Royals have reason to be optimistic

The Kansas City Royals' rotation, an Achilles' heel in recent seasons, has been overhauled with three starters acquired in the offseason. The offense has not one but two new hitting coaches, with Jack Maloof and Andre David replacing Kevin Seitzer. Two-time Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon leads a steady defense.

The Royals won a franchise-record 25 games in spring training and appear primed to have a winning record after losing 90 or more in eight of the past years. And, if one wants to dream a little, they have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since winning the 1985 World Series.

Manager Ned Yost thinks his club could be still being playing in October.

"I'm not going to predict the number of victories," Yost said. "I don't think about ceilings. I just think about being able to compete every day. That we come out day-to-day and compete and win a baseball game. I think we're going to be much, much better than we've been in the past and the reason for it is starting pitching. We've got speed. We've got pitching, not only in the starting department, but in the bullpen to end games out. We've got a tremendous athletic defense. We've got young hitters that are growing and becoming better and better every day.

"I don't know what our ceiling can be. But I think with this group we're definitely going to a win a world championship somewhere down the road in the next couple of years. That's just the way I feel. You probably ask every manager and they'll say the same thing. But this time I believe it."

The Royals not only hit a big-league high .335 in spring training, but topped the majors with 230 runs and 420 hits, while clubbing 38 home runs.

"There's a lot to like about this team," Yost said. "I think where we're at offensively now is more the team I envisioned it to be. A team that can score runs, that can drive the gaps and can hit the ball over the fence. I love the chemistry. I love the makeup. I love the enthusiasm that we have in our clubhouse. For me this could be the very first time I'm leaving spring training or had a team where I feel really, really good about every aspect of it. It's a nice feeling."