Lots of new faces, fresh hope for Royals

Updated: February 14, 2013, 8:11 PM ET
Associated Press

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Elliott Johnson brought four gloves with him on the official reporting date for Kansas City Royals position players.

After 11 years in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Johnson was dealt to the Royals on Tuesday to complete the Dec. 9 trade that brought pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City.

He was issued No. 80 -- his high school football number as a wide receiver -- in his first day with his new team.

"It's a little bit different," Johnson said Thursday. "It's kind of like the first day of kindergarten, not school. I'm going to use kindergarten because I don't know anybody. The guys I do know, you could say I knew from day care. There are a lot of new faces. Everybody has been really nice. Everything has been squared away. I've just got to get used to everybody."

Johnson hit .242 with six home runs, 33 RBIs, 32 runs and 18 stolen bases in 24 attempts in 123 games last season. He started 68 games at shortstop, but also played second, third and the outfield.

"In the minor leagues, (is) when they started making me a Super U (utility) guy," Johnson said. "I'm comfortable in the outfield. I've got plenty of arm for any of the positions out there and plenty of legs for any of them, too."

Manager Ned Yost likes Johnson's versatility.

"He can play all different positions, a switch hitter that can handle the bat from both sides, (swings) a little better left-handed," he said. "He's a solid defender in the infield and a serviceable defender in the outfield."

Johnson said he prefers playing shortstop.

"It starts at shortstop," Johnson said. "Shortstop is the toughest position on the field other than catcher, but it requires more of a skilled set with the legs. The longer you can stay at shortstop, the more you can prove you can play everywhere else. I feel like I fit that role pretty well. I've got all my gloves to go along with it."

Johnson also has played a lot at second base

"I like my name in the lineup more than anything," Johnson said. "I've got a first baseman's glove, too, if they need to put me over there. I'm probably not the best option there. If you need me to play anywhere, I'm not going to tell them no."

Yost said Johnson could be plugged in at shortstop for several games if Alcides Escobar would be out.

Another position Johnson could play, but not with the Royals, is shooting guard. He was a star high school basketball player with a 42-inch vertical leap.

"I can dunk," Johnson said. "I can do a windmill with one hand or two hands. I can do off the alley-oop. I can go backward. I can do a 360. If you threw it close to the rim, I would catch it and I could dunk it. I used to be able to jump really high. I haven't really played basketball a whole lot because it could potentially hurt my day job. I decided to move away from that and focus more on baseball because I felt that was a better idea for me."

Escobar was experiencing visa issues in Venezuela, but is expected to arrive Friday night and workout Saturday.


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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