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Royals Q&A: Any frontrunner yet to fifth spot in rotation?

Updated: 2013-03-11T17:00:43Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

— An open date in the Cactus League schedule means it’s almost deserted on the big-league side of the Royals’ camp. Even the staff are taking part in a golf outing.

This is the second of the club’s three open dates. The last one is March 21.

The Royals hit this break at 13-1-1 and after collecting 38 hits over their last two games while beating San Francisco 13-2 and the Los Angeles Angels 17-11.

That gives them a three-game lead over Seattle, 11-5, in the Cactus League standings. The Royals also have a 21/2-game lead over Baltimore for the best record in all of spring training.

The schedule resumes Tuesday, when the Royals make their one trip to old Phoenix Municipal Stadium to play Oakland. James Shields is scheduled to pitch four innings in his third spring start.

Ervin Santana will pitch Wednesday against Seattle at Surprise Stadium before Jeremy Guthrie starts Thursday against Cleveland in Goodyear.

Plans call for Wade Davis to return Friday to the rotation in a split-squad afternoon game against San Diego in Surprise. He’ll be watched closely; he missed his previous scheduled start because of inflammation behind his shoulder.

Will Smith is scheduled to pitch the other split-squad game Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Glendale. He has been the club’s most impressive starter this spring but is viewed as a long shot for the rotation.

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

@unkieheaf09: Are the #Royals all hype and no hope?

Right now, I’d say there’s some hype, lots of hope but no proof.

@p90rexHud: does Ace Ventura make the club out of spring training?

There’s nothing to suggest the Royals are thinking that way. But what Yordano Ventura has done, with a strong spring, is convince club officials and teammates that he might be able to help at some point this year.

@justinmarkbro: is Miguel Tejada’s choice to play in WBC hurting his chance of making the team?

Not from anything I’m hearing. His status will be determined once he returns and is able to be evaluated playing several positions. My guess is he makes the club.

@AndyWesthusing: What are the chances I can watch a game from the press box with you this upcoming weekend? I will buy you a beer.

If you get credentialed, you’d have as much right to a seat as I do.

@Bjoe87: Thoughts on Elliot Johnson so far?

Someone referred to him as a younger, switch-hitting Willie Bloomquist. That seems a reasonable comp to me because he shows the ability to perform solidly at multiple defensive positions.

Like Bloomquist, Johnson’s bat won’t wow you, but he gives solid at-bats, and his switch-hitting skill is a definite plus.

@SRiggs1234: do u think Hoch will get the 5th as long as he doesn’t just get destroyed in spring? #HopeNot

I think — think, mind you — that Luke Hochevar gets the job if the club views him as reasonably close in the competition.

But the Royals have put together this club with the idea of competing this season. If Bruce Chen or Luis Mendoza are clearly better, I think they’ll get the job.

@zrod10: are there still no concerns about hoch after today?

Sunday’s game, I think, gets washed away. Just about everyone got hammered on both teams. For what it’s worth, I thought Luke Hochevar pitched better Sunday than Bruce Chen. Not a lot better but better.

@RSmithInc: does this spring feel different? Is it possible they are a real contender?

I’ve never been in a camp where the club wasn’t optimistic. Even really bad clubs. I’ll say this, though; the guys who have been here awhile truly believe this club is better than recent editions.

The 13-1-1 record, even with all of the disclaimers, only fosters that belief.

@davidwlowe: Do the abysmal performances by Hoch/Chen on Sunday mean Mendoza is now the front runner for 5th SP spot?

No. I think he’s still third in line.

@DocJHurn21: Both Getzy and Gio on opening day roster?

That’s really unlikely because neither really is able to fill a utilityman role. I think both start at second base; one for the Royals and the other at Class AAA Omaha.

@juliokcmo: was Pujols able to run the bases on his home run?

A slow trot. But Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who is recovering from knee surgery, also “ran” out his single and shuffled to first on a walk before being replaced each time by a courtesy runner.

The Royals had no problem with the arrangement.

@crimsonblue: at what point should we start getting excited about the team’s good Spring start?

There’s nothing wrong with being excited now, but if you’re asking when that excitement gets validated...not until this success carries into April.

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

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