Just when it didn’t seem to matter who is wearing their uniforms, the Royals pulled a clunker Friday night in an 8-1 split-squad loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
The rare spring setback followed a comeback victory earlier in the day.
Alex Llanos’ two-run single keyed a four-run rally in the eighth inning by a collection of minor-leaguers in a 7-5 victory over San Diego in another split-squad matchup.
Dan Wheeler closed out the victory with a scoreless ninth for his third save and seventh scoreless one-inning outing. Earlier, Luke Hochevar worked two perfect innings in his first appearance since being moved to the bullpen.
“Two highlights of the day for me,” manager Ned Yost said, “were the kids, what they did in the eighth inning to win that ballgame for us, and Hoch.”
The split left the Royals at 16-3-1.
The Dodgers jumped to a quick lead against Yordano Ventura on Yasiel Puig’s two-run homer in the first inning. LA pushed its lead to 4-0 before the Royals got their only run on Alex Gordon’s double in the fifth.
The Padres jumped to a 5-0 lead in the opener against Royals starter Will Smith by scoring four unearned runs in the first three innings. Nick Hundley hit a two-run homer in the first after the inning should have been over.
“Part of my job is to have damage control,” Smith said. “I gave up that home run. I could have had better location today. It wasn’t the best.”
Smith drew the start in place of Wade Davis, who pitched in a minor-league game. Smith allowed five runs, but just one earned, in four innings. He was efficient: 46 pitches; 31 strikes.
Lorenzo Cain’s two-run single highlighted a three-run third inning against San Diego starter Jason Marquis. It stayed 5-3 until the Royals rallied in the eighth.Arms race
Luke Hochevar’s first outing as a reliever couldn’t have gone much better. He retired six straight hitters over two innings, two on strikeouts, after replacing starter Will Smith to start the fifth.
“I’ll take that,” Hochevar said. “You get that shot of adrenaline (as a reliever). It’s kind of a different approach. You’re not trying to establish anything, keep your pitch count down or try to get deep in the game.
“I’m throwing all of my breaking pitches from the get-go. That’s what I took from it today. It’s fun.
Hochevar threw 16 of 23 pitches for strikes.Stat wrap
Outfielder David Lough remains on fire. He hit three balls hard in the opener ib going two for three and raising his average to .548 at 17 for 31.Minor matter
Right-hander Wade Davis overmatched Class A hitters in his first mound appearance since being diagnosed with inflammation behind his shoulder following three scoreless innings March 3 against Cincinnati.
“It’s been pretty annoying,” Davis said, “but it’s all good now. Everything went really well today. My arm felt strong. I didn’t get tired at all. I could have thrown a lot more today.”
Davis faced 12 hitters over three controlled innings against Lake Elsinore, which is San Diego’s High-A affiliate. He allowed one hit, no runs and struck out six while walking none. He threw 29 of 44 pitches for strikes.
Salvy Perez served as Perez’s catcher and had a homer and a walk in three plate appearances.
“I think (the homer) went 700 or 800 feet,” Davis said. “I think it one-hopped the hotel.”
Some poor infield defense betrayed Will Smith in San Diego’s three-run first inning. First, third baseman Brandon Wood threw away a potential inning-ending grounder.
That permitted Jonathan Galvez to reach third. The batter, Jesus Guzman, was awarded second base because he ran into first baseman Billy Butler. That interference is scored as an error on Butler.
The inning should have been over before Nick Hundley hit a two-run homer.
Smith hurt himself in a two-run third inning by committing a throwing error on a pickoff play. That led to another unearned run.
The Royals committed three more errors, which led to three unearned runs, in their loss to the Dodgers.Personnel moves
Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso was claimed Friday by an unidentified team after being placed Wednesday by the Royals on unconditional release waivers. He has until Wednesday to accept the claim or become a free agent.
If Moscoso accepts the claim, his new team accepts terms of his contract, which includes a big-league salary of $504,250.Medical updates
The go-slow approach on shortstop Alcides Escobar continues in his recovery from back spasms, which surfaced after last Sunday’s game against the Angels.
“It’s just about gone,” manager Ned Yost said. “On a scale of one to 10, it maxes out at a three when he makes quick-twitch movements. When he’s slow and easy, he’s a one.
“We’re going to get him on the field (Saturday) to take ground balls and see where he is Sunday -- if he’s going to be available to play. It might be Monday.
“The thing is, we’ve got two weeks left (before camp breaks). We don’t need to rush this. If this was the regular season, he’d be playing. But it’s not. We’ve got time. So we’ll go ahead and let it (heal completely).”Etc.
The Dodgers’ granted the Royals’ request Friday night to use the designated hitter, although the Dodgers are choosing not to do so. But that might be the last time this spring that the Royals make such a request.
Plans call for Bruce Chen to bat Saturday against the Cubs in Mesa.
From now on, manager Ned Yost said, “If one of the guys we’ve slated for the rotation (is pitching), if we play a National League game, he’ll hit.”On deck
The Royals make the longest trip in the Cactus League on Saturday to play the Chicago Cubs at HoHoKam Park in Mesa. It’s 47 miles from Surprise to Mesa.
Lefty Bruce Chen is slotted for five innings or 75 pitches in his fourth outing. Aaron Crow, Michael Mariot and Francisley Bueno are also slotted to pitch.Up next
Royals (LHP Bruce Chen) vs. Cubs (LHP Hisonori Takahashi), at 3:05 p.m. Central time in Mesa, Ariz.Quotebook
“I’m fine. I’m not even going to the training room.”
_ first baseman Billy Butler after tumbling down the steps to the San Diego dugout while chasing after a foul pop.