Everything started well Friday for the Royals in their Cactus League opener before ending in a thud and settling for a 5-5 tie with the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium.
The Royals were one out away from a 5-3 victory when veteran reliever Blaine Boyer surrendered a triple to Brandon Allen on a sharp grounder past first base. Yangervis Solarte followed with a no-doubt boomer over the right-field wall.
Boyer then walked Craig Gentry, who stole second base, before Leury Garcia grounded out to first base. Both teams agreed to call the game a tie rather than play extra innings.
Before Boyer’s late collapse, the Royals had plenty to like.
Lefty Will Smith made a strong opening bid to wedge his way into competition for that final spot in the rotation by working two perfect innings while throwing 16 of 22 pitches for strikes.
“I’m trying my hardest,” he said. “Like I said before, it’s not my job to worry about (who is in the rotation). My job is to go out there and get outs and help my team win. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it’s not my call.”
The battle for that spot is generally viewed as a three-man competition between Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza.
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and the Rangers never pulled even until Solarte’s homer. The Royals built leads of 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3.
Boyer, 31, is a seven-year veteran trying to resurrect his career after not playing in 2012 by signing Jan. 3 with the Royals as a minor-league free agent. His blown save came three days after he surrendered a two-run lead in an intrasquad game.
Right-hander Yordano Ventura, one of the organization’s top prospects, had some impressive moments in steadily clocking at 98-100 mph on the radar gun in his 1 2/3 innings after replacing starter Will Smith.
But Ventura hit a wall with after getting two outs in the fourth. He yielded a single to David Murphy and threw two wild pitches while falling into a 3-1 hole to Nelson Cruz.
Ventura came with a 98-mph fastball that Cruz sent over the center-field wall.
“I was trying to make a good pitch,” Ventura said, “and I just overthrew it a little bit.”
Cruz’s homer finished Ventura, who threw 19 of 31 pitches for strikes.
“Your first time out,” manager Ned Yost said, “adrenaline is up. It’s natural to struggle with your command when you’re a young guy. That’s what happened today.”
The Royals opened the scoring in the first inning after a poor throw by second baseman Ian Kinsler resulted in Alex Gordon being credited with a leadoff single. Alcides Escobar followed with a clean single before Eric Hosmer delivered an RBI ground out.
Gordon was as surprised as anyone to get credit for a single.
“I guess that will get my confidence going,” he said. “That’s what speed do.”
Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson, Adam Moore and David Lough each had two of the Royals’ 14 hits.
Moore hit a leadoff homer in the fifth after Texas pulled to within 3-2 on Nelson Cruz’s two-run homer in the fourth. Lough had a two-out RBI single in the ninth that provided Boyer with a two-run lead to protect.
Elliot Johnson displayed his utility value by making a terrific diving stop while ranging to his right at shortstop on Konrad Schmidt’s leadoff grounder in the seventh inning. Johnson bounced the throw, but Brandon Wood executed a backhand pick for the out.
Salvy Perez threw out Leonys Martin on an attempted steal of second in the third inning — and made it look easy.
Eight Royals were on the final rosters released late Thursday for the World Baseball Classic. The list includes three players on the Dominican Republic: infielder Miguel Tejada and relievers Kelvin Herrera and Atahualpa Severino. The others are reliever Tim Collins (United States), catcher Salvy Perez (Venezuela), right-hander Luis Mendoza (Mexico), utilityman Irving Falu (Puerto Rico) and outfielder Paulo Orlando (Brazil).
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain plans to test his sore right hand Saturday in batting practice. If all goes as expected, he expects to play Monday against the Diamondbacks. Manager Ned Yost said he’s off his pain medicine in his recover from Tuesday’s surgery to remove his gall bladder.
The team-building golf tournament, held Thursday, drew roughly 40 players to the Raven Golf Club. Four newcomers combined in winning the scramble event: Wade Davis, Brett Hayes, Brandon Wood and Xavier Nady. The day’s highlight? “Miguel Tejada hitting an exploding golf ball,” event organizer Jeff Francoeur said. “We set him up. It was the first golf ball he’s ever hit – and it exploded. He freaked out.”
Friday’s game was the earliest spring opener in Royals’ history.
It was 59 degrees at 1:04 p.m. under high clear skies when Rangers starter Derek Holland delivered the first pitch to Alex Gordon.
Former Royals pitcher Kyle Davies, who didn’t play in 2012, has signed a minor-league deal with Minnesota.
All seven pitchers scheduled for Saturday’s game against the Rangers face an uphill battle to make the club. Guillermo Moscoso will start, followed by Francisley Bueno, Brian Sanches, Dan Wheeler, Ryan Verdugo, Donnie Joseph and Atahualpa Severino.
Royals (RHP Guillermo Moscoso) vs. Rangers (RHP Randy Wells), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
Countdown to opening day
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