Thursday was the third and final open date in the Royals’ spring schedule. The play nine games in eight days starting with Friday’s trip to Tempe to play the Los Angeles Angels.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The Royals, 18-6-1, held a one-game lead over Seattle 17-7, prior to the start of Thursday’s games. The Mariners played a night game against the Chicago Cubs in Peoria.
Lefty Bruce Chen pitched Thursday in a minor-league intrasquad game to remain on his regular work schedule — and, initially, it couldn’t have gone much worse.
Chen recorded just one out in the first inning while pitching for Class AA Northwest Arkansas against Class AAA Omaha before his rising pitching count forced a halt.
Five of six Omaha batters got hits, which produced four runs before the inning stopped.
“The stuff was bad, terrible,” he said. “Nobody wants to get hit, and I’m trying to do everything I can to do the stuff I need to do.
“Sometimes when you’re pitching in minor-league games, you’re just trying to get your work in. But I’m trying to make some adjustments to make sure I’m throwing the ball right and keeping the ball down.
“After the first inning, I felt I got that accomplished.”
Chen was far sharper over his final four innings. He allowed no more runs and just two singles while striking out four and walking none. In all, he threw 50 of 74 pitches for strikes.
“I changed speeds on my fastball,” Chen said. “I changed speeds on everything. Once I started making the adjustments, all of the stuff that I know came back — and I was finally able to use it.”
The other primary competitor for the fifth spot in the rotation, Luis Mendoza, is scheduled to pitch Friday in a regular minor-league game.
Right-hander Yordano Ventura started for Omaha in Thursday’s intrasquad game and worked six scoreless innings — technically, 52/3 innings since one inning ended with two outs because of his pitch count.
Ventura permitted three singles while striking out eight and walking one. Scouts say he regularly pushed his fastball to 100 mph and worked it at 97-98 mph.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon ranked fourth and fifth in batting among all players, prior to Thursday’s games: Moustakas at .460 (23 for 50) and Gordon at .458 (22 for 48).
Gordon also ranked second in on-base percentage at .527, while Moustakas was fourth in slugging percentage at .820.
The Royals lead all teams, prior to Thursday’s games, with a .329 batting average and a .382 on-base percentage. They ranked third in slugging percentage at .497 behind Seattle (.525) and the White Sox (.508).
The Royals also ranked first among all Cactus League teams with a 3.95 ERA. Three Grapefruit League teams are lower: Boston at 3.78, Tampa Bay at 3.85 and Baltimore at 3.86.
The Royals ranked fourth among the 30 teams, prior to Thursday’s games, in defensive efficiency ratio, which tracks the outs recorded to defensive opportunities.
Friday’s game marks the first of three live TV exposures in six days for the Royals. The catch is you must have MLB Network on your cable or satellite system to watch Friday’s game against the Angels in Tempe.
The games Monday night against the Dodgers and Wednesday night against the Cubs, both at Surprise Stadium, will be carried by Fox Sports Kansas City.
Sunday afternoon’s game against the White Sox in Glendale will be shown by MLB Network on a tape-delayed basis at 11 p.m.
Reliever Kelvin Herrera is slotted to make his first appearance Friday for the Royals since March 2. He spent the last three weeks helping the Dominican Republic win the World Baseball Classic.
Greg Holland, Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno are also scheduled for work.
Royals (RHP James Shields) vs. Angels (LHP C.J. Wilson), at 3:05 p.m. Central time in Tempe, Ariz.
“Take (Thursday) off, then go hard for seven or eight days and be ready to go. ”
| Right fielder Jeff Francoeur on the approach for the final eight days of spring camp.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: 10 DAYS