Royals may have interesting decision to make at first base between O'Hearn, McBroom

©The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Royals' Ryan McBroom hits a double against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 7, 2019, in Miami. - Eric Espada/Getty Images North America/TNS

SURPRISE, Ariz. — For the time being, neither Ryan O’Hearn nor Ryan McBroom will let himself get wrapped up in the numbers game of figuring out how many players at various positions can make the Kansas City Royals roster.

They know the drill. They know they’d both like to end spring training as the club’s starting first baseman. They’re determined, however, not to let that distract them from what they each need to do or get in the way of their friendship.

“I love Broomie,” O’Hearn said. “Broomie and I have become close. We hang out and do our workouts together every day. We’re in the same groups. We take ground balls together. I hang out with him outside of the field. He’s one of my good friends. That’s just what it is.

“As far as rosters go, I don’t make the decisions on who makes the team, who doesn’t, who plays, who doesn’t. But I’m guessing that I can see a scenario where we’re both on the team. My point is it’s out of my hands. All I’ve got to do is show up and do what I do, play hard everyday, work hard every day, be a good teammate and a good friend.”

O’Hearn is no stranger to this dynamic. He competed at various levels for playing time with former Royals first base prospect Frank Schwindel, who is in camp with the Detroit Tigers.

This spring, O’Hearn’s primary focus won’t be on what anybody else does. His attention will remain on doing what he must to turn around a dreadful 2019 season and produce the way he has in the Royals’ farm system.

A 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed hitting former eighth-round draft pick out of Sam Houston State, O’Hearn struggled through last season with a final slash line of .195/.281/.369 in 105 major-league games. He was sent to Triple-A in June.

He had one of the most productive starts of any Royals player the previous year. He’d hit more home runs (12) and extra-base hits (24) than any Royal through 44 career games, while his 30 RBIs in that span ranked third in franchise history.

Last season, he started off in a rut and never completely found his way out of it. He consistently made hard contact, but fell victim to shifted defensive alignments. Worse, he let his early failures at the plate weigh on him mentally.

He thought he may have been turning a corner as the season ended.

“This year, I’m going to focus on having fun,” O’Hearn pledged. “… If you’re not having fun playing this game, it’s going to beat you up. That’s what happened last year, so that’s a focus going into this year for sure.”

Along with changing his diet and cutting out soda and fast food, he worked this offseason on getting the ball in the air and driving it to left field. He also focused a lot on recognizing breaking balls and having “as many game-like takes” as possible.

“Until you get into game action, then you don’t really know where you are,” O’Hearn said. “I’m looking forward to seeing live pitching, game-like setting and getting these games rolling.”

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McBroom, who the Royals acquired from the New York Yankees for cash considerations or a player to be named and international slot money on Aug. 31, showed potential in his first major-league stint in September.

A 6-foot-3, 235-pound right-handed hitter, McBroom made an impression on Royals manager Mike Matheny before the trade happened.

“I was watching him before we took him,” Matheny said. “He was playing against my son in Triple-A, so I’m watching and I had no idea that Ryan McBroom was on anybody’s radar. I hadn’t been told that at that point. He went deep twice, which gets everybody’s attention, but it was dead straight away and didn’t see anybody else having the ball carry for them at all.”

That two-homer game came on Aug. 29 at Pawtucket. McBroom also hit a homer two days later against Buffalo in his final game with the Yankees.

McBroom batted .293 with five doubles, six RBIs, eight runs scored and a .361 on-base percentage in 23 games with the Royals.

He didn’t show off the power he’d displayed in the minors, where he hit 26 homers and slugged .574 in Triple-A last year. He went without a homer and slugged .360 in the majors.

“Getting traded and playing in front of a brand new group of eyes, a coaching staff, players, you kind of want to sometimes have a tendency to do too much,” McBroom said. “I don’t want to say that’s what I did, but it’s easy to think and go in each day and say, ‘I’ve got to hit a homer. I’ve got to show these guys what I can do.’ It’s pretty much the opposite. You’ve got to stick to what you know you can do. I’m trusting — it’s kind of cliche — but trusting the process.”

As far as trying to beat out his buddy O’Hearn for playing time, McBroom has been through it all before and he’s not solely looking at himself as a first baseman.

“That’s how it always is every year,” McBroom said. “There’s somebody I compete with and most of the time it’s one of your good friends. I don’t see it as necessarily one-on-one. We both can make a team. I play outfield as well. There’s DH. There’s 26 guys now on the roster. I’m really not seeing it as one-on-one as a lot of people are. You’ve got to come out and produce regardless of who you are playing against.”

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