The pace was slow in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Royals train. The big news in camp came on March 1, the day DH Hal McRae reported. The new contract McRae signed last fall provides a bonus for meeting a prescribed weight at each of five weigh-ins. His first goal was 185 pounds. He stepped on the scales. One hundred and eighty-four pounds. Five thousand dollars. McRae's next test comes on Memorial Day. Stay tuned.
While McRae was staying trim in the off-season, his team was adding some trimmings: a fifth starting pitcher in Steve Renko, extra outfielders in Leon Roberts and Joe Simpson and a third catcher in Ron Johnson. "We have a very nice car," says General Manager John Schuerholz, "so all we did was change a few accessories. I'd have to be daffy to tinker with the engine."
Leftfielder and '82 batting champion (.332) Willie Wilson takes a slightly different view: "They say a team that grows old together plays bad together. I hope not."
The Royals worked very hard in the off-season to maintain the status quo. They retained the services of McRae, whom they thought they'd lost to free agency. They re-signed Pitcher Paul Splittorff, the last original Royal. They headed off a possible contract dispute with Brett. He came out of a January meeting without the new contract he wanted but with enough peace of mind to purchase a new home in Kansas City.
The Royals lost out to the Angels last year because of a bewildering series of injuries—every regular except McRae and Rightfielder Jerry Martin was out of the lineup for an extended period, and Pitcher Dennis Leonard missed 16 starts. This spring Manager Dick Howser called on an old friend, Florida State Trainer Don Fauls. "He suggested we do what's called 'stretching down,' says Howser. "The last thing we do before we go in to shower is the first thing we do when we get out on the field, the same calisthenics. I hope it helps." Still, injuries cannot explain away the 10-of-11 tailspin that began Sept. 15, when K.C. had a two-game lead.
The everyday lineup will, of course, be the same as last year. Howser would like to rest Centerfielder Amos Otis more, and he'd like to start Don Slaught more at catcher, if only to take advantage of the versatility of John Wathan, who's adept in the outfield and at first, as well as behind the plate. If Leonard can come back and if Vida Blue's good days—he was 13-12 in '82—outnumber the bad, the Royals should have some of the best starting pitching in the league to go along with Dan Quisenberry, who may be the league's best reliever.
Two players who relaxed most of the time kept the Royals lively. DH Hal McRae, who cooled his heels between plate appearances, used his hot bat to drive in 133 runs. When not lounging in the bullpen. Reliever Dan Quisenberry put opposing batters to rest with baffling pitches that helped him get 35 saves. Away from home not much of anything worked, though; the Royals were 34-47.