SURPRISE, Ariz. — It isn't hard to see why the Royals are rolling through the Cactus League at 9-0-1 as they enjoy the first of the spring's three open dates.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
They lead all 30 teams in batting at .338, in earned-run average at 3.00 and in defense efficiency rating (which measures outs recorded to opportunities) at .720.
"A whole lot to like," manager Ned Yost said after Sunday's 8-1 victory over Cincinnati in Goodyear. "Nothing to dislike. We got some really good pitching, some really good hitting and some good defense. We're just playing really well right now.
"These games, you kind of script them out. You don't do that during the season, but you script them out now. You've got your starters in there for five (innings), and then you put your backups in there. You set your pitching up, and everybody is contributing. Everybody is doing really well."
Does it mean anything?
The Royals' only Cactus League title came in 2003 -- their first year in the desert, when they went 19-8. That is also the only year since 1994 that they finished the regular season with a winning record (83-79).
But they were 17-10 in 2006 and finished 62-100. And just two years ago, they were 20-11 and finished 71-91.
So who knows?
The Royals resume their 36-game schedule Tuesday at home against an Oakland split squad before traveling Wednesday to North Scottsdale to play Arizona. Thursday brings a showdown in Surprise against a Seattle split squad. The Mariners opened the week at 9-1.
Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here's today's exchange:
@adazlian: #Rangers lost Perez they share facility with Royals.. obv early but you think they are possibility for Chen, Hoch, Mendoza? That's a possibility. It's certainly the scenario that should heighten a team's interest in looking at the Royals' surplus.
@GoRoyalsGo: The Royals are undefeated since doing the Harlem Shake. Theres a definite correlation there, right?
Sure. Am only surprised this comment didn't come from a dance-knowledgable colleague who disagreed with my less-than-enthusiastic response to the routine.
@benny_the_buddy: Donnie Joseph has looked great so far. Any chance he makes the team in that final bullpen spot?
A better chance than when camp opened, but I still think he's a long shot barring injuries or a trade. The positive thing is he's created a strong impression for whenever the Royals go looking to the minors for bullpen help during the season.
@sstorm89: I know it's early, but what players spring performance are you most excited about, and what player are you concerned about?
With that qualifier -- that it's early -- I think it's encouraging that the rotation's front four have all pitched well. Encouraging doesn't mean anything definitive. It might not mean anything. Just as it might not mean anything if all get hammered in the next cycle.
Plus, Wade Davis is the only one who has pitched more than once (although he has five scoreless innings in two starts).
The point is the Royals spent the off-season with one priority: improve the rotation. The earliest feedback is undeniably positive.
@ericwilsonwsu: I realize wins in spring training mean little, but what's been key to all these early wins/hot start for the #Royals? Thanks!
There's no "key" other than they're playing well. (See above.) I'm sure that's an unsatisfying answer, but there's really not much else to say. They've also won some close games, but before you (or anyone) sees a trend there, remember few regulars are in the game in the closing innings,
@bobp03: We can see the stats and hear a lot about the pitching and offense, but how does the D look? Anyone impress? 2nd base battle?
The defense, like everything else, has been really good through 10 games. As for second base, Johnny Giavotella has made a couple of really nice plays. That's not as surprising as it might have been a year ago. Giavotella has worked to improve his defense, and it shows.
@BAP_KC: Haven't seen much about Escobar so far. How's he look?
He's been what you'd expect in the field, which is very good, and has had some good swings.
@christiandr85: Have you seen Kyle Zimmer throw and if so, when do you see him at the ML level? 2014?
I haven't got back to the minor-league side much. So, no, I haven't seen him throw. I'm hoping to spend a little time today at the cloverleaf (where the minor-league teams work out) because the big-league guys have the day off.
@PhilGarver: With Mendoza making 4 million less than Chen and Hoch, is it safe to say that he would be the last of the three to be traded?
Were the Royals to trade one of those three, I think the chief consideration would be who would generate the best return.
@royalsthoughts: Is there any chance Miguel Tejada sneaks into the 2nd base competition similar to Y. Betancourt last season?
I don't think so. Manager Ned Yost has been pretty definite that second base is a battle between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella.
@thehaybaker: Is there a concern about these guys not experiencing enough losing in ST? Don't get me wrong, I'm stoked but ...
You've got to be kidding, right? There's no reason to attach any real significance to the Royals' 9-0-1 record, but I think it's safe to say everyone in this organization has sufficient experience in losing.
@wcg1380: what are you hear about what @DKnobler said about the Royals "eye outfield trade market"? upgrade stater or likely depth?
Nothing beyond what I've written -- that if the Royals trade a starting pitcher (Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen or Luis Mendoza), they'd like to get an outfielder in return. That's not a must, but it's a preference.
@gershonmarx: why is everyone so pumped about the ST W-L record? Two(?) years ago we had the best record and then proceeded to do nothing!
I don't think "everyone" is -- and for the reason you mention. But you'd rather win than lose, even in spring training, right? There's nothing wrong with a long-suffering fan base enjoying that success.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report