KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas finally get to play a home opener for the Kansas City Royals.
The two prized infielders were part of an influx of young talent that matriculated through the minor leagues last season, ultimately arriving on the baseball’s biggest stage and ushering in what fans in the game’s backwater hope will be a new era of success.
Hosmer hit nearly .300 while flashing raw power to spare after getting called up in early May, while Moustakas came on late in the season and showcased a stingy glove at third base.
Both played their first opening day on the road last weekend, but they’re even more eager to take the field at Kauffman Stadium this afternoon against the Cleveland Indians.
“It helps having a week under your belt and all that,” Hosmer said Thursday, “but it’s going to be the first home opener for me, and it’s going to be a little like the debut last year.”
Moustakas was expecting “a lot of fans, a lot of noise, a lot of excitement in the air.” ‘’I’ve never had an opening day at home or on the road. This is my first one,” Moustakas said. “I absolutely appreciate it. Any time you get to play your first home game in front of your home fans, it shows that you’ve been out there working hard.”
The Royals won’t have all their fresh young faces available.
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a strained left groin that he sustained while running into an outfield wall in Oakland earlier in the week. Catcher Salvador Perez is already recuperating from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
The injuries haven’t put a damper on the spirit surrounding the Royals, though.
Part of that has to do with an encouraging road trip to start the season.
The Royals went into Los Angeles to face Albert Pujols and the mighty Angels in the official opener to the season. After getting blanked their first time out, they rallied behind some stout starting pitching to take the next two games and the series.
Kansas City dropped a 1-0 decision in the series opener against the Athletics, but rebounded behind newly acquired starter Jonathan Sanchez to take Game 2. The Royals were on the cusp of taking another series when they took a one-run lead in the top of the 12th inning of the finale Wednesday night, only for closer Jonathan Broxton to blow the game in spectacular fashion.
He plunked A’s cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes to load the bases, and then drilled Jonny Gomes on his very next pitch to send home the winning run.
“He just lost command of his fastball, but he’s a two-time All-Star,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, dismissing any notion that Broxton would be affected by the late-game meltdown.
Yost also dismissed any notion the rest of the Royals would have a hangover.
Kansas City had the day off Thursday, though a workout at Kauffman Stadium had to be squeezed in while rain pelted the metropolitan area. Once players cleared the field, the tarp was rolled into place over the infield — a tough way to head into the opener, if you believe in karma.
The day off allowed the Royals to reset after the way their trip came to an end.
“We had our opportunities,” outfielder Alex Gordon said, “but 3-3 on the road isn’t bad and I know we’ll win those games down the road.”
Luke Hochevar will get the assignment of the home opener for Kansas City after a dazzling first turn in the rotation. The former first-round pick allowed two runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Angels, out-dueling Dan Haren in a 6-3 victory.
Even though Hochevar is considered the ace of the rotation, Yost had him start the second game of the season because he wanted Hochevar on the mound for the home opener.
“It’s the first time we play at home, in front of our home crowd, at our ballpark. That’s a special game regardless of where it is in the season,” said Hochevar, who had a breakout campaign last season. “I don’t think you can ignore it. I think you embrace it.”
Hochevar doesn’t think he’ll be rattled by the assignment, even though a bunch of festivities are planned before the game — including the awarding of Gordon’s first career gold glove.
“It’s a special day. All the stuff that goes on before the game, the fly over — if it doesn’t give you goose bumps, you may not have a pulse,” Hochevar said. “That’s why I embrace it.”
Yost doesn’t necessarily have quite the same take on the home opener.
The sometimes surly manager has been through enough of them that he’d rather get on with the grind that comes with a 162-game series. Yost isn’t one for pomp and pageantry.
In fact, he bristled when asked for a favorite opening day memory.
“I just want opening day by us. I just want the first opening day, get it done with, so we can get about our business,” Yost said. “You just want to start in with the process of playing every day. Once it’s over, everybody’s glad. Now you can get down to it.”