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Royals Q and A: Santana pitches today

Updated: 2013-03-01T15:09:33Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

— It’s Ervin Santana’s turn today to offer the Royals, and their fans, a first glimpse of what they acquired in the offseason. He is scheduled to pitch two innings against Cincinnati at Surprise Stadium.

The game starts at 2:05 p.m. Central time and is only available via webcast unless you want to try to pick up the Reds’ broadcast on WSAI (1360 AM).

You might want to do that if you hear Steve Stewart again trying to nurse an aging sportswriter (serving as guest analyst) through a couple of innings.

Santana’s start follows James Shields’ impressive one-inning debut in Thursday’s 5-4 victory over San Diego in Peoria, Ariz. Shields threw 13 pitches in a one-two-three frame before heading to the bullpen for supplemental work.

“Everything was in sync,” he said. “It’s kind of amazing when you get a hitter in there. Things change a little bit, but everything went real well.”

You can read all about Shields’ effort in today’s editions of The Star.

The Royals acquired Santana in an Oct. 31 trade from the Angels for minor-league reliever Brandon Sisk. The trade was, essentially, a cost-cutting move by the Angels; the Royals are paying all but $1 million of Santana’s $13 million salary.

It isn’t just Santana today. Closer Greg Holland and setup reliever Aaron Crow also make their spring debuts. The Royals are also planning another look at lefties John Lamb and Donnie Joseph.

Here’s today’s lineup: LF Alex Gordon, SS Alcides Escobar, 1B Billy Butler, 3B Mike Moustakas, C Salvy Perez, RF Jeff Francoeur, DH Xavier Nady, 2B Chris Getz and CF Jarrod Dyson.

Regarding the battle for what projects as one bullpen opening: J.C. Gutierrez turned in a strong inning against the Padres and has retired all six batters faced in his two appearances. He’s an emerging favorite because he’s out of options.

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

@jdplantinga: Is there any connection in your mind between a good record in ST and avoiding a typical KC early season ending slump?

None that I see.

@ChrisDiggins: what if Hosmers numbers don’t improve?

The Royals are in trouble. If you’re asking about a demotion to Class AAA Omaha, I suppose it’s possible that things get that bad. It’s hard to imagine things getting to that point.

@Simmsbillj: with Cain(health) and Frenchy(performance) question marks, who is next OF option after Dyson if both don’t play?

That’s a big if, but it’s probably David Lough. It’s also the reason the Royals signed a bunch of guys in the off-season with major-league experience. This spring will determine the pecking order between Endy Chavez, Luis Durango, Xavier Nady and Willy Taveras.

If the Royals need a longer-term replacement for Cain and/or Francoeur due to injury or sustained poor performance, I’d expect them to explore trade possibilities.

@todpalmer: Riddle me this, Duttonator, why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

Two for you, KT, while I ponder whether to invoke the five-out rule: Why is it a fair ball when it hits the foul pole? And have you typed in all of those wrestlebacks yet?

@zackisnowhere: is it possible that you have the best job in the world? And, is it me or our hitters not being fooled by many so far?

It’s quite possible but only because I’m married to a remarkably understanding (along with bright and beautiful) girl who willingly deals with life’s issues while I watch ball.

As far as the other part, the Royals have had a good week in all areas. A good week in February.

@anglescott: Does the season record for home runs by a Royal get broken by anyone on the current roster? If so, who? This year?

Mike Moustakas has the sort of pull-swing power that makes him a threat. But 36 is a lot when playing half of your games at Kauffman Stadium.

@rlopez1184: why did he choose to only pitch one inning? (according to the broadcast)

It was James Shields’ preference to only pitch one inning against the Padres. He only threw fastballs and changeups the first time out, although some of the fastballs were cutters.

@J_ST3W_K_C: it is early but smith is definitely in the running for 5th spot right?

I don’t think so at this point, but Will Smith has been terrific in both of his spring outings. He keeps that up, who knows? But I think is a real long shot – barring injuries or trades.

@RickGehring: How bad was the Tejada error?

Miguel Tejada fielded a grounder behind third base in the second inning Thursday and air-mailed a throw that cleared a leaping Eric Hosmer at first base and went into the seats.

@MarkLonghofer: What happens to Hoch if Chen wins that 5th spot?

The two losers in the rotation derby (don’t forget Luis Mendoza) are slated for bullpen duty as long relievers, although I expect other teams would ask about trade possibilities. Colorado is a possibility.

@RoyalRevival: Have been told control is ability to throw for strikes. Command is ability to manipulate pitch how one desires.

Got many similar comments after saying control and command are synonymous in Thursday’s exchange. I should have explained the answer better. One advantage of this new format is I’m not limited by twitter in response characters.

Technically, you’re essentially correct here, but the distinction is seldom observed. The terms are almost always used interchangeably. I’ve never heard a scout or coach say a pitcher has good control but bad command or vice versa.

The closest I’ve heard is that a pitcher misses in the strike zone or that his strikes are too hittable. But that’s not quite the same thing.

My point was that when you hear someone say “command,” it (almost always) means the same thing as “control,” i.e., the ability to put a pitch where you want it. In fact, you seldom hear the word “control” used anymore.

@BoxOfCurveballs: What is Ned’s drink of choice? I’ll send him a bottle.

I’ve only seen him drink water, which I find to be a mixer.

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

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