Posted on May 27, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Moustakas

Image by Getty Images

Kansas City’s hopes to repeat as world champions took a hit on Thursday, as the Royals placed third baseman Mike Moustakas on the DL, announcing that he has a torn ACL in his right knee, an injury that could keep him out for the remainder of the season. The injury stems from an on-field collision between Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon last Sunday. Gordon went on the DL Monday with a fracture in his wrist, and Thursday the team announced that Moustakas had suffered a torn ACL in the incident.

Despite the diagnosis, Moustakas remains optimistic, saying, “We’re still talking with the doctor, get a second opinion, see where we’re at.” He adds, “You can’t rule anything out. I just want to go out there and be healthy and get prepared to play baseball again. That’s where I’m at right now.” Moustakas missed three weeks of action earlier this season with a broken thumb and was in his second game back from that DL stint when he collided with Gordon.

The team has not officially announced a timetable for his return, but a torn ACL is likely to keep Moustakas from playing for the rest of 2016. Kansas City GM Dayton Moore says surgery is the most likely treatment at this time. “Obviously, it’s looking more like that, but you hate to jump the gun on that,” Moore said. “You need to just let it take its course, get second opinions, go from there and see what happens.”

The loss of Moustakas is significant for the Royals after he enjoyed a breakout season in 2015 that followed several years of not living up to his potential as the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 draft. His batting average was down significantly from last year, but Moustakas was hitting for more power and, despite missing three weeks with the thumb injury, was on pace to eclipse last year’s career-high of 22 home runs.

At the moment, a combination of Cheslor Cuthbert and Whit Merrifield will fill in for Moustakas at third base. Cuthbert has struggled in limited action, hitting just .237 this year, while Merrifield has eight hits in 23 at bats since making his big league debut a little over a week ago. If neither pans out, the Royals may consider promoting prospect Hunter Dozier, who was promoted to triple-A earlier this month after a strong start to the season he double-A. Dozier is off to a strong start in triple-A, but still has fewer than 100 at bats at that level, so the Royals may not be inclined to rush him despite the sudden opening at third base.

Of course, the loss of Gordon for what the Royals believe will be at least a month makes the loss of Moustakas that much harder to handle. Gordon was not having a good season, hitting just .211 with four home runs, but his loss means journeyman Paul Orlando will likely be called upon to play every day, although Orlando has produced thus far in 2016.

The loss of Moustakas and Gordon at the same time completely changes the look of Kansas City’s lineup, as well as their bench, with several players having to shift roles. Manager Ned Yost laments the sudden change, saying, “It happens, you have to deal with it and you’ve got to move on.”

At the moment, the Royals are just two games back of the Chicago White Sox for first place in the AL Central, with a three-game series against the Sox this weekend. But with four teams in the division within three games of each other, the Royals could have trouble keeping up with both Moustakas and Gordon on the shelf.

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