There was never much doubt, but it became official Friday morning when Royals manager Ned Yost confirmed James Shields will start April 1 in the season opener against the White Sox in Chicago.

“Why Shields?” Yost parried. “Come on, dude. That doesn’t even deserve an answer. If someone can’t figure that one out…”

Shields, 31, was the key acquisition in the Royals’ off-season quest to rebuild their rotation. The club surrendered one of the game’s top prospects, outfielder Wil Myers, in a seven-player deal to acquire the veteran righty.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Shields said. “Obviously, Ned has a decision to make, and I’m very honored and grateful.”

Yost said right-hander Ervin Santana will follow Shields in the rotation with Jeremy Guthrie and Wade Davis in the third and fourth spots. The last opening remains a battle between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza.

The front four is no surprise.

The Royals opened their off-season by acquiring Santana, 30, from the Los Angeles Angels for minor-league lefty Brandon Sisk.

It was basically a salary dump by the Angels; the Royals are paying all but $1 million of Santana’s $13 million salary in his final year before free agency.

Next, the Royals retained Guthrie, 33, with a three-year deal for $25 million. He was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts last season after arriving in a July trade from Colorado.

Davis, 27, came with Shields and utilityman Elliot Johnson from Tampa Bay in the Dec. 9 trade for Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard.

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