SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Count Royals manager Ned Yost, an old catcher, as very impressed with 20-year-old catcher Salvador Perez.

The book on Perez, the Royals' top catching prospect after Wil Myers was switched to the outfield, was that he's probably two years away from the Major Leagues.

Maybe.

"I think he's real close to being ready to catch in the big leagues right now," Yost said.

OK, that's not a very likely development immediately, even though Yost on Tuesday declared the catching spot "wide open" in the absence of veteran Jason Kendall, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.

The other three catchers on the 40-man roster are the largely untested Brayan Pena, Lucas May and Manny Pina. Perez, who has not played above Class A, is in his first Major League camp.

So Perez is likely to start the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. But, if the Royals were to get in a midseason pinch for a catcher, might Yost put out a call for Perez?

"I wouldn't hesitate for a second," Yost said.

Yost likes Perez's quick, strong arm, the way he blocks the ball and his leadership qualities. His drawback has been offense but he made good progress last year.

"There's a lot going on with that kid -- all positive," Yost said.

But don't look for him on the Opening Day roster in Kansas City.

"I mean I don't see Salvador Perez making the big league team, but he's getting closer," Yost said.

Royals' position players get head start

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals manager Ned Yost counted the noses of his pitchers and catchers on Tuesday and declared: "Everybody that's supposed to be here is here -- and a lot more."

He got that right. Even though the 15 infielders and nine outfielders aren't scheduled for their first workout until Saturday, most of them seemed to be in action on Tuesday.

Dressed informally in T-shirts and shorts, there were 12 infielders taking ground balls being struck by four coaches -- Brian Poldberg, Mike Jirschele, Glenn Hubbard and Frank White virtually simultaneously on the same field. Not to worry, each hit fungoes to one of the four infield positions.

Included were the new starting shortstop, Alcides Escobar.

On another field, coaches Doug Sisson and Rusty Kuntz had a half-dozen outfielders shagging fly balls. They included the new right fielder, Jeff Francoeur.

Yost honors Earnhardt by wearing No. 3

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's a different uniform number this year for Ned Yost. The Royals' manager has switched from No. 2 to No. 3.

That's the same number he wore as Milwaukee manager, honoring his late friend, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. The switch was made by equipment manager Jeff Davenport immediately after shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt was traded to Milwaukee, vacating No. 3.

"Davvy was on top of it," Yost said. "As soon as he was traded, he called and said, 'Do you want 3?' And I said, 'Yeah, just give it to me.'"

New shortstop Alcides Escobar takes over No. 2. Other newcomers and their numbers include Jeff Francis, 26; Vin Mazzaro, 32; Melky Cabrera, 53, and Jeff Francoeur, 21. Lorenzo Cain, the center fielder who came in the Zack Greinke deal, gets 6 and he's already been warned by its former owner, Willie Wilson, that he expects a lot.

There's no sentimentality involved for long-term favorites who were traded. Outfielder Derrick Robinson takes over David DeJesus' No. 9 and infielder Jeff Bianchi was assigned Greinke's 23.

Royals sign Dominican right-hander

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals have signed right-handed pitcher Darwin Castillo, 18, out of the Dominican Prospect League and he's reported to the Surprise complex.

Rene Francisco, the Royals' specialist in international operations, said that the 6-foot-5 Castillo was born in New York but spent the last two years in the Dominican Republic, where he was a DPL all-star.

"He's not a hard-throwing guy but more of a pitcher who throws strikes," Francisco said.