Royals 8, Reds 3
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The attention all spring with the Royals centered, naturally enough, on their rebuilt rotation. And there was plenty there to like. Ervin Santana delivered a solid performance Thursday in an 8-3 victory over the Reds.
Its easy to forget only two American League clubs scored fewer runs last season. So seeing them pound their way through the Cactus League batting .337 and averaging 6.82 runs is no small thing.
Those numbers rank first among all teams, but...does it mean anything?
It does, manager Ned Yost said. Pitchers are working on certain things. Youve got hard infields. Sun fields. There are a lot of variables in the hitters favor, but were hitting the ball awfully hard.
Were putting ourselves in good hitting counts. I just really like our approach.
The Royals pounded out 16 hits in whomping the Reds in Goodyear, Ariz.
Alex Gordon and Salvy Perez each went two for three with a homer. Eric Hosmer had three hits. Lorenzo Cain raised his average to .458 by going two for three. Billy Butler had two hits.
Go down the list, Yost said. Theyve all had a great spring. Cains had a great spring. Alex Gordon, I dont know if you can swing the bat better than he is. Moose. Salvy. Were just putting together good at-bats.
The Royals trailed 2-0 when Gordon ignited a five-run third inning with a leadoff homer. Butler punched a one-out single into center before Mike Moustakas drew a walk. Perez followed with a three-run homer.
And more: Hosmer lined a single through the middle and scored when Cain sliced an RBI triple to right. The Royals, 24-7-2, added three more runs in the fifth. Stuff like that has happened a lot.
The record speaks for itself, Butler said. Everybody is throwing their guys out there. The past two weeks, weve been mostly playing the A squad against the A squad. And weve held up pretty good.
Lefty Bruce Chen, in his second outing since shifting to the bullpen, worked two scoreless innings after replacing starter Ervin Santana.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain pushed his average to .458 (27 for 59) by getting a double and a triple in three at-bats.
First baseman Eric Hosmer played the entire game in right field without incident. He also went three for five, which boosted his average to .385 (20 for 52).
The Royals improved to 24-7-2 with one game remaining. They have clinched a franchise record for spring winning percentage. Their previous best was .710 when the 1999 team went 22-9.
This year, the Royals will either finish at .781 (if they win their finale), .774 (if they tie) or .750 (if they lose).
First baseman Billy Butler obstructed Joey Votto in the first inning when Votto lined a drive into the left-field corner. Votto rounded wide at first and collided with Butler.
They said it was obstruction, Butler said. I never made a move to get in his way. It was the other way around, but its always the defender who gets the obstruction.
The Royals applied a tag to Votto, but he was awarded second base. The play was scored a double.
The runner creates his own basepath, Butler said, but its got to stop somewhere. He ran into me. Im basically two steps from the outfield and waiting for him to go by.
Right-handed pitcher Nick Graffeo, the stepson of former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, was released, along with two other minor-league players.
Graffeo, 25, was an All-State performer at Raytown. He was a combined 0-4 last season with eight saves and a 3.62 ERA in 41 games for Class A Kane County and Class A Wilmington.
Also released were first basemen Ian Gac and Dean Espy. Graffeo and Gac were on the Class AA Northwest Arkansas roster; Espy was on the Class A Lexington roster.
Here are some over/under odds from Bovada, the online gambling service, presented (of course) merely for discussion purposes:
DH Billy Butler: .300, 24 1/2 homers and 104 RBIs.
LF Alex Gordon: 19 1/2 homers.
1B Eric Hosmer: .275, 231/2homers, 75 1/2 RBIs.
RF Jeff Francoeur: 171/2homers.
3B Mike Moustakas: 241/2homers.
RHP James Shields: 14 victories.
RHP Ervin Santana: 111/2victories
The Royals close the most successful spring in franchise history Friday when Jeremy Guthrie faces division-rival Cleveland at Surprise Stadium. Note its an early start: 2:05 p.m. Central time.
The club breaks camp after the game and heads to Chicago. The players have the day off on Saturday but will work out Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field in preparation for Mondays opener against the White Sox.
Royals (RHP Jeremy Guthrie) vs. Indians (RHP Ubaldo Jimenez), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
Im excited about it. Obviously, you dont get very many chances to be on the cover of SI. Just representing the Kansas City Royals on there is pretty special.
| Royals right-hander James Shields on being featured on a regional cover of Sports Illustrateds annual baseball preview. Five other pitchers also appear on regional covers.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: THREE DAYS