Outlook: Escobar poised for rebound campaign in 2014

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is still going through the necessary paces as he improves from a sore right shoulder that has kept him out of game action for most of the spring.

It's all with the hope that he will be ready to open the season on March 31 in Detroit. There are only nine days left before the Royals break camp on March 26.

"You've got to be smart and make sure he's ready," Royals manager Ned Yost said on Monday. "[The injury] is not a big deal, but you're starting to run out of time. That makes it a big deal, but he's going to be fine."

This is what the Royals have in mind for Escobar this week: "He threw up to 105 feet and did real well today," Yost said. "After the off day, Wednesday we'll run him through a whole assortment of infield drills with throwing. If he feels good then we'll probably play him in a Minor League game on Thursday, a Minor League game on Friday. And if he passes both of those tests he'll start playing in a Major League game on Saturday."

Escobar has played in only three Cactus League games this spring because of the nagging injury. Last year, his third in Kansas City, Escobar played in 158 games, batted .258, and was the mainstay of the infield defense.

No question, the Royals are reacting conservatively with him right now because he's such an essential part of the puzzle. The Royals also have some wiggle room because they can't place anyone on the 15-day disabled list more than nine days before the start of the season, which in this case would be Friday.

But that wasn't the main reason for the delay in getting Escobar into a Major League game earlier.

"No, [head trainer] Nick [Kenney] wanted him to do some extensive throwing before we put him in a game," Yost said. "Me, I'd just throw him in a game."

Yost names Ventura as Royals' No. 3 starter

TEX@KC: Ventura fans six in stellar spring outing

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals manager Ned Yost said after Monday night's game that he's seen enough this spring from right-hander Yordano Ventura.

Ventura has made the team, is in the rotation and will start in the third slot behind James Shields and Jason Vargas, Yost said in one fell swoop.

"We knew this was probably the way it was going to go," Yost said after Ventura pitched six innings of four-hit ball in a St. Patrick's Night, 6-0, greening of the Rangers at Surprise Stadium. "After tonight I think we've just seen enough. There's no reason not to announce this now."

Yost said he likes the way the rotation sets up for the opening of the regular season on March 31 in Detroit.

"We've been looking at all of our different scenarios," Yost said. "I think we've got a rotation now. He'll fit right into that No. 3 spot. It just fits our rotation better to have Shields, Vargy, Ventura -- with power -- followed by Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen."

Yost said he had barely delivered the news to Ventura, the 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, who was a non-roster invitee to last year's spring camp and has made all of three starts, all of them for the Royals, in the Major Leagues.

Asked if his six strikeouts in six innings on Monday night and 15 in 15 1/3 innings this spring was good enough to make the club, Ventura said it wasn't up to him.

"That's not my decision," Ventura said through Chen, interpreting. "My job is to go out there and pitch well every time."

The jovial Chen, who is of Chinese descent, was born and raised in Panama and is fluent in Spanish.

Ventura won a competition with left-hander Danny Duffy, who will now be given a chance to win a spot in the bullpen, Yost said.

"He's got competition from two or three guys in that spot," Yost said. "Let's see how it all plays out."

Ventura has allowed only 10 hits, three earned runs and walked a single batter in his four spring appearances, three of them starts. He was sharp right from the get-go on Monday night, whiffing the first two Texas batters -- Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus -- on an array of 98-mph four-seamers and 84-mph curves.

He was stellar, walking none on the evening, hitting one batter and being charged with a balk.

Yost said he had mentioned something to Ventura about the decision before he left the dugout, but wasn't sure if he made it all that clear. But the decision was clear to Yost.

"It doesn't do any good to drag this stuff on," Yost said. "Really, after an outing like tonight, after the outings he's had all spring, it would look foolish if you continued to hold your cards close to your chest. So I decided to just go ahead and do it now. Everybody in Kansas City saw it today. It's so obvious."

Yost says Maxwell will make the team

LAD@KC: Maxwell's hard two-run single to take lead

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals manager Ned Yost said on Monday that outfielder Justin Maxwell is expected to make the team coming out of camp as a member of the 25-man roster that will open the season on March 31 in Detroit.

"He's going to be on our club," Yost said when asked what his plans were for the player Kansas City obtained in a trade with the Astros on July 31. "We'll just mix and match. We have two guys who are everyday players in left and right. Maxie will fill in, he and [Jarrod] Dyson."

Maxwell has earned his way onto the roster with a breakout spring. A lifetime .228 hitter, he's batting .419 (18-for-43) with a homer and six RBIs in 14 Cactus League games.

Despite those numbers, Yost was asked by a reporter to clarify that Maxwell had made the team.

"I mean, he's on the club for me right now unless something changes," Yost said. "With his spring, the way that he's trending upwards as an offensive player, I mean, he's really getting better."

Maxwell, 30, has bounced from the Nationals to the Astros to the Royals and has played in only 321 Major League games since the 2007 season. It's either now or never for him.

And certainly, he views this as a great opportunity.

"Yeah, I came over here in an exciting time for the Royals organization," Maxwell said. "We were in the hunt last year, and I think that gave us a lot of motivation in the offseason. Guys came in prepared. You can see all the work we're putting in right now. And I think come March 31 when we start up, we'll be ready to go."

The good spring numbers? They don't faze him.

"I don't really check the stats in Spring Training," he said. "I just try to evaluate each at-bat, try to have good timing, make good contact and try to get ready for the season. Any time you look too far into the future, you just lose touch with what's in front of you. You've got to keep that mindset by focusing on this pitch or this at-bat or this one play. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it's really true."