On Friday night, in front of an impressive, boisterous crowd at Kaufmann Stadium, center fielder Lorenzo Cain made his re-debut with the Kansas City Royals. After missing over three months with what was initially a groin-strain, and later, a much more serious hip-flexor tear, Cain, 26, went 3 for 6, walked once, and scored 3 runs while driving in one of his own.
He also looked good in the field, chasing down fly balls that a lesser athlete may not have caught. Oh sure, regular (by virtue of Cain’s absence) CF Jarrod Dyson would have made it to these balls too—and even caught them—but he would have had to rely more on his speed, looking less comfortable in doing so than Cain.
Cain, who currently has the coolest, blackest black-guy name in the Royals organization (a title he took from Clint Robinson, who is, in fact, not black), has the natural grace and agility of the Royals’ LAST good center fielder, Carlos Beltran.
It’s an infuriating characteristic to some outside observers, because neither looks like they’re in all that big of a hurry to get to the ball. They lope languidly through the grass as the ball heads aggressively toward the wall, and although it sometimes appears that they’ll NEVER make it there in time, they almost always do.
And though Cain will never be quite the player that Beltran was, he is an important piece of this youth movement. He’s not the franchise savior—that’d be Eric Hosmer, or Mike Moustakas, or Billy Butler, or Alex Gordon, or Johnny Damon, or Clint Hurdle—but he is poised to be a potential catalyst to success, and a true measure of Dayton Moore’s time spent in Kansas City.
As you all already know, Cain was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers along with shortstop Alcides Escobar, reliever James Jeffress and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, for fan-favorite, Cy Young winner, perennial head-case Zack Greinke.
Escobar is having a grand old time, quickly becoming one of the game’s premier shortstops.
Odorizzi—who recently pitched in the All Star Futures Game—will likely be in Kansas City sooner, rather than later.
Jeffress, who has spent time with the big league club on a few different stints, has a blazing fastball that he sometimes has difficulty harnessing. Whether or not he’s ever going to be able to do so with any sort of consistency remains to be seen, but he was never the lynchpin of the deal anyway, so whatever.
And then there’s Cain.
As previously mentioned, it’s been a long while since the Royals had a solid, dependable center fielder. And that’s a shame because, well, centerfield is kind of an important thing to a ball team.
Since Beltran was traded in 2004, the Royals have started the following individuals in his stead: Dyson, Mitch Maier, Jason Bourgeois, Cain. Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Gregor Blanco, Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus, Willie Bloomquist, Scott Podsednik, Coco Crisp, Josh Anderson, Ryan Freel, Joey Gathright, Mark Teahen, Shane Costa, Kerry Robinson, Esteban German, Aaron Guiel, Chip Ambres, Terrence Long, Eli Marrero, Joe McEwing. Ruben Mateo, Abraham Nunez, Desi Relaford, Wilton Guerrero, Alexis Gomez and Damian Jackson.
There. Is that sufficiently nauseating?
Is anyone actually surprised that the Royals haven’t had a winning record SINCE 2003, when Beltran played 130 games in centerfield? I mean honestly, Aaron Fucking Guiel (above left)? Shane Costa (right)? Chip Ambres? Are you kidding me right now?
That’s why it is imperative that Lorenzo Cain solidifies himself as an everyday player and shows what kind of impact talent and familiarity can provide. He doesn’t need to be Beltran—that’s simply not possible—but he needs to be serviceable and solid, a David DeJesus-type with better tools and more long term successes.
This team is now the team they were supposed to be from day one, at least on the field and at the plate. The rotation is shit, as we all know, and shows no signs of improving, but there are no longer any excuses to average so few runs per game, or get shutout multiple times in a series. And though the onus doesn’t fall squarely on Cain’s shoulders, he needs to not suck, and he needs to stay healthy.
No pressure, bro, and welcome back!