Second base may remain up for grabs
Callaspo, Teahen, Bloomquist could platoon all season
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Imagine this: The Royals could open the season without a second baseman.
But wait. Don't report them to the Abner Doubleday Society for flagrant disregard of the National Pastime's sacred rules.
In short, of the three candidates for the job -- Alberto Callaspo, Willie Bloomquist and Mark Teahen -- none of them may have the job sewn up tighter than a Rawlings ball by then.
Royals manager Trey Hillman conceded that the season could start without a designated regular at second base. The job might rotate a bit, at least at first.
"Yeah, it could change. We could go matchups," he said.
In all three of his candidates, Hillman sees a value in versatility. On Sunday, he had Teahen and Bloomquist split the game between second base and right field, and he had Callaspo take a turn at third base. On Monday, Teahen played right, Callaspo was at second and Bloomquist backed up at third.
"With all three guys," Hillman said, "whether they're starting at second base or playing another position or coming off the bench, it's a great situation with versatility.
"Going into the season, the selling point is going to be, hopefully, gaining the trust of the players that are included in the second-base mix -- that regardless of what their job is on any given day, they're still a key component to this club and winning ballgames."
General manager Dayton Moore is comfortable about the position.
"We're going to be fine at second base," he said, "it's just a matter of who Trey wants to put in the lineup on any given night. We'll just have to see how it plays out, but there's certainly enough depth there and enough quality there that we'll be fine."
Could all three be on the 25-man roster? Sure. And versatility is the key to that. Teahen and Bloomquist can play any outfield position. Bloomquist can back up at shortstop or anywhere else on the infield. Teahen is proven at third base and first. Callaspo could play third in addition to second and has some outfield exposure.
Teahen is the guy short on second-base experience, and his learning curve was interrupted when he left for 10 days to play in the World Baseball Classic.
Hillman is eager to see what Teahen can do.
"I'm really happy with what I've seen in Callaspo and Willie Bloomquist," Hillman said. "Mark Teahen I haven't seen as much of; the athleticism part for him is no-brainer. Could he do it? Yes. Is he going to have enough time to do it consistently enough to be able to get a lot of time at the start of the season at second base? I don't know."
Bloomquist is regarded as having more range at second base than Callaspo, a factor that could figure, because first basemen Mike Jacobs and Billy Butler aren't Gold Glovers. Teahen is just learning the position.
On the hitting side, Teahen can have an impact, as he showed Sunday with two home runs and a double. On Monday, he banged another homer and was hitting .455 (10-for-22). He's a left-handed hitter with good power, a guy who's been a regular at third base and in the outfield.
On the other hand, Bloomquist was always a backup, albeit a valuable one, in his seven years with Seattle. He's a right-handed hitter with little power and good speed. He was batting .314 (11-for-35) through Monday.
Callaspo, a switch-hitter, has a great knack for putting the ball in play. He seldom strikes out. With Mark Grudzielanek hurt, Callaspo finished the season as the Royals' second-base regular and batted .305. He's never hit a homer in his 153 Major League games, and he's relatively slow afoot. This spring, he's hit just .189 (7-for-37 through Monday) but, like both Bloomquist and Teahen, he had six RBIs.
"I'm trying to get my swing back, and we'll see what's going to happen," Callaspo said. "I feel good at the plate, but maybe I'm just trying to do too much, I don't know."
Although Callaspo played all winter in Venezuela, the Royals asked him to lose weight in the interests of quickness, and he said he's dropped five or six pounds. He's also lifting weights in an effort to add strength.
As a result, Hillman has seen an improvement in Callaspo's range at second.
Bloomquist was hoping for more action when he plays there.
"It's kind of been a weird spring, where I haven't had a lot of ground balls hit to me," Bloomquist said. "From a defensive standpoint, there haven't been a lot of opportunities, but I've made the ones that have been hit to me so that's all I can do. I think there was about a three- or four-game stretch when I didn't have a ball hit to me."
Teahen, while with Canada at the Classic, kept up his work at second base, but missed some Cactus League starts.
"I still think I've got plenty of time to get plenty of innings at second," Teahen said. "I definitely don't feel like I took any steps back, but it is good to get back here and get the work I need."
Occasionally, he gets instruction from White, the old master who is in camp as an instructor.
"He's always watching me, and he gives me a head's-up on this or that," Teahen said. "I definitely have enough eyes on me to make sure I'm doing everything right."
In fact, on Tuesday morning while Callaspo and Bloomquist were on a trip to play at Tucson, Teahen stayed in Surprise to work with White at second base.
"There's a lot of technical stuff he needs to get a feel for, and I'll give him some basic rules to go by -- basically just shortcuts like Cookie [Rojas] did for me when I switched from shortstop," White said.
It's certainly true that Teahen's every move at second is being scrutinized. In his first game at second, he made two errors and had trouble on a double-play pivot. And in his first outing after his return, he couldn't get to a sharply hit ball in the hole.
Duly noted and these are the things that Teahen will have to overcome. If he can't smooth things out by Opening Day, perhaps he can do it as part of some sort of rotation plan at second base.
Don't worry. Somebody will be there. We just don't know who. Or when. Or how often.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.