GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Consider this a blueprint for the regular season.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Billy Butler’s two-run homer highlighted a 12-hit attack Tuesday afternoon that carried the Royals to a 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.
Right-hander Wade Davis opened a series of strong pitching performances by working two scoreless innings in his spring debut. Five relievers followed in a five-hit performance.
“I thought it went well,” Davis said. “I didn’t give up any homers. I didn’t have to grind through the stretch for two or three innings. It was good to get some reps in and good to get out there.”
The victory lifted the Royals to 4-0-1 and into undisputed possession of first place in the Cactus League. The Indians lost for the first time in six games.
Butler opened the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the first inning against Cleveland starter Matt Albers. Eric Hosmer made it 2-0 with a booming RBI triple in the third inning over the head of center fielder Cedric Hunter.
Butler’s homer came on a 3-2 pitch from lefty Giovanni Soto in the fifth – and after Butler missed a similar pitch on a 2-0 count.
“What happened is I overswung a little bit and got a little too amped up,” he said. “I was in a fastball count, and got one in a spot I liked. I overswung. I kind of got long. I fouled it off. Then when I got two strikes, I went to a two-strike approach.
“The two-strike swing I took right there is the swing I need to be taking all of the time anyway. It’s still early in camp, and I’m amped up. I need to calm down a little bit and use my normal swing. That was my normal swing.
“I don’t think I need to try to hit it any better than that.”
The Indians avoided a shutout when Matt Carson rocked a no-doubt homer against Brian Sanches with one out in the eighth inning.
Lefty reliever Donnie Joseph is making a strong early bid for that final bullpen job. He struck out the side if the fifth inning after striking out the side in his previous appearance against Texas.
“Donnie Joseph has yet to face a guy he hasn’t struck out,” manager Ned Yost said. “Pretty impressive there.”
The Royals acquired Joseph in the July31, 2012 deal that sent closer Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati. Joseph, 25, compiled a 4.11 ERA after the trade in 11 appearances at Class AAA Omaha.
Right-hander Yordano Ventura, one of the organization’s top prospects, breezed through two innings after replacing Davis to start the third. Lefty Justin Marks pitched two scoreless innings before Brian Sanches and Dan Wheeler closed out the victory.
Center fielder Jarrod Dyson batted leadoff and was at his disruptive best while reaching base in three of four plate appearances. He had two walks and a single and stole two bases in three chances.
“We’re looking for Dyce to get on base,” manager Ned Yost said, “so he can create some havoc and some confusion out there. (We want him) to make the pitchers and the defense get up on their toes and take their focus off what’s going on at the plate.
“That’s what he does best.”
Dyson opened the game with a single and stole second. He then tried to steal third but broke too early. Cleveland pitcher Matt Albers stepped off the mound and threw to third for the out.
“I just (messed) up there,” Dyson said. “That’s all me.”
Dyson stole second after a leadoff walk in the third inning and scored when Eric Hosmer hit a one-out triple to center.
Second baseman Johnny Giavotella saved first baseman Eric Hosmer from getting an error for the second time in three games.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s one-out grounder in the first inning kicked through Hosmer, but Giavotella grabbed the carom and threw to pitcher Wade Davis at first base for the out.
Giavotella came to Hosmer’s aid on a similar play in Sunday’s victory over Texas.
Lefty Danny Duffy was so upbeat after a 30-pitch bullpen workout that he declared himself “ready to pitch.” He’s not, of course. His best-case scenario in his recovery from Tommy John surgery is a late June return to full duty.
This was still just fastballs and changeups. Even so, it was an encouraging session.
“Duffy was unbelievable,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s … he’s pretty close. Like I told him, ‘Just take it slow.’ But his side session was very good.”
Plans call for Duffy to start throwing curveballs in his next workout.
Right-hander Felipe Paulino, another TJ recovery case, threw from a mound for the first time since leaving a game last June 6 because of a sore elbow. He threw 20 pitches. All fastballs.
“Good day, man,” Paulino said. “Big step. Everything was good. I can’t wait to start throwing live BP.”
Left fielder Alex Gordon’s back spasms receded sufficiently to allow him to take part in normal on-field drills when the Royals worked out in Surprise before departing for Goodyear.
Those spasms prompted the Royals to scratch Gordon from Monday’s lineup against Arizona. He didn’t make the trip to Goodyear but is likely to play Wednesday against Milwaukee in Surprise.
Manager Ned Yost said center fielder Lorenzo Cain is likely to play Wednesday, too. Cain suffered a hand injury early in camp and has yet to play in any games.
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation kicks off Wednesday when Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen pitch in a piggyback format against the Brewers at Surprise Stadium. Both are scheduled to work two innings.
World Baseball Classic-bound relievers Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera are also scheduled to pitch. So are Louis Coleman, Michael Mariot, Francisley Bueno and Blaine Boyer.
Royals (RHP Luke Hochevar) vs. Brewers (LHP Chris Narveson), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
“I’m always sending a message.”
— Outfielder Jarrod Dyson, when asked whether he was sending a message to a division rival after stealing two bases in three attempts in the first three innings.
Countdown to Opening Day: 33 days