SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's always good to start with a laugh, and that's what the Royals did on Thursday as they embarked on their first full-squad workout of Spring Training.
Veteran pitchers James Shields, Brad Penny and Jon Rauch got it started by walking out to practice abreast with OLD GUY stitched on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names above the uniform numbers.
Then along came fellow pitchers Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar and Jeremy Guthrie wearing OLD GUY on their backs. But leave it to Guillermo Mota, 40-year-old non-roster right-hander, to provoke the biggest laughs. The back of his jersey read: REAL OLD GUY.
The gag began when Shields read a published comment on MLB.com by rookie pitcher Kyle Zimmer saying he was picking up tidbits from "the old guys" in the clubhouse. Shields, of course, chastised Zimmer in a bit of clubhouse comedy. Zimmer, the Royals' top-ranked prospect, tried to retreat with a "I was misquoted" defense.
"I thought I said 'older' guys," he said later with a smile.
Zimmer vowed, however, never to utter the word "old" in any context around the clubhouse.
No matter. It got the first full day of Spring Training and the official start of a long season off in a light-hearted way.
Cool wind greets Royals in first full workout
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A brisk wind roared across the complex on Thursday morning as the Royals' entire 60-player Spring Training contingent took the field together for the first time in 2014.
"Everything went well," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "Everyone had fun out there, it was organized, we got all the stuff done on time. It was good to put the baseball pants and the jersey back on and just get back in the flow of things."
The pitchers and catchers had their first official workout last Saturday. Most of the infielders and outfielders had been practicing voluntarily for several days as well, usually in informal attire of shorts and T-shirts.
The strong wind greeted the Royals when they emerged from a pre-practice meeting with manager Ned Yost and his staff about 10:30 a.m. MT. The temperature was 64 degrees after reaching 79 on Wednesday.
"That's how you prepare for April baseball -- get out there in the morning and get that wind out there," Hosmer said. "It was helping the batting practice groups because it was blowing straight out, that's for sure. That was a good thing."
Well, it was a good thing for Hosmer, who was hitting on Field No. 3, where the wind was carrying balls toward the outfield walls and the distant White Tank Mountains. But on Field No. 3, where pitcher Aaron Crow was pitching with the wind at his back and the batters hitting against it, there was an entirely different story.
"I can't control the wind; aside from that, it went great," Yost said.
There were few clouds and the wind abated somewhat in an hour or so with the temperature rising to 70.
Fielders faced a different challenge as they snagged ground balls off the fungo bats of coaches. The Arizona sun and turf tend to make infields quick and fast so the players' reflexes were getting an early demanding test.
"It's a bit of a challenge down here because the infields are fast, but I feel that we're a real athletic group and they can handle hard, fast, slow, whatever," Yost said. "It doesn't hurt to practice on a hard infield, but we try to keep it as soft as we can."
The Royals warmed up with running drills presided over by coach Rusty Kuntz. Fittingly, team speed king Jarrod Dyson led the sprints around first base as Kuntz yelled, "Stay close to the dirt, I don't want to see any wide turns."
Former stars-turned-instructors Mike Sweeney and George Brett leaned on their fungo bats near first base and helped Kuntz assess the progress.
A contingent of perhaps a hundred fans wandered past the practice fields as the busy workout continued for just over two hours.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.