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Royals Q&A: Hochevar, Chen pitch today

Updated: 2013-03-28T17:59:48Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

— The battle for the fifth and final spot in the rotation takes center stage today when Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen go to the mound for the Royals against Milwaukee at Surprise Stadium.

The two are scheduled to pitch in a piggyback format, which means the second pitcher – Chen in this case – will go through his regular starting routine prior to beginning his work in the third inning.

Should Hochevar fail to complete his scheduled two innings, the Royals will call on a reliever to bridge the gap to Chen. The other primary competitor for the job, Luis Mendoza, yielded one run over four innings Sunday against Texas in his spring debut.

Mendoza departs this weekend to join Mexico for the World Baseball Classic.

The Royals enter today’s game at 4-0-1 and atop the Cactus League standings after Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Cleveland in Goodyear. Wade Davis made his spring debut with two scoreless innings, and Billy Butler drove in three runs.

Butler hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning by making an adjustment. He fouled off a 2-0 fastball from Giovanni Soto before crushing the same pitch on a full count.

“What happened is I overswung a little bit and got a little too amped up,” Butler 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.”

It seems the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t too impressed with the Royals’ player-development methods. Manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that outfielder Wil Myers is likely to open the season in the minors in order to learn to be a “complete player.”

“Getting the work necessary on defense, baserunning, etc., the things that we like to do here that he may not have been pushed to do in the past," Maddon said. “I want us to push him to do that now.”

Here’s a link to a story by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times

Left fielder Alex Gordon is back atop today’s lineup after missing two games due to back spasms, but there’s still no Lorenzo Cain, who has yet to play because of an injured right hand. Jarrod Dyson is starting again in center field. Here’s the lineup:

LF Alex Gordon, SS Alcides Escobar, 1B Eric Hosmer, DH Billy Butler, RF Jeff Francoeur, 3B Mike Moustakas, C George Kottaras, 2B Chris Getz and CF Jarrod Dyson.

Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here’s today’s exchange:

@HamiltonKent: How many years until we get to see Adalberto Mondesi in big league camp? Do Royals see him staying in infield long term?

This is real crystal-ball stuff. I’d say 2015, although I suppose he could get an invite next spring. He won’t be 18 until July, but he’ll probably start the year at Low-A Lexington. And, yes, he’s definitely a long-term fit at shortstop. Scouts say he could be special.

@davidwlowe: What exactly is the nature of Cain’s "hand injury"? Has this been explained yet in detail? This guy is incredibly delicate.

David, you’re a regular correspondent. I expect better…yes, it’s been explained. It’s a strain on the top of his hand between the knuckles. I don’t know about delicate, but Lorenzo Cain has had a sustained run of injuries over the last year.

@CarlFolsom: Any chance Moscoso makes the team or is he just AAA depth? He seemed pretty good in 2011 and on the road last year.

Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, whom the Royals acquired in a waiver claim from Colorado, is battling for a spot in the bullpen. He’s out of options, which means he’d have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the minors to serve as “AAA depth.”

@jdplantinga: Seems like Ventura really looks good. Any chance he starts the season in Omaha? Or is off to NW Ark for him?

That probably won’t be decided for at least a few more weeks, but my guess is Yordano Ventura opens the season at Class AA Northwest Arkansas.

@sheeets: how deep is this 40 man roster potentially compared to other recent (2003) Royals teams?

The top part is better. Potentially, it’s significantly better. That’s really all that matters.

@zackisnowhere: What differences you see and feel with this ST culture compared to recent camps? To who/what do you attribute the atmosphere?

All teams are confident in spring training. That includes every team I’ve been around – and I’ve been around a few that, subsequent events suggest, had no reasonable right to be confident.

What I think is hard to argue – which I know means I can expect a lot of tweets doing just that – is the list of things that need to go right for this team to be successful is shorter than in previous years.

@BigGreenBull: Which current #Royals player do you think is most likely to retire as a Royal?

Alex Gordon already signed a multi-year contract that is likely below, maybe far below, what he could have received as a free agent.

@APhiLionel: has Donnie Joseph been as impressive in person as his stats indicate? Can he force his way onto the roster?

He’s faced six guys and has struck out all six. It’s hard to do better than that. My guess is the Royals make the test a little stiffer next time by calling on him earlier in the game in order to ensure he faces big-league hitters.

That opportunity could easily present itself because Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera are leaving Sunday to join their national teams for the World Baseball Classic.

@KCKID116: What chance do you give Donnie Joseph of breaking camp with the big league team?

I think he’s still he’s facing an uphill climb, but that hill is a lot less steep than it was a week ago. My guess is he starts the season in the Omaha bullpen.

But a strong spring makes him a far more likely candidate for promotion when the need arises…assuming he pitches well in the minors.

A point I ought to occasionally reinforce: When I say “my guess,” I mean exactly that. It’s not based on anything I’m hearing. (When it is, I’ll say, “I’m hearing” or some such.) When I’m guessing, your guess is as good as mine.)

@Nick_Seaton: Do you see @YordanoVentura or @kylezimmer11 getting to the Show first. Both have front of the rotation stuff and makeup.

Great bar debate. Both guys are on the fast track. I’d say a slight edge goes to Ventura because I expect him to start the year at Class AA Northwest Arkansas, while I think Zimmer is likely to start at Class A Wilmington.

Again, those are my guesses. Neither assignment is official.

@drmattsilvius: where was Wade’s fastball on the radar gun?

The scoreboard at Goodyear Ballpark didn’t post radar readings for Tuesday’s game. Will see if I can find out from a scout or two in attendance. If so, I’ll put it in a future Q&A exchange.

To reach Bob Dutton, send email to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.

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