SURPRISE, Ariz. — Anyone seeking separation in the battle for the fifth spot in the Royals rotation after Tuesdays 8-2 victory over an Oakland split squad is going to be disappointed.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Bruce Chen opened the game with three strong innings. He allowed one run and two hits while striking out two and walking none. He threw 29 of 44 pitches for strikes.
That followed a six-up, six-down performance in his previous appearance. Chen has retired 15 of 17 batters faced.
Bruce looks like hes almost in midseason form, manager Ned Yost said. Hes commanding his pitches very well, and hes very efficient with his pitches.
Luke Hochevar followed Chen with three scoreless innings. He worked around trouble in his first two innings but closed strong. He stranded runners at second and third with one out in the fifth and struck of the side in the sixth.
Hochs stuff right now is electric, Yost said. Good velocity of his fastball. As he went out for his second and third (innings), he started to narrow his command down a little.
Good outings by both of them.
The competition, which also includes Luis Mendoza, continues.
The Royals, 10-0-1, carry a 10-game winning streak into todays game against Arizona in Scottsdale. They lead Seattle, 10-1, by one-half game in the Cactus League standings.
Were doing a lot of things pretty darn well, Yost said after Tuesdays victory, but I dont want to say it energizes everybody because everyone was energized coming in with all of the moves that Dayton (Moore) made this winter.
But if you go back and look at what weve done, its been a team-wide effort. It hasnt been three or four guys. Everybody has done a great job. It makes it fun.
The only negative Wednesday was a disastrous outing by lefty reliever Tim Collins for the United States in its 4-4 tie with the Chicago White Sox in Glendale.
Collins retired just one of six hitters after entering the game in the fifth inning. The damage was two runs on four hits and one walk.
I went out to get Timmy Collins, USA manager Joe Torre said, and said,`Thats why we practice. I said, `This is just a practice game, you know?
And he said, `I hope so.
The Americans play Friday in the World Baseball Classic when they face Mexico in Phoenix.
Other WBC exhibition notes:
• Salvy Perez went zero for two in Venezuelas 6-5 loss to Miami.
• Miguel Tejada went four for six with two RBIs in the Dominican Republics 15-2 victory over the Phillies. Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless inning.
• Irving Falu had two singles in four at-bats in Puerto Ricos 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.
• Luis Mendoza pitched one scoreless inning in Mexicos 1-0 victory over Arizona.
The Royals plan to start James Shields in todays game at Salt River Fields against the Diamondbacks. He worked a brisk one-two-three inning against the Padres in his only spring appearance.
Also scheduled to pitch: Will Smith, J.C. Gutierrez, Dan Wheeler, Nate Adcock, Michael Mariot, Brian Sanches and Blaine Boyer.
Heres todays lineup: LF Alex Gordon, SS Alcides Escobar, 1B Billy Butler, 3B Mike Moustakas, RF Jeff Francoeur, CF Lorenzo Cain, C George Kottaras, 2B Chris Getz and Shields.
The game is being played under National League rules, which means no designated hitter.
Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Heres todays exchange:
@JeffMcG_CC: if you ignore contracts is Lough better than Francoeur right now?
First, you cant ignore the contracts. But right now? Sure. David Lough is having a great spring at nine for 17. But Jeff Francoeur is a pretty safe bet to be starting in right field when the season opens April 1 in Chicago.
@MikePettis660: How close do MLB managers watch WBC stats and can that affect a players spot if they were a non roster invite for example?
Theyre aware of how their players are doing, but I dont think it has much effect on the position battles.
@Proud2bApstolic: how much of the 5th rotation SP battle will go on past exp? Or is it all based on ST stats?
Spring performance will be a key element, but thats not the same as spring stats. As noted above, Yost characterized Hochevars stuff as electric Wednesday even though stats suggest Hochevar scrambled through his first two innings.
@ericschneid: I know youre response will include "its really early" but who would you say is leading the race for that last bullpen spot?
I thought J.C. Gutierrez entered camp in a favorable position largely because hes out of options and hes retired all nine hitters hes faced.
@Mave_Rick_2: is Chen the favorite after Hoch looking bad early this spring?? Or Will Smith?
Who says Luke Hochevar is looking bad? Nobody whose opinion matters.
@thayne_griffin: When do you expect first cuts from major league squad? Obviously WBC has moved some of the cuts to a later date
I dont know that the WBC had much impact, but Yost has said a few times that no cuts are coming before Fridays split-squad doubleheader.
@KCCCK94: why is Mendoza not getting more serious looks as a 5th starter?
I believe Luis Mendoza is a legitimate candidate for that final spot in the rotation, but I think he entered camp as third on the depth chart behind Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen. I dont think anything has changed.
@scagnetticon: Has anything been made in camp as to the "feud" between Santana & Butler after a few HBPs in their past duels over the years?
Nothing that Ive seen.
@EricBoston3: what would Tejada need to do to win the 2nd base job?
I think its really unlikely that anyone other than Chris Getz or Johnny Giavotella opens the season as the starting second baseman.
@zackisnowhere: Have heard rumblings of #Royals looking for OFer? What gives (not a Francouer question)?
The organizational depth for a corner outfielder is pretty thin. Theres David Lough and Xavier Nady. The Royals would like to add another body.
@jeff_fett: With Hoch/Chen/Mendoza on the trading block, how much do you think the Royals can get back and which teams could be involved?
The Royals would say none of them are on the trading block, although the high number of scouts attending Tuesdays game suggest other clubs believe otherwise. I think any of them could net a legitimate fourth outfielder-type.
@audra_marvin: I have a bet hinging on whether Tejada & Chavez both get starts before May 15. Know what u think of Tejada. How bout Chavez?
Barring injuries, I dont see how Endy Chavez makes this team.
To reach Bob Dutton, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.