It was a bittersweet afternoon for Royals catcher Francisco Pena. In the bottom of the ninth, he swatted a game-tying, two-out solo homer that allowed the Royals to tie Oakland 9-9 in Surprise, Ariz.
But immediately after the game, the team optioned him to Class AAA Omaha. Still manager Ned Yost was impressed with Pena, the son of former Royals manager Tony Pena and a former Mets farmhand.
“He made a phenomenal impression on all of us,” Yost said. “He can catch. He can throw. He can swing the bat.”
To get the tie tie on Friday, the Royals overcame a brutal outing from lefty Danny Duffy. He gave up five runs in two innings. He required 65 pitches to complete the two frames. The critical moment occurred in the second, when Oakland catcher Derek Norris clobbered a fastball for a three-run homer.
After Duffy left, the day got better for the Royals. Wade Davis delivered a wipeout performance in relief. He struck out the side. “That could have been the best one-inning performance of the spring,” Yost said.
One other reason for encouragement? Alex Gordon continued his steady spring. He swatted his first Cactus League home run thus far, a solo shot that doubled as the Royals’ first hit of the game.
Gordon is batting .367 this spring. This is not exactly cause for celebration, considering the lowered stakes of the setting. The Royals saw Gordon’s production plummet in 2013. His .749 on-base plus slugging percentage was his lowest since 2010.
ANNY Duffy did himself few favors on Friday. He exhibited several distressing signs: An inability to finish at-bats, a lack of efficiency and appearing to be affected by the swings of the game.
Considering how well Yordano Ventura has pitched, it is difficult to imagine Duffy winning the last spot in the starting rotation. The team must now begin to debate whether Duffy is best served in the major-league bullpen or stashed in Class AAA Omaha for depth.
Ramon Hernandez (sore knee) was considered Brett Hayes’ chief competition for the backup catcher spot. But Hernandez has only been able to play as a designated hitter and first baseman thus far. He played first base as a mid-game substitution on Friday.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar (shoulder inflammation) continues to rest his arm. He hopes to return to action by Sunday. He received a cortisone shot to deal with the lingering soreness earlier this week.
The Royals shipped six players out of camp on Friday. In addition to Pena, Christian Colon, Justin Marks and Michael Mariot were optioned to Class AAA Omaha. Scott Alexander and Everett Teaford were re-assigned to minor-league camp.
A day after bringing in Brett Tomko, the Royals signed right-handed reliever Ramon Troncoso to a minor-league deal. Like Tomko, Troncoso did not receive an invitation to big-league camp. Troncoso appeared in 29 games with the White Sox in 2013, posting a 4.50 ERA.
The Cubs come to Surprise. James Shields makes his fourth start of the spring. Kelvin Herrera is also scheduled to pitch after a two-inning stint in a minor-league game on Tuesday. The game starts at 3:05 p.m. Central, and will not be broadcast on the radio.
“You always love what you see from Alex Gordon.” – Ned Yost, on his star left fielder.