KANSAS CITY — After a curious few days in which the Royals said they might not be able to make room for Nicky Lopez on the 25-man roster for perhaps months, they suddenly selected their No. 8 prospect’s contract from Triple-A Omaha on Monday.
Lopez, 24, is expected to be with the club before Tuesday’s game with the Rangers. Right-hander Jake Newberry was optioned to Omaha to make room on the active roster. A corresponding 40-man move will be made Tuesday.
“Nicky is deserving of a chance to play in the Major Leagues,” general manager Dayton Moore said in a conference call with the team’s beat reporters. “He’s our kind of player.”
On Saturday, Moore reiterated that the Royals were concerned about the potential wear and tear on Whit Merrifield when he played the outfield, which is why they moved Merrifield back to second base on April 11. That move seemed to block any promotion of Lopez, who only plays second base and shortstop; the latter is where budding star Adalberto Mondesi resides.
But Moore said he had discussions with manager Ned Yost on Saturday night and they concluded the best move for the team was to have Lopez at second base and Merrifield in the outfield, most likely right field with some time in center. Moore then spoke with Merrifield, who assured Moore he could handle regular duty in the outfield again.
“Whit said he was willing to do whatever was best for the team,” Moore said. “And he was very excited about having Nicky come up.”
Moore also took the time to apologize for his comments over the weekend to the beat reporters covering the team.
“I apologize for misleading anyone,” Moore said. “It was not intentional. I did not expect this to happen this fast. I anticipated this would happen at the end of May, maybe early June, with all the moving parts. Didn’t want to misinform anyone but as you know, things change in a minute in this game.”
Lopez, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 Draft, was off to a fast start at Omaha. In 31 games he was slashing .353/.457/.500 with six doubles, a triple, three homers, nine stolen bases and 27 runs scored.
“I think what he’s done at Triple-A speaks of his readiness,” Moore said. “His contact rates are unbelievable. He lengthens out our lineup.”
Moore said that utilityman Chris Owings remains an integral part of the team, and that Yost will manage Owings’ playing time. Moore also said he still expects Jorge Soler to play some outfield as well as DH.