Starting on Saturday afternoon, the Royals were set to play 198 baseball games in 219 days over the next 7 1/2 months.
The schedule includes 162 regular-season games and 36 here in the desert. The club began baseball’s annual slog by taking a look at a top prospect and enjoying an early power surge from catcher Salvador Perez.
Right-hander Josh Staumont, one of the organization’s rising young pitchers, made his first Cactus League start and threw a scoreless first inning while laboring with his fastball command. Salvador Perez collected a double and a three-run homer. Peter O’Brien broke a late deadlock by clubbing a two-run homer in a 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers, the Royals’ neighbor here in Surprise.
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Perez appeared unmoved by the performance — “Spring training doesn’t count,” he noted astutely — but the rest of the club dipped its collective toe into the competitive waters of real baseball. Well, the spring training variety.
The Royals opened the game with two runs in the top of the first against Texas starter Martin Perez. Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain shot back-to-back singles through the Texas infield. Eric Hosmer scored Gordon with a double to right-center field. Perez stretched the lead to 2-0 with a double to left-center.
“I liked our offense,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I liked the way we swung the bat. Sal had a good day. O’Brien with the big home run...”
The Royals’ regulars exited in the middle innings. In the moments after departing, Perez showered and prepared for an afternoon off. As a small collection of reporters approached his locker, he preferred humor over indifference to the moment. It’s a long season, he said.
“Already?” joked Perez, who yanked his three-run homer off Texas pitcher A.J. Griffin in the third inning. “Already you guys are here? It’s only the first game, guys. I got lucky. That was luck. I got lucky.”
For the Royals, the opener offered the first opportunity to evaluate the hard-throwing Staumont in a game situation. In his first appearance, he issued two walks and needed 23 pitches to work around the Rangers’ lineup in the first. His fastball, which can touch 100 mph, sat around 95 mph. He gave way to right-hander Jake Junis in the second.
“It’s the first time on a big-league mound against a big-league team in a big-league atmosphere,” Yost said. “I thought he did fine for his first outing.”
Staumont is working as a starter here in camp, though his power repertoire could make him a possible answer in the club’s bullpen. In the moments after his start, Staumont said he did not feel additional nerves. But he did struggle to command his fastball.
“I was staying a little [too] upright,” he said.
After Staumont left, Junis worked a scoreless second inning before allowing five runs in the third. It was the Rangers’ only offense.
“I thought Junis was good in the first inning,” Yost said. “He lost his arm slot in the second a little bit, which is pretty normal this time a year.”
Third baseman Mike Moustakas was the only Royals’ starter to get the day off. The club is exercising caution in his return from a season-ending ACL injury. Cheslor Cuthbert started in his place and finished hitless in two at-bats. Whit Merrifield earned the start at second base and finished 0-for-2.
The young guys
Peter O’Brien replaced Brandon Moss at designated hitter and blasted a deep shot to right-center field in the eighth inning. The right-handed hitting O’Brien was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in an offseason trade and has displayed his raw power in the opening weeks of camp.
Shortstop Ramon Torres also racked up two hits after replacing Merrifield at second base.