Aoki hopes to be productive at top of Royals lineup

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Norichika Aoki really got it going in his second afternoon as the Royals' leadoff batter. He was on base all four times he came to the plate in Friday's 11-1 victory over the Rangers.

Aoki singled to left field, doubled to right, was safe on an error and walked. He also scored a run.

"That's who he is," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a real consistent performer and, from what I've learned in the very short time I've known him, is he's very observant, he studies the game -- he knows the pitcher, he knows what he throws -- and he's always watching. He's so fundamentally sound in just about everything that he does. It's impressive."

Aoki also made a diving catch of Alex Rios' line drive in right field.

"He's all smiles in the dugout and seems like he really enjoys the game," pitcher James Shields said. "From my perspective, I haven't really gotten to see him too much but I think he's going to be a good leadoff hitter for us. He rarely strikes out and he puts the bat on the ball. He's going to make things happen for us."

Left fielder Alex Gordon also made a diving catch on Brett Nicholas' liner. After making four errors in Thursday's 11-7 sloppy loss, the Royals were flawless in the field.

The Royals cranked out 16 hits, including three singles by Billy Butler and Gordon's double and single.

But it was Mike Moustakas who proved especially productive, driving in three runs with a double and a single. He also walked in his third at-bat.

"Today I got a couple of pitches to hit when I was ahead in the count and that's when I'm looking to drive the ball to right-center field and I was able to do that today," he said.

Royals want to guard against Perez's concussions

Outlook: Perez could blossom into perennial All-Star

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Anybody know where the Royals can find one of those old-fashioned iron-barred catcher's masks?

They'd like to fit their All-Star and Gold Glove Award-winning catcher, Salvador Perez, with such a mask in hopes of reducing his chances for a concussion. He missed a week last season after a foul tip off the mask caused a concussion.

"We're having a hard time finding a heavy mask. Nobody makes them anymore," manager Ned Yost said. "They're all making this titanium mask. We'd like to experiment with the old, heavier iron mask, the type we used when we played. You'd take a good shot of the head and the mask would bend -- you'd get bend marks off them where the ball would hit. But we really didn't have all the concussion stuff we have today with all these foul balls."

Perez tried the hockey-style mask but didn't like it and went back to his original faceguard.

"These masks are 50 percent lighter than the ones we had and they never bend so there's no give," Yost said. "We're trying to find a heavier mask and they just don't make 'em anymore."

Yost, who caught in the 1970s and '80s, wore the heavier iron mask and liked it because the metal had some give to it. Take a hard foul ball off of it and ...

"You'd see stars." Yost said, but added: "I never got dizzy, I never got sick, I never had a headache -- ever after a foul ball."

In short, he never had a concussion -- at least none that he knew about. These days baseball has a new awareness about the dangers of concussion and is treating the matter with concern. The old-style mask might offer a new alternative.

"They are trying to develop some heavier masks for testing but we just can't get our hands on one right now," Yost said.

Shields zips through first spring start

Shields, veterans react to being called old

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Two innings for James Shields? Naw. Forty pitches? Naw.

Shields zipped through his first Cactus League assignment on Friday with just 10 pitches in only one inning. While most starting pitchers go either two innings or 40 pitches in their first outing, he has a different routine.

After he threw a perfect first inning -- he got Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder all on groundouts -- Shields went to the bullpen and threw 20 more pitches at a game-like pace.

"I threw 30 pitches today, I actually threw 20 in the bullpen. We already had it pre-set that I was going to throw one inning," Shields said. "I didn't really plan on me throwing only 10 pitches today but I felt good out there. Obviously the first time you get out there against live hitting, you're going to have a couple of little mistakes you make but overall it went pretty well."

When he next pitches, Shields will up the ante.

"I'll probably go 45 pitches, three innings something like that," he said. "I guess it all depends how the innings go. I remember one Spring Trainiing I threw seven innings and 52 pitches. It depends on the game."

Yost liked Shields' outing but left-hander Tim Collins' 1-2-3 second inning really caught his eye.

"Probably on the pitching side, I was most impressed with Tim Collins. He went out, under control, commanded pitches, I was really happy to see that," Yost said.

"At times when he got in trouble last year, it was over-exerting and trying to overthrow but today he stayed in a real good tempo and his pitches had real great life to them."

Coleman out of spring games with sore finger

CLE@KC: Coleman K's Raburn to escape bases-loaded jam

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reliever Louis Coleman is being held out of Cactus League games with a sore finger on his pitching hand, manager Ned Yost said on Friday.

Coleman took a ball off the hand during pitchers' fielding practice a couple of days ago. He's still throwing in bullpen sessions, however.

"He jammed it a bit," Yost said. "We won't put him in a game until he's 100 percent."

Coleman is trying to secure a spot in the Royals' bullpen. He divided last season between Kansas City and Triple-A Omaha, compiling a 0.61 ERA in 27 games for the Royals.

'Friends in Low Places' could be replaced

MIN@CWS: Garth Brooks visits Chicago dugout

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Will Garth Brooks' "Friends of Low Places" fall off the Kauffman Stadium hit chart?

There's a chance that Brooks' popular song that has become a sixth-inning anthem for Kansas City fans in the last six years will be replaced this summer.

"We've decided that in 2014 we're going to put it up to the fans to see what they would like as the sixth inning sing-a-long," said Toby Cook, Royals vice president of community affairs and publicity. "'Friends in Low Places' has been the one since 2008 officially although we played it a fair amount before then."

In March, fans will be asked to nominate songs to be considered as the sing-a-along and the Royals will narrow it down to 32 tunes that will be put into a bracket and voted on by fans via text in April and May. The winner will be decided by June 7 and used for the rest of the season.

Details on the nomination process will be announced soon.

Could the Garth Brooks' song survive?

"Theoretically 'Friends in Low Places' could be in, if it gets nominated and gets selected and I'm sure it will get selected to be in the bracket," Cook said.

"Friends in Low Places" marked its 20th anniversary in 2010.

"Garth had said, 'I really appreciate you playing it and I would love for you to at least do it through the 20th year,' " Cook said, "because they were kind of making a big deal out of it. So we did it for a couple of years after that but we decided to let the fans decide what they wanted to sing along with."

Brooks, a baseball enthusiast, made many friends with the Royals in 2004 when he trained with the club in Surprise.