Royals hope Cain can remain healthy in 2014
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
By ALAN ESKEW
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) One label an athlete never wants is "injury prone."
Lorenzo Cain has been pigeonholed with that marker ever since arriving in Kansas City.
The speedy outfielder has been limited the past two seasons by various injuries, most of them sustained while making spectacular catches against the outfield wall. But if Kansas City is to make a push for its first playoff appearance since 1985, Cain will almost certainly need to prove he's capable of playing nearly every day this season.
"I don't think I'm injury prone," Cain said shortly after the Royals began full-squad workouts at spring training. "I've had injuries by playing hard. All the injuries I've had is making plays against the wall, doing that type of thing. If people want to call me injury prone because I'm out there playing hard, giving 100 percent, then let it be. I guess they'd rather I pull up and not try to catch the ball."
Cain's first significant injury came while making an astounding catch in the fifth game of the 2012 season in Oakland. He pulled his groin and tore his left hip flexor, missing 78 games. He came back only to pull his right hamstring in September, ending his season.
Last year, Cain played only 35 games after the All-Star break because of a left oblique he tore in a game against Boston in August. He didn't return until September.
Safe to say, Cain's goal of playing in all 162 games this season is an ambitious one.
"That would be amazing," he said. "That's what I'm definitely striving for. I trained hard this offseason. I stretched every part of my body as much as I can."
That's especially good news to manager Ned Yost, who has been faced with carrying an extra outfielder the last few years to help fill in when Cain has been hurt.
"He's in a real good spot," Yost said. "He's as flexible as he's ever been. He's as strong as he's ever been. Tight body guys tend to suffer more, especially when they're athletic."
Cain is no doubt athletic. His daring approach to the outfield nearly nabbed him a Gold Glove - he finished second to Baltimore's Adam Jones last year - and allowed him to save 17 runs, tops among American League center fielders, according to The Fielding Bible. He only committed one error in 92 games in center field.
Even more impressive was that his offense matched his defense for the first two months of the season. He was hitting .309 on May 24 before hitting .216 the rest of the way.
"I started off hot, but definitely cooled off. I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be," said Cain, who's been working with hitting coach Pedro Grifol for a more reliable swing.
"That's been my main focus," Cain said, "to play the same defense I played last year and be consistent on the offense."
He'll also need to stay on the field.
Updated February 22, 2014