KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whit Merrifield is ready to take on a leadership role with the Kansas City Royals, and he made it clear Thursday he has expectations for the team going into the new season.
“We expect to be in the playoffs, and we expect to be playing in the fall and get to the playoffs. Anything can happen,” the Royals outfielder said.
After a few seasons of rebuilding, Merrifield said he wants to worry less about development and worry more about winning games.
And the signs are there for winning as the team starts camp in Surprise, Arizona, but the Royals will have to make sure they don’t get off to a slow start this year.
“Hopefully we can break camp with more than two starting pitchers,” Merrifield said. “Hopefully we’ll have Hunter Dozier in the line-up. Hopefully Salvy’s eyes are good, and hopefully we can have late-in-the-year Mondi come out of the gate. We do those things, and watch out — we’re coming in hot.”
Merrifield’s been a versatile player throughout his career, playing many games at second base for the Royals over the past few years, but this offseason was about focusing on playing more in the outfield.
“I was so programmed these last couple years to get the ball in and out of my glove as quick as I could that I still have a good arm, it was just short,” he said. “So this winter, I worked on getting my feet back under me, almost slowing my arm and my body down to let my arm get back to that carry.”
And for a man nicknamed ‘Hit’ Merrifield, with the re-introduction of in-game video, it will only help his already steady approach at the plate.
“I really felt good about where I was last year, and I’m looking to take that into this next year,” Merrifield said.
And he’s been taking lessons from Alex Gordon to become a leader of the team now that the Royals star outfielder has retired.
“He was giving it 100% and doing everything he had to do that day to put himself in the best situation to be successful,” Merrifield said, “and that’s the main thing I’m going to carry from him that I’m going to take forward.”