Royals outfielder Jorge Soler hurts oblique, likely to miss opener

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals outfielder Jorge Soler will likely begin his first season in Kansas City on the disabled list after straining his oblique in a minor league game.

Soler, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in December for closer Wade Davis, hurt himself on a swing Sunday. Soler went for an MRI on Monday, which revealed a Grade 1 strain. He'll rest for five to seven days before slowly resuming baseball activities, meaning he'll miss the Royals' opener next Monday at Minnesota.

Soler missed nearly two months last season with a pulled left hamstring. He was sidelined for three weeks in 2015 with a left oblique injury, plus another month with a sprained ankle.

Royals manager Ned Yost also said Raul Mondesi will open the season as the starting second baseman. Mondesi won the job over Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert.

"Nothing is impossible," Mondesi said.

Yost told the 21-year-old Mondesi the news before an exhibition game against Oakland. Mondesi began the day hitting .378 this spring with a .622 slugging percentage, three home runs and two doubles in 19 games.

"For anybody who watched, it was definitely an obvious choice," Yost said.

Yost said when spring training began the prevailing thought was Mondesi would need more grooming in the minors after hitting .185 in 47 games for the Royals as a rookie last year. He often looked overmatched at the plate, striking out 48 times in 135 at-bats.

"We're trying something different and we're having the result," Mondesi said.

Mondesi said he has been focusing on recognizing pitches.

"(It's) something I didn't do last year," he said. "We're putting it in practice now and making good selection now, so I'm better now. I was swinging at everything last year, but now I feel better and more comfortable. We'll see what's going to happen."

Whether Mondesi will be able to maintain his solid offense during the season remains to be seen.

"We don't really care, honestly," Yost said. "The kid can impact a game in a lot of ways. I don't even look at the numbers. I knew this kid was talented. But he had to mature and grow up and believe in his abilities."

"As long as he realizes that all he has to do is do something every day to help us win a game. It's not about the batting average. It's about the defense. It's about the baserunning, maybe putting down a bunt. Maybe it's getting a hit and stealing second," he said.

The Royals will keep Cuthbert as a backup infielder while Colon and Merrifield are competing for the final spot as a utility player. Colon is a 2010 first-round draft pick and out of minor league options, while Merrifield has options left.

With Soler expected to be on the disabled list when the season starts, Paulo Orlando, who hit .302 last season, will probably replace him in right field. Terrance Gore will be the spare outfielder. Designated hitter Brandon Moss can also play the outfield.

Non-roster invitee Peter Moylan has earned the final bullpen spot. Moylan has a Tuesday opt-out clause if the Royals do not add him to the 40-man big league roster. Moylan was 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 50 relief appearances last season with Kansas City.

The Royals optioned first baseman-outfielder Peter O'Brien, who hit a Cactus League-leading seven home runs, left-hander Scott Alexander and outfielder Billy Burns to Triple-A Omaha. They assigned right-handers Al Albuquerque, Yender Caramo and Malcom Culver, lefty Eric Stout, catcher Zane Evans and infielder Humberto Arteaga to minor league camp.