Olivo could see time in left, at first base
Manager Hillman looking to increase team's versatility
KANSAS CITY -- Miguel Olivo came to Kansas City in the offseason expecting to be the Royals' starting catcher. Royals management saw things differently, however.
Olivo has only caught a handful games this season, but his bat has caught manager Trey Hillman's attention. Olivo entered Saturday batting .286, and is tied for the team lead in home runs with three, and fifth in RBIs with eight.
He's done all that playing in just 11 of the team's 23 games, and Hillman has started looking for more ways to get Olivo into the lineup. The early consideration was left field, but Olivo is now being talked about in the team's first base plans.
Hillman has said he would give Olivo consistent work at first in case he needs to utilize him there.
"He's done it before, [although] not with any regularity," Hillman said.
You can say that again.
According to Olivo, he has only played first "a couple of innings" with the Marlins when a double switch forced him into action, and never played there in the Minors or as a kid.
"I always play catcher," Olivo said.
Olivo said he will do what it takes to get into the lineup and get more at-bats, but he's clearly not enamored with the idea of playing anywhere other than behind the plate.
"I don't feel comfortable nowhere," Olivo said. "I just feel comfortable catching.
"I'll do whatever. I'm fine," he quickly added.
Hillman cited Mark Grudzielanek's recent injury and the possibility of extra innings as two reasons for needing additional lineup and bench flexibility.
The Royals already have a good deal of flexibility. Mark Teahen has played both corner outfield positions this season. He spent his first two years with the Royals as a third baseman and has also logged some time at first.
Ross Gload has made most of the starts at first this year, and he can also play in the outfield.
Billy Butler's ability to play first has given Hillman more flexibility in his use of the DH. Grudzielanek first came up as a shortstop and could potentially move there in a pinch.
And that doesn't even count the two true utility men on the Royals' roster. Esteban German played a significant number of games at second, third and the outfield in 2007. Newcomer Alberto Callaspo has played both second and shortstop this season and can also play third.
Hillman hopes he can translate that flexibility into a more potent offensive attack. His team currently ranks in the bottom half of the American League in most offensive categories.
Kansas City is last in home runs with 11. Slow-starting Detroit, with a similar won-loss record, has hit 27 home runs. The Royals also rank last in runs scored and walks and next-to-last in doubles.
It's easy to see why Hillman is looking for more ways to get Olivo's bat into the lineup. He just wants to do it without sacrificing the defensive skills and game-calling of regular catcher John Buck.
Max Utsler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.