Early Thursday afternoon, Edinson Volquez stood in front of his locker inside a quiet clubhouse and let his mouth form a smile. He had just finished his first outing of spring training, a 1 2/3 -inning performance in an eventual 10-0 loss to the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium.
When his day was over, he had sauntered off the mound and listened to a standing ovation from a large chunk of the 5,025 in attendance. He responded by offering a pronounced bow.
“Everybody loves me,” Volquez joked. “They gave me a standing ovation in spring training. You don't see that very often."
The rest of the afternoon was less frivolous for the Royals, who fell to 0-2 in the Cactus League and suffered a pounding at the hands of the Rangers, their co-tenant in Surprise. As Royals manager Ned Yost elected to rest a host of regulars, including Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez, Volquez made his first start, allowing one earned run in a 34-pitch outing.
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The run came across in the top of the first, when center fielder Brett Eibner lost a ball in the sun. Volquez exited when he neared a pitch count of 35 pitches.
“Eddie was good,” Yost said. “Eibs lost the ball in the sun, but Eddie would have got through two innings pretty clean.”
A year ago, Volquez suffered through a rocky spring training before cementing himself as the Royals’ most dependable starter. On Thursday, Volquez said, he just wanted to get his pitch count up while getting his first taste of competition.
After Volquez departed, right-hander Christian Binford was nicked for three runs in an 1 1/3 innings. The Rangers blew open the game in the eighth and ninth, scoring two runs off right-hander Aroni Nina and four runs off right-hander Brooks Pounders.
The Rangers finished with 10 runs on 16 hits. The Royals mustered no runs on seven hits. The performance came only hours after club officials learned that right fielder Jarrod Dyson would be lost for six weeks with an oblique strain. Jose Martinez started in right field, and Paulo Orlando played center field as Yost stuck to his plan of easing his regulars into action.
As the game became lopsided, top prospect Bubba Starling came off the bench and offered more evidence of his defensive prowess. After taking over right field in the sixth, Starling threw out Texas’ Hanser Alberto on a play at the plate, ending a Texas rally.
Starling, who went hitless in two at-bats, offered a shakier moment in the ninth. With two runners on, he got caught on an in-between ball in right field. The ball skidded under his glove and rolled to the wall, resulting in an RBI double.
“Bubba is doing fine out there,” Yost said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in that defense. (He’s) very athletic, good speed and a nice arm. He can play defense.”
The Royals, 0-2, will return to action on Friday night, facing the San Diego Padres at 8:10 p.m. in Peoria, Ariz. Right-hander Yordano Ventura is slated to make his first start of the spring.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas started for the second straight day and finished 1 for 2 with a double and a walk. First baseman Eric Hosmer picked up his first single of the spring in the third inning, serving a single into left-center.
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who battled the flu during the early days of camp, will make his spring debut on Friday night. Shortstop Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez will likely start Saturday against the White Sox in Surprise.
Left-hander Brian Flynn picked up where he left off last spring training, throwing a scoreless inning with a strikeout. Yost was also impressed with young right-hander Miguel Almonte, who struck out three and allowed two hits during two scoreless innings.
Second baseman Omar Infante is not expected to play until next week while he finishes his rehab from offseason surgery on his elbow. His chief competition for the starting job at second, Christian Colon, is still looking for his first spring hit. Colon finished zero for two at the plate after going hitless in two at-bats on Wednesday.