The budding rise of the Royals

Updated: February 1, 2012, 10:19 AM ET
By Buster Olney

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Dozens of players in shorts and T-shirts navigated around each other in the weight room at the Royals' spring training complex Monday, like boats in a busy port. The right of way went to those in the midst of another set of pull-ups or a core exercise.

Spring training won't start for another three weeks for some of them -- longer, for others -- and there were 60 players at the complex, from major leaguers like Billy Butler to minor leaguers like Irving Falu.

David Lough had shared in the first hitting group of the morning, with Mitch Maier, Jarrod Dyson and Eric Hosmer, and Lough sprayed line drives over shortstop. He had wintered at his Ohio home, so there is a practical benefit for him to get to Arizona early -- to be outside. But he recalled that in the past, you might see only a handful of guys at the complex at the end of January.

Now there are 60 guys, an enormous turnout. Some, like Johnny Giavotella, are here because they have to be; Giavotella had some minor hip surgery and has been getting treatment. But a lot of the players are presumably absorbing at least some of the cost for food and housing to be here.

So many of them have played in the minor leagues together, and won in the minor leagues together, and there is a feeling among them that their time is coming in the big leagues. The Royals won 17 of their 29 games and ranked third in OPS in the American League for the month of September, as Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and others settled in.