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Royals Finish Last In AL Central, But Have A Few Reasons To Look To 2019

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Erica Hunzinger
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KCUR 89.3
The Royals play at Kauffman Stadium during September 2018.

Despite the second-to-worst season in Kansas City Royals’ history (58-104), manager Ned Yost wants to stick around for at least one more year.

And he’ll do just that, agreeing to a one-year extension Sunday for an undisclosed amount to manage in 2019. 

“This contract negotiation took all of two minutes,” Yost said after the Royals’ season-ending 2-1 loss against the playoff-bound Cleveland Indians. He's been the manager since 2010.

The Royals finished their last 34 games with a 20-14 record, owing it to their young players, as well as hot-hitting second baseman Whit Merrifield, who became the third person since 1945 to lead the majors in hits and stolen bases for a season.

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Credit Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3 file photo
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KCUR 89.3 file photo
Ned Yost has another year of managing coming in 2019.

The end was a stark contrast to June, when the Royals won only five of their 26 games.

“I’m going to go home feeling very good. I really am,” said Yost, who lives in Georgia in the offseason. “I couldn’t say that at the All-Star break. When I went home for the All-Star break (July 16-19), I didn’t feel good.”

Having lost Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain to free agency in the offseason, the Royals shed other veterans, like third baseman Mike Moustakas before the July 31 trade deadline. It helped bring the team an infusion of young players from Triple A, who were trying to prove their worth on the major-league level.

Adalberto Mondesi, 23, displayed the all-around superstar potential that he’d been expected to since he was a teenager in the Royals’ minor league system.  Despite not making his season debut until June 17, Mondesi finished fourth in the American League in stolen bases with 32.  He also hit 14 homers, which trailed only All-Star catcher Salvador Perez on the team.

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Credit Samuel King / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
The scoreboard trumpets Whit Merrifield's MLB-leading accomplishments on Sunday.

Merrifield, who finished the season with a 20-game hitting streak, conceded that his MLB-leading 45 stolen bases might not be good enough come 2019.

“I don’t know if Mondi is going to let 45 fly next year,” Merrifield said of Mondesi. “He might have 45 by the All-Star break.”

The Royals do have their share of shortcomings to shore up for 2019. But Yost said he wants to see, first-hand, another resurgence that he helped lead in 2014 and 2015.

Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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