Cam Gallagher Earns Spring Playing Time

SURPRISE, Ariz.—It did not take long for Cam Gallagher to become the Royals’ No. 1 catcher in spring training.

When all-star catcher Salvador Perez left to play for Venezuela and backup Drew Butera left to play for Italy in the World Baseball Classic, Gallagher was the lone 40-man roster catcher remaining in big league camp.

Such first-string status would not have seemed inevitable a year ago.

Gallagher, a 2011 second-rounder out of high school in Lancaster, Pa., opened last season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Coming off a modest season at high Class A Wilmington, he received a blunt welcome from manager Vance Wilson, who caught for eight years in the majors.

“Up to that point, I got (automatic) promotions to each level,” said Gallagher, 24. “He set me straight. He said, ‘Honestly, I don’t think you should have been promoted.’ He was trying to light a little fire under my butt.

“Never was he was trying to be rude. He wanted to get me better. He said, ‘I’m not going to let you fail this year. I’m going to do whatever I can to help you out.’ ”

Gallagher entered last season as a career .227 hitter in the minors. He set career highs with a .259 average and a .348 on-base percentage in the Texas League in 2016.

After hitting .182 in April, Gallagher hit .325 in June and .284 in July.

Naturals hitting coach Brian Buchanan worked to refine Gallagher’s stroke.

“He’s the best hitting coach I’ve had my entire life,” Gallagher said.

After a plethora of injuries early in his career, including three trips to the disabled list in 2013, he remained mostly healthy in 2016. He missed two weeks in August with a bone contusion on his right hand after taking a foul tip.

“I know last year I made some pretty good strides,” Gallagher said. “I’ve had my fair share of injuries throughout my career. It was good to stay on the field for quite a bit of the season.

“Obviously, it paid off.”


Lloyd Simmons, the famed junior college coach, left Seminole State (Okla.) JC and rejoined the Royals as an area scout in Oklahoma.

Third baseman Hunter Dozier, the 2013 first-round pick, saw time at first base in spring training. The 25-year-old learned to play the outfield at Triple-A last year, and most of his time in Kansas City following an August callup was spent in right field.

— Alan Eskew is a writer based in Kansas City

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