and slowing down the arbitration and free agent clock.

"It just depends," Yost said. "Here's our focus, at the end of spring training, we're going to put together our best pitching staff that we can assemble.

"If that means one of these young guys we feel makes our pitching staff better in the pen, we're going to do it."

Right-handers Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis are also competing for a starting job. Hochevar worked exclusively out of the bullpen last year for the first time in his career, while Davis began 2013 in the rotation but ended it as a middle reliever.

"If its Hoch or Davis or whatever and we feel our best pitching staff is with them in the pen, we're going to do it," Yost said. "Right now there are too many things that have to happen before we come to those decisions."

But the decision will be largely based on the Royals are at this time in a window where they could be a champion or a contender, not a chump. That window began last year with the arrival of Shields, but could close sooner than later.

"Look you've got short windows," Yost said. "There are not a lot of teams out there like the Braves that have won 14 consecutive division championships.

"Windows tend to be two, three, four years long. I think when you get in those windows, you better take full advantage of it. Does that make sense?"

It is clear as a window after being washed.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- OF-IF Jimmy Paredes was claimed Monday off waivers from the Orioles. The Royals will be his fourth organization since the end of last season, which he finished with the Astros. He was claimed in November by the Marlins off waivers. When Miami put him on waivers, the Orioles plucked him, but two days later the Royals claimed him off waivers. Paredes hit .192 in 135 plate-appearances last season with Houston. Paredes, who has one minor league option left, arrived Wednesday at the Royals' camp.

-- RHP Maikel Cleto, was designated for assignment after the Royals picked up OF-IF Jimmy Paredes off waivers from Baltimore. Cleto had a 3.55 ERA in 38 innings last season with Triple-A Omaha.

-- C Francisco Pena is in his first major league camp with the Royals, but not the first time in the Royals clubhouse. "I used to run around here when I was 11-12 years old," Pena said. He is the son of Tony Pena, who managed the Royals to a 198-285 record from 2002-05. "I'm glad to get the opportunity to come back," said Pena, who hit .257 last season for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Mets' system. This time it is as a player, attempting to win a backup job to All-Star C Salvador Perez.

-- RHP Jon Rauch and LHP Tim Collins are the Mutt and Jeff of major league baseball. Collins is listed at 5-foot-7. Rauch, a non-roster invitee, is 6-11, the tallest player in big league history. So naturally, the Royals put their spring training lockers next to each other.

-- RHP Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' 2012 first-round pick, is in camp as a non-roster invitee, but the club is going slow with in spring training. He was shut down last August with shoulder stiffness and had similar discomfort in January while throwing. The Royals opted to hold him out of games until mid-to-late March.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't want 90 (victories). I want 100," -- SS Alcides Escobar on the 2014 season.
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