2/26/2014 4:17 P.M. ET
Aoki will face countryman Darvish in spring opener
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When Norichika Aoki leads off the Royals' first inning in their Cactus League opener Thursday, he'll be swinging against his Japanese countryman, Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish.
They have not faced each other in the Major Leagues but Aoki remembers going against Darvish in Japan. How did he do?
"So-so," Aoki said. "He was in a different league so I didn't really face him too much."
Aoki played from 2004-11 for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Japan Central League; Darvish had a seven-year career with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Pacific League.
"It seems like he's gotten better since he came over here, too," Aoki said.
Darvish has faced the Royals twice in regular-season competition with a 1-0 record and a 1.93 ERA (three runs in 14 innings). Omar Infante, coming over from the Tigers, has had the most success of the Royals regulars against Darvish, with three hits in six at-bats.
Yost, other managers meet to sort out replay rules
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals manager Ned Yost and other team skippers met Tuesday with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, who represent Major League Baseball, on the new instant replay procedures.
After the two-hour meeting, Yost and team officials were continuing to ponder how to approach the replay, which has been widely expanded beyond the home-run replays used since 2009. Now managers can challenge many types of plays subject to TV replays.
"We do have a plan but there's going to be a little ironing-out process I think," Yost said. "You're going to get one challenge before the seventh inning and if you get it right, you get another one. So there's going to be some strategy involved there if you want to use that challenge in the first or second inning. And if you do, you better darn sure be right that it's a conclusive outcome. But we'll see how it'll all work out."
The system being put in place is supposed to be quick-responding so the flow of games is not disrupted. So when a manager goes out to question a call, he can get word from the bench quickly on whether or not a challenge is prudent.
"That's what they keep telling us and I hope they're right," Yost said.
Yost said the Royals will have non-uniformed personnel monitoring the calls on video.
"We're going to have guys [who] that's going to be their job. They're going to sit and review the video with the replay computer system that they've set up -- it's a whole new system just for replay and it'll be installed in every video room, home and the road, for each team. We'll have somebody manning that," Yost said.
"If you've got something that you think you want to review, you go out and discuss it with the umpire until, hopefully, you can have somebody look at it real closely."
It'll take some study for the teams to learn which plays can or cannot be challenged.
"There's like a page of stuff that can be challenged and four pages of stuff that can't be," Yost said. "You can't challenge catch-no catch in the infield, you can challenge a hit by a pitch if the umpire calls a foul ball, but you can't challenge a ball when you think a guy intentionally ducks into a pitch."
On the so-called "neighborhood play" at second base where an infielder gets the out even though he doesn't really tag the bag, because a runner is bearing down on him but is "in the neighborhood," no challenge is allowed on the theory that it's an injury-avoiding precaution.
"But you can challenge the play if there's not a runner bearing down on you so that kind of eliminates it being a neighborhood play," Yost said.
Things could get complicated at times, too.
"If you have multiple challenges, which is possible, say at first and second, you can challenge multiple calls on the same play. And opposing managers can challenge the same play," Yost said. "So it gets a bit confusing but once we see it in action, I think it'll simplify itself a little bit."
The system will be tested in five of the Royals' Spring Training games.
Pitcher Cleto claimed off waivers by White Sox
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto has been claimed off outright waivers from the Royals by the White Sox.
Cleto was designated for assignment on Feb. 17 to make roster room for outfielder Jimmy Paredes, who was claimed off waivers from the Orioles.
In parts of the last three Major League seasons with St. Louis, Cleto had no record and a 10.34 ERA in 13 relief outings. Although he gave up 18 runs on 25 hits, he also had 26 strikeouts in just 15 2/3 innings.
Cleto, 25, had a 1-2 record and a 3.55 ERA in 19 games for Triple-A Omaha last season.
Yost intrigued by possibility of overseas play
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will open their championship season with two games in Australia on March 22-23 in what's becoming an annual foreign trek for Major League Baseball.
Would Ned Yost like to take his Royals on such a jaunt?
"I haven't really thought much about it," Yost said. "I think it's great for the game that they can go to Japan, they can go to Australia. Logistics-wise, it makes it a little tough because, again, we're ramping up for Opening Day. And once you get into Opening Day, you know it's full-go. It is absolutely full-go from the first day to the last day."
However, the two teams will return from Australia and still have Spring Training games to play -- five for the D-backs, three for the Dodgers -- before resuming the regular-season schedule.
"In these circumstances, you ramp up for Opening Day and you play two games that count and you come back and you play four that don't. So it's a bit of a roller-coaster ride there for them. And that's the tough part," Yost said. "But these guys are all professionals and they'll do a good job with that."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.