KC Royals Whit Merrifield plays his 500th consecutive match

Nearly four years later, Wyatt Merifield was still in the everyday squad for the Kansas City Royals. The franchise’s all-time leader in back-to-back games pushed the Iron Man Line to a new milestone Saturday night at Coors Field.

Murrayfield became the first player in Royal Family history to play in 500 consecutive games and extended the longest winning streak of consecutive games in the major tournaments since Prince Fielder played 547 consecutive games from September 14, 2010 through May 16, 2014.

That leaves Merrifield, who beat former Royals’ Alcides Escobar last season for the franchise record, still 2,132 games behind Cal Ripken’s record in the major league of 2,632 games.

Merrifield said of the importance of the 500: “It’s a beautiful round number. I mean, besides, it’s nothing more than just going for an Esky pass. I’ve been putting myself in a position for 500 games to be in the lineup and keep myself ready both physically and mentally every single day. It’s not my duty To make the squad. My job is to play.”

For a two-time All-Star, his reasoning for never wanting to be left out of the squad is pretty simple. It took him a long time to get into the majors, so he prefers to spend every second on the court.

A previous ninth-round draft pick from the Royals in 2010 from the University of South Carolina, Murrayfield did not make his major league debut until May 18, 2016.

Even after playing 81 games in the major leagues in 2016, members of the royal family made him start the following season at Triple-A.

His streak challenges the accepted mode of operation spurred by performance science departments in recent years. Clubs have imposed regular holidays on players in the name of maintaining their health throughout the season.

“It’s definitely the era of load management, I think it’s what people say,” Merfield said. “I have no interest in taking days off. I spent a lot of time playing where I didn’t want to be, in the minor leagues and then joined the major leagues and had no interest in wasting any of those days.

“So I am proud to put myself in a position where these guys trust me to be in the squad every single day. That’s all I can do.”

Since his debut in 2016, Merrifield has collected 930 songs in majors. This is the fourth highest total in the MLB during that period. Rock player Charlie Blackmun led the big companies in this regard.

Merrifield led the big companies twice (2018, 2019), and also led the big companies in the stolen bases in 2018.

“I have to tell you, until last year it just wasn’t on my mind,” said Royals manager Mike Matheny of the Murrayfield streak. “The reason he brought this up is because he was playing well and didn’t look tired. … He played really well. He knows how to take care of his body. That makes it really easy to see him in the squad.”

Murrayfield’s streak began on June 25, 2018. Current royals Salvador Perez, Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesi were in the starting lineup that day, and bowler Brad Keeler started the match.

During his streak, he started both ends of the double header 10 times, most recently during his current road trip against the Baltimore Orioles on May 8.

Defensively, Murrayfield played six positions during his streak. The only positions he didn’t play on the court were shortstop, catcher, and pitcher.

“It’s a really good option in multiple places, not just in the realm of versatility,” Matheny said. “A lot of that comes down to the kind of racket he’s dealing with. We’ve seen that in my short time here, he has been very consistent.”

Murrayfield was a finalist for the AL Gold Glove at second base last season, and it was the first time he played primarily in that position throughout the entire season.

Its versatility has been a key element in being a viable choice in the lineup on a daily basis, and has given the royal family flexibility.

“Ingenuity is also in control of this game,” Merfield said. “It has become very popular as it is important to have diversity in your roster. Yes, it has helped me move from one position to another, and being comfortable doing that has definitely helped me stay in the squad. I think it is a valuable asset to any team.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. Born in the Northeast, he has covered high school, team and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call, and The Salt Lake Tribune. He has won awards in sports articles and sports columns.

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