SURPRISE, Ariz. — Its two weeks from today that the Royals open the regular season against the White Sox in Chicago, which is why James Shields shifted Sunday to a minor-league game.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The Royals saw no reason to offer the White Sox an early look at their likely starter for Opening Day. Shields responded by overmatching Milwaukees Hi-A club, Brevard County.
That doesnt always happen when big-league pitchers drop down to minor-league games. Often, the minor-leaguers come out swinging, and major-league guys, conditioned to set up hitters, can get rocked.
They were swinging, Shields said. Thats for sure.
They just didnt connect much. It was Shields fourth spring start, and he really began mixing in his curve as a contrast to his fastball and plus change-up.
It wasnt fair.
Just to get his work in 15 pitches an inning the two sides agreed to give Brevard County an extra out nearly every inning. The result was Shields pitched the equivalent of 72/3 innings in six innings.
Shields permitted no runs and two hits while striking out eight and walking one. He threw 54 strikes in 76 pitches.
I got lots of questions regarding the fifth spot in the rotation after Luis Mendoza worked five strong innings Sunday in a 10-0 pounding of the White Sox. A few are answered below (most were similar):
One thing to remember: All clubs (not just the Royals) temper spring performances when making personnel evaluations. If youre trying to anticipate a clubs moves, dont get caught up in spring numbers.
Its not that they dont count; but theyre just one component. And often, theyre not the most important component. Thats not just true for the Mendoza/Bruce Chen battle but all positional competitions.
Do that and you might still disagree in the end, but youll probably be less surprised.
The Royals, 17-4-1, play their first night game tonight at Surprise Stadium when they meet campus co-tenant Texas at 8:05 p.m. Central time. Lineups wont be available until later today.
Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here is todays exchange:
@kc_at_the_bat: Which scoreless outing was more impressive, the one by Shields or Mendoza?
I didnt see James Shields pitch since I was watching the big-league game. But Shields apparently overmatched Milwaukee Hi-A affliliate (Brevard County), while Luis Mendoza blanked a division rival for five innings.
@abarney51: Will royals give starters a break before season. Worried about fatigue getting lots of action in spring training.
If you mean the starting position players, theyve been rested plenty. If you mean the starting pitchers, their sixth and last start will be a reduced outing. Probably just 60-70 pitches.
@dclatka: if the Royals are going "all in" this year why does service time,options matter? why not the best 25?
Because youve got to be all in for 162 games. When guys get hurt or underperform, you want as many options as possible. Now, that inventory becomes a little less important as the season unfolds.
@KinnerMode: With Chen struggling and Mendoza pitching well of late, are the odds shifting in Dozers favor for the 5th rotation spot?
My read is Luis Mendoza has made up some ground but that Bruce Chen is still likely to be the fifth starter when the season begins.
@shaben05: Do you get the feel that the front office believes that Christian Colon will play in the majors this season? Thanks
A major injury to shortstop Alcides Escobar something requiring time on the disabled list could likely result in Colon getting summoned as a replacement.
Barring that, I think Colon could get a late-season promotion and, if he has a good season, I could easily see him in the mix next season to be the starting second baseman.
@MLineBacker_32: Who are the potential suitors if the Royals trade Hoch and does this give Mendoza a legitimate shot at the #5 spot.
First, the move to shift Luke Hochevar to the bullpen effectively positions Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza as the top candidates for the final spot in the rotation. So in that sense, yes, I guess it improves Mendozas chances.
Second, Im hearing the Royals arent pushing to trade Hochevar. They want to see how he looks in the bullpen in the hope that it might get him turned around, eventually, as a starter.
That doesnt mean the Royals wouldnt listen if somebody comes asking about Hochevar, but I dont sense any urgency to make a deal. Less urgency, in fact, than a month ago.
@cernechy: funny to see the mass of reporters around Ventura after the game and then nobody on the royals side.
Sounds like you were at Sundays game. For games in Surprise, Royals manager Ned Yost conducts his postgame news conference near the conditioning field behind the Royals clubhouse.
Away from Surprise, Yosts postgame sessions are, usually, on the field like White Sox manager Robin Ventura did Sunday with the Chicago media.
@greghall24: Bob Dutton, the only man immune to #MarchMadness.
Youve got to stay in your lane, Greg.
@AndresSpivey: indefensible for the Royals talking Chen over Mendoza as 5th starter. Using W/L to justify that is ludicrous
For what its worth, I couldnt disagree more. What Id find ludicrous is making the judgment based solely on a handful of innings in spring training. But our opinions dont matter.
The Royals, from all appearances, are leaning toward Bruce Chen as their fifth starter. Thats not in stone. Luis Mendoza might still win the job.
@RSmithInc: Hosmer hasnt looked great last 2weeks. Im getting nervous...you?
I dont want to dismiss concerns regarding Eric Hosmer, but I think they should be based on what he did last year over six months and not what he did over the last two weeks at the World Baseball Classic.
Whether Hosmer can bounce back is a legitimate question. The answer, yes or no, wont be determined by what happens before the regular season starts.
@huskerjon00: First day down to Surprise, has Butler gained some weight from last season?
I dont see a whole lot of difference.
@blamberty: What are the teams - and your - thoughts of Brandon Woods play this spring? Where does he start 13?
Brandon Wood has real power, but he still must prove he can hit big-league pitching on a consistent basis. Id expect him to open the season as the starting third baseman at Class AAA Omaha.
To reach Bob Dutton, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.