Starling Gets A Surprise Assignment

Outfielder stays back in extended spring training





KANSAS CITY—Instead of leaving for low Class A Kane County and the start of the Midwest League season, outfielder Bubba Starling stuck around for extended spring training in Surprise, Ariz.

The Royals opted to keep Starling, the fifth overall pick last year who received a franchise record $7.5 million bonus, back in a more controlled environment and warmer weather.

"It wasn't really a decision," Royals farm director Scott Sharp said. "It was one of those things of what's best for Bubba long term. It wasn't a performance-based decision, if he performed well or didn't perform well in spring training. It was all right, 'What do we have to do to put him in a position to succeed?' "

Starling, 19, never focused solely on baseball as a three-sport star at Gardner-Edgerton High in Gardner, Kan., where he also earned a football scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska.

"He only got 25 at-bats in the instructional league," Sharp said. "We just felt starting in Surprise, he's going to be on the field every day, getting the necessary work and reps in. In Kane County, early in the year you don't get a lot of work. You may play the games, but your BP is cut short on the field a lot because of the weather. We considered the weather. Going to a cold place, the Midwest League early in the season the weather is tough.

"You can create situations down here (that) you can't create in the regular season. If you want him to get six at-bats in a game in extended spring, you can do that. You can't do that out in the regular season."

Starling could make his Midwest League debut in May.

It's certainly not lack of talent that is keeping Starling in Arizona.

"I think Bubba surprised me a little bit," Sharp said. "He just did so well the second half of spring training. Just to see him really start to get traction was good. His ability certainly doesn't surprise me. He's starting to make in-game adjustments and bat-to-bat adjustments. That's surprising."

ROYALTIES

• The Royals kept their first six picks in the 2011 draft in extended spring. The group includes catcher Cameron Gallagher, righthanders Bryan Brickhouse and Kyle Smith, outfielder Patrick Leonard and lefty Cesar Ogando.

• Brett Eibner, a 2010 second-round pick, began the season on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, which he injured while making a diving catch in the outfield during spring training.