SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, ranked the Royals' top prospect by MLB.com, has a locker in the rookies' corner of the clubhouse as he experiences his first Major League training camp.
"You have expectations of what camp is going to be like, but just being here and being around guys and getting to watch just the way they go about their business, I'm learning from them," Zimmer said. "I think it's going to be great going into this year."
For a while, it was expected that Zimmer might have a chance to jump right into the Royals' starting rotation. After being promoted from Class A Advanced Wilmington to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, he'd posted a 1.93 ERA in four games before being shut down because of an aching shoulder.
"Going through my throwing in December and the beginning of January, I started having a little bit of discomfort similar to the end of last year," Zimmer said. "But I went to Kansas City and got it checked out, and everything structurally is fine. They decided they were going take it a little bit slower. Basically what they told me is my innings are more important to them at the end of the year than right now at the start."
So Zimmer doesn't know yet if he'll even get into any Cactus League games. The idea is to have him be going full-bore by the All-Star break or so. In short, if he does well in the Minors and if the Royals need an arm for the stretch run, he might get the call.
"So I think it's going to work out well in terms of my innings limit and everything else. I'll be able to hit stride at the end of the year, when it actually matters for me," he said.
Zimmer, 22, is still getting accustomed to the demands of pitching. He didn't take up the position until his freshman year at the University of San Francisco.
Why did it take him so long to get around to pitching?
"That's a good question. I was hitting the ball too far," he said with a chuckle. "I was just always a hitter growing up, I just never thought about pitching. When I got to USF my freshman year, I went there as a third baseman, and the guy that was starting over me was a junior and had a bunch of home runs the year before and it was obvious I wasn't going to start over him in my freshman year. They saw me throwing it across the infield pretty good and had me try a couple of bullpens and throw a few intrasquad games, and I guess they saw a little potential there and decided to have me stick to it."
Zimmer confided bluntly: "I did not like it at first."
But it turned out pretty well -- Zimmer was the Royals' first-round Draft choice in 2012 after barely three years of pitching.
"So I'm still relatively new to it, but it's great just being around some of these old guys and picking up tidbits here and there as I can," he said, glancing around the Royals' clubhouse. "Just being around in the atmosphere of getting going is fun."
Even though the brakes have been applied in Spring Training, Zimmer is considered to be on a fast track to the Majors.
"I don't really think about it too much," he said. "I just go out there every day when I get to have the ball on the mound and go out and compete. Just try to attack the strike zone and it's not my decision whenever I get moved up or anything like that. I just go about my business as usual and when my time comes, I'll be ready to go."
Easing into spring, Shields throws batting practice
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- James Shields whipped through throwing his first batting practice on Tuesday with happy results.
"It went great, it felt good," Shields said. "Really good -- 25 pitches. This is the time when you can ease into it and then get going."
Afterward, Shields had a brief session with Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland to review his work.
"Every time you're back on the mound and start throwing to hitters again, you've got to kind of remember what you worked on last year and that kind of stuff," Shields said. "It's just a process of getting your mechanics going and getting everything in line."
Shields served up pitches to a couple of Minor Leaguers as well as catcher Frank Pena.
"I think I had one homer hit off me today," Shields said. "When you're telling 'em what's coming, it's a little easier to hit, I guess."
It was Pena who banged the home run, but he noted that Shields' command was excellent and his fastball and changeup were working well.
"His stuff was electric," Pena said.
Although the Phoenix area temperature hit a record 88 degrees on Monday, the Tuesday morning workout was in a pleasant 74 degrees.
"Everything went really well," manager Ned Yost said. "Everybody's getting good work in, everybody's feeling good."
Most of the infielders and outfielders are already in camp and were taking batting practice on Tuesday. Their official reporting date is Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout on Thursday.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar, the only regular who has not yet turned up, is expected on Wednesday, Yost said.
Yost has two intrasquad games scheduled for Feb. 25 and 26. The first game is Feb. 27 against the Rangers.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.