PEORIA, Ariz. — No corks popped Tuesday afternoon when the Royals clinched the Cactus League title with an 11-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The clubhouse instead witnessed an enthusiastic feast on a post-game spread from In-N-Out Burger before everyone boarded the bus for the short return trip down Bell Road to Surprise.
They need some little reward, manager Ned Yost said. Rookies get their flat-screen TVs. Everybody else gets a burger.
Hopefully all rookies grabbed a burger, too. Those TVs are likely to be a while in arriving.
The Royals finished with 18 hits, including seven doubles, while extending their winning streak to six games and improving to 23-6-1. Second-place Seattle fell to 19-11.
Brett Hayes bolstered his bid to win a job as the backup to starting catcher Salvy Perez by getting four hits in five at-bats. Utility candidate Miguel Tejada went three for five with two doubles.
Were getting down to the end, Yost said, and were going to have to make decisions. Theyre going to be tough decisions. Anything they can do to help their cause
The Royals fell into a 4-1 hole before taking command with a six-run fifth that started with Chris Getzs one-out single. Hayes followed with an RBI triple, and Jeff Francoeur capped the rally with a two-run double.
Seattle closed to within 7-6 when Tim Collins surrendered two homers in the seventh, but the Royals answered with two runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth.
Sugar Ray Marimon drew the short-notice start after the decision earlier in the day to shift Bruce Chen to bullpen duty. Marimon worked three scoreless innings earlier this spring before getting sent to the minors.
Sugar Ray did fine, manager Ned Yost said. We wanted to get him up to 75 (pitches) because it was his day to get to 75.
Marimon, 24, pitched into the fifth before departing after a one-out walk. He gave up four runs and seven hits while throwing 66 pitches. He split time last season at Class A Wilmington and Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
Chen surrendered two singles and a walk but still managed a scoreless sixth inning.
It looked like there were two different pitchers out there, Yost said. One pitcher was out there until the bases got loaded. Then another guy stepped up.
He was a different guy out there. He got on the attack, got aggressive with his pitches and got out of the inning.
Could lefty Tim Collins pitch his way off the roster and into the minor leagues? His spring troubles continued when he surrendered two homers in the seventh inning.
And they werent cheap.
Franklin Gutierrez led off a no-doubt drive over the right-field before Michael Morse sent a two-out drive over the 40-foot batters-eye beyond the center-field wall.
Collins has allowed 11 runs and 13 hits in just seven innings. The damage includes two homers. His trouble Tuesday followed a battering in his last outing.
Hes still a little inconsistent, manager Ned Yost conceded, but we dont have any concern over him. Hes got another two outings (before the regular season).
Hes continuing to focus on some little mechanical adjustments he needs to make to get the ball down. Hell be all right.
The Royals have lefty options for their bullpen: Francisley Bueno (one run in his last nine innings) and Donnie Joseph (two runs in 10 innings). And Collins still has options.
The Royals set a franchise spring record by winning their 23rd game. Their previous best came in compiling a 22-9 record in 1999 while based in Baseball City, Fla.
That 1999 club also set the franchise spring winning percentage at .710. The current club is 23-6-1 with four games remaining and needs just one more victory to guarantee a better winning percentage.
The Royals released four minor-league pitchers: Michael Giovenco, Jose Jimenez, Leondy Perez and Elisaul Pimentel.
Jimenez and Pimentel were on the Class AA Northwest Arkansas roster; Perez was on the Class A Wilmington roster; and Giovenco was on the Class A Lexington roster.
Catcher Salvy Perez answered with one word bueno when asked how he felt after taking a foul tip off the top of his helmet in the ninth inning of Mondays 8-2 victory over the Dodgers.
The play left Perez momentarily stunned Monday, although he completed the game.
James Shields is one of six pitchers featured in regional covers by Sports Illustrated in its annual baseball preview issue.
Shields is delivering a pitch above a headline that reads: The Real Deal; Big Games Await James Shields and the Revamped Royals.
Other regional covers contain David Price of Tampa Bay, Justin Verlander of Detroit, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees and Stephen Strasburg of Washington.
James Shields is slotted Wednesday night for his final spring start and you can watch it on Fox Sports Kansas City. Its an 8:05 p.m. Central time start against the Chicago Cubs at Surprise Stadium.
It will be a tapered outing for Shields four innings or 60 pitches. Thats the standard procedure under pitcher coach Dave Eiland for starters in their final spring appearance.
The Royals also play earlier in the day against Milwaukee in Maryvale. Luis Mendoza, just named to the rotation, will make his final spring start.
Royals SS (RHP Luis Mendoza) vs. Brewers (RHP Yovani Gallardo), at 3:05 p.m. Central time in Maryvale, Ariz.
Royals SS (RHP James Shields) vs. Cubs (RHP Scott Feldman) at 8:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
Quotebook Hey, theyve got to eat!
Vincent Key, the Royals head team physician, when asked how he felt while watching the players tear into the post-game spread from In-N-Out Burger.
Countdown to Opening Day: Five days