2/24/2013 4:11 P.M. ET
Getz, Giavotella again in battle for second-base job
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Second base, once again, is up for grabs in the Royals' camp.
So what skill sets, what traits, what nuances is manager Ned Yost assessing as he watches Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella?
"I know what I'm looking for," Yost said. "I'm looking for the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win every single day -- it's as simple as that."
"But I don't know," he continued. "Right now, quite frankly, I'd be happy to have either one of them playing over there."
The choice boils down to a player known primarily for his fielding ability, Getz, and a player known primarily for his hitting ability, Giavotella.
Giavotella believes he's getting better on defense.
"I'm working on all parts of my game, trying to become an all-around good player and, hopefully by the time my career is over, my defense will catch up to my offense and I'll be a well-rounded player," he said.
Ditto for Getz on offense.
"Offensively I still bring a lot, in terms of what I'm able to do -- handle the bat, make contact, put together good at-bats, the bunting game," Getz said. "Those skill sets are what you use to separate yourself from other people."
For the second consecutive year, Yost says he sees more "pop" in Getz's bat as the 29-year-old left-handed hitter matures at the plate.
"It wasn't like an offseason strength program last year," Getz said. "I did work hard but I think it was more adjustments with my swing to free up my hands. And it wasn't to create necessarily more power, like home runs, it was like the ball coming off the bat to create more offense in general."
Giavotella, as hard as he works, might never become as smooth and rangy as Getz around second base. For that reason, the right-handed batter must do better than he has in two partial seasons with Kansas City. His average in 99 games is .242, well below his .308 career mark in the Minor Leagues.
"I'm not doing anything differently at the plate," Giavotella said. "I don't think my lack of success in the big leagues is because of a mechanical issue. It's just a learning curve, an adjustment period that every player goes through. And I'm hoping with the experience I've had the last two years that it'll pay off this year."
Last year the second base competition also centered around Giavotella and Getz. As it turned out, Giavotella was sent to Triple-A Omaha and Getz wound up sharing the job with backup infielder Yuniesky Betancourt.
Eventually, Getz was hurt, Betancourt was released and Giavotella finished the season as the second baseman. It was a carnival ride, with twists and turns.
"This is a crazy game," Giavotella said. "It's not personal at all, it's strictly business, and you have to be ready for that call at any time."
In the final accounting, Getz started 55 games at second base, and Giavotella and Betancourt 43 games each (with Irving Falu 11 and Tony Abreu 10).
This Spring Training, in something of a reprise of Betancourt, the Royals have Miguel Tejada -- rich in history and savvy -- also available. Then there's Elliot Johnson, a middle infielder who was a prized backup for Tampa Bay. And hovering in the background are Falu, Christian Colon and Anthony Seratelli.
For now, though, it's the Getz and Giavotella show.
"It's almost the exact situation between me and Getz," Giavotella said. "I'm looking forward to the competition -- it makes me better. I was fortunate this offseason not to have to rehab anything. Last year I had my hip surgery so it makes it a lot easier to come in healthy, fresh and ready to go."
Getz's 2012 season ended with surgery on his left thumb, fractured while bunting on Aug. 17. He also missed 20 games with a lower leg strain and 17 games with a rib-cage contusion, playing in a total of just 64 games.
Both players have something to prove.
"Johnny's strength is offensively but he's really improved his defense," Yost said. "But the key is, Johnny's got to hit but we all know that he can. He hasn't proven that he can hit here -- he's going to hit here. He's just too good a hitter. But Getzy needs to stay healthy to establish himself. He's had the opportunity to, but he's never stayed healthy enough to be able to do it."
Getz has an advantage in speed on the bases. He had 21 steals for the Royals in 2011 and 25 as a White Sox rookie in 2009.
"I'm just as fast if not better," Getz said. "I've cleaned up even more mechanics in my running and I've focused on it more and more. I think I'm just starting to tap into a lot of my physical skills."
Giavotella at 25 is four years younger than Getz and is still trying to adjust to Major League pitching.
"It's definitely tougher, the competition is a lot better, the pitchers are a lot better," Giavotella said. "It's not an easy game and you've just got to take it with a grain of salt, trust in your ability and go out and have fun."
How about a platoon situation? Not likely. Getz, the lefty batter, actually hits left-handers (.270) better than righties (.253). And so far Giavotella, the righty batter, has been better against right-handers (.259) than lefties (.203).
"They're not platoon players because Getz hits left-handers and Gio hits right-handers," Yost said.
With the possibility that the loser of this duel will find himself playing at Triple-A Omaha -- both players have options left -- the competition is intense albeit friendly.
"Gio and I have become pretty good friends so we're just going to have as much fun with it as we can," Getz said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.