GOODYEAR, Ariz. – A trio of home runs sunk James Shields in his longest start of the spring, as the Royals lost, 9-3, to the Reds.
“It was one of those days were you felt too good,” he said. “And you start over-throwing. I think the ball was up in the zone, for the most part, throughout the game. I felt like I made some nice, quality pitches that they hit as well.”
Shields was charged with five runs across six innings. He threw 97 pitches. He’ll taper back to 60 pitches in his final spring appearance, before heading into Opening Day on March 31 in Detroit.
“He really had to work,” manager Ned Yost said. “Which was good. It’s what you want him to do in your last start.”
Shields wobbled in the second inning. Cincinnati outfielder Chris Heisey laced a one-out triple and utility man Skip Schumaker plated him with a single. A minor leaguer named Kristopher Negron crushed a first-pitch, two-run home run immediately after.
Shields gave up another homer in the third. Reds outfielder Roger Bernadina boomed a solo shot off the batter’s eye in center field.
The Royals halved the deficit in the fourth. Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez each coaxed walks. Moustakas scored on a sacrifice fly by Lorenzo Cain; Perez scored on a single by Jimmy Paredes.
They picked up their third run in the sixth. Cain doubled. When Reds third baseman Neftali Soto committed a throwing error on a grounder, he came home.
Shields gave that run back in the sixth. Heisey lofted a solo homer to center field.
“I thought it was a routine pop-up,” he said. “Those other two were homers, for sure.”
The introduction of Danny Duffy into the bullpen competition hurt the chances of fellow lefty Donnie Joseph. He was already up against Francisley Bueno, who unlike Joseph is out of options. His performance on Friday did not help his cause. Joseph walked three batters, and also gave up a three-run homer.
“Donnie was flat, with command issues,” Yost said.
Second baseman Omar Infante will resume his throwing program on Saturday. He has been resting his right elbow, which received a cortisone shot to counteract a bone spur on Tuesday. If Infante can play three or four games before Opening Day, Yost said, “he’ll be ready to go.”
Shortstop Alcides Escobar played in his first Cactus League game since undergoing treatment for shoulder inflammation. He reported no issues upon his departure from the game.
Infielder Danny Valencia rested his bruised left wrist. He got hit with a pitch on Thursday. An X-ray showed no fractures. The team listed him as day to day. “If it was the season,” Yost said, “he’d play.”
Luke Hochevar returned to the team after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. “He looks funny, because they made him shave his beard,” Yost said.
Jason Vargas starts as the Royals face their complex neighbors from Texas. The game begins at 3:05 p.m. Central, and can be heard on 610 Sports.
“I felt good from the first pitch to last pitch today. That’s really my main focus right now.” – James Shields on his outing.