Cain pushing for starting role

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Don’t count Lorenzo Cain out of the Kansas City Royals’ outfield picture just yet.

It’s hard to send a player back to the minors if he doesn’t make an out and makes spectacular catches.

Since Cain flied out in his first spring training at-bat, he has reached base six consecutive times — three singles, a double and two walks. Cain went 2-for-2 with a walk and scored a run Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This was one day after Cain went 2 -for-2 against San Diego, doubled with two out in the eighth, scored the winning run and made a diving catch in the ninth to start a game-ending double play and preserve a one-run Kansas City lead.

“I’m seeing the ball pretty good right now,” Cain said Wednesday. “I’m just trying to lock in and see how long it will last.”

The Royals’ starting outfield appears set with Alex Gordon in left, Melky Cabrera in center and Jeff Francoeur in center. That is subject to change, however, especially if Cain continues to impress in spring training.

“Cain really showed that athleticism,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of his catch against the Padres. “He’s a tremendous defender in center field. He’s a very heads-up player. He plays the game very hard. He works hard on his baserunning. He makes aggressive turns. In the outfield, he’s always moving, always thinking, always playing with his instincts, which is going to make him the player he’s going to be. It’s going to be a very, very, very special player when it’s all said and done.”

Cain made his major-league debut last year, hitting .306 with seven stolen bases in eight attempts in 47 games with Milwaukee. The Royals acquired him in the six-player Dec. 19 trade that sent ace Zack Greinke to the Brewers.

“Cain is an offensive threat, not could be,” Yost said. “He’s a kid that makes adjustments and understands the game. And for a kid that started playing the game so late shows you just how special he is.”

Cain did not start playing baseball until he was a sophomore at Madison County (Fla.) High School. The Brewers signed him in 2005 after one year at Tallahassee Community College.

Cain quickly emerged as a prospect, becoming the rookie Arizona League 2005 MVP while leading the league with hits, runs, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases and slugging percentage. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season and hit .333 with five home runs and 11 RBI in 18 games.

Cain, however, had a setback in 2009. He pulled his hamstring in spring training and tore his posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while making a diving catch in his fourth game back.

“It was not a good start,” Cain said. “It was a rough year for me.”

A good 2010 landed Cain in the majors, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin called him in December to tell him he had been traded.

“Once he told me it was Doug Melvin, I knew I was gone,” Cain said. “Now I’m a Kansas City Royal and I’m going embrace that.”

The Royals have certainly embraced Cain.

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