Royals Q&A: More thoughts on Hochevar move

The news Wednesday that the Royals moved right-hander Luke Hochevar to the bullpen overshadowed everything else in camp, including a superb performance by Ervin Santana against the Mariners.

Santana struck out seven in four innings while allowing one run and two hits in a 4-2 victory at Surprise Stadium. He broke out his money pitch, his slider, on a consistent basis and embarrassed several hitters.

“Again on the attack,” manager Ned Yost said. “Good fastball. Got it up to 94 (mph). Really good slider. Got a change-up to the second baseman (Carlos Triunfel), and he ended up putting a nice swing on it (for a homer).”

The bullpen was even more effective in holding Seattle to one run and two hits in five innings. Lefty Donnie Joseph and veteran right-hander Dan Wheeler each added another scoreless inning to their roster push.

The Royals, 14-2-1 with two rainouts, are just past the midpoint of their 36-game Cactus League schedule. They travel today to Goodyear to face Cleveland with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie ticketed for four innings or 60 pitches.

J.C. Gutierrez, Francisley Bueno, Michael Mariot and Greg Holland are also scheduled to pitch. Gutierrez and Bueno are among those battling Joseph and Wheeler for the final bullpen job.

Here’s the lineup: LF Alex Gordon, SS Elliot Johnson, 1B Billy Butler, 3B Mike Moustakas, C Salvy Perez, RF Jeff Francoeur, CF Lorenzo Cain, DH Adam Moore and 2B Johnny Giavotella.

World Baseball Classic watch:

Second baseman Irving Falu went zero for four with a walk Wednesday in Puerto Rico’s 4-3 comeback victory over Italy.

Five Royals could see action at 6 tonight Central time when the USA (first baseman Eric Hosmer and reliever Tim Collins) plays the Dominican Republic (infielder Miguel Tejada and relievers Kelvin Herrera and Atahualpa Severino).

Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here is today’s exchange:

@CoreyInGulfport: Hoch demoted to the pen, his days are numbered right? They’re not going to have him in the pen opening day at. a 3+ mill sal

Luke Hochevar will make $4.56 million this season. I think it’s possible that he gets traded. I see virtually no chance that he gets released.

@crazyroyalsfan: what do you think chances are Ventura has to win 5th spot? I feel like he needs to be lights out to have a real shot

I would be astounded if Yordano Ventura, barring injuries, opens the season in the Royals’ rotation. But this team has surprised me before.

@Nick_Seaton: Lough has played well enough, both at the end of last year and in #RoyalsST, to earn a regular spot in the lineup, does he?

David Lough batted .237 with a .292 on-base percentage last season in 59 at-bats over 20 games following his promotion from Class AAA Omaha. He’s had a terrific spring.

Do I think that gets him “a regular spot” in the lineup? I’d be surprised. I think Lough still faces a sizable hurdle to make the club.

@LimbackShawn: How much of what the offense and pitching are doing is being done against likely major leaguers?

At this point, clubs are generally playing their starters through five innings. But remember, not all regulars play every game.

@foxxman531: Is Paulino Duffy is in the same injury w/ Lamb? If it is, why could they come back here this year?

Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino and John Lamb all under went ligament-replacement surgery in their pitching elbow, which is commonly known as Tommy John surgery.

Duffy and Paulino are on track to pitch this July; just as Lamb was on track to pitch last July. Lamb suffered a foot injury that further delayed his progress.

@foxyjag: Who plays 1B during the early interleague games? Can’t imagine sitting Billy’s bat #Royals

There’s been nothing official from manager Ned Yost, but I’m with you; I think it would be hard to take Billy Butler out of the lineup.

@Trickle01: Has Will Smith pitched his way into a spot in rotation? I assume he has options?

I’ve written previously that, to date, I believe Will Smith has been the best pitcher in camp. That said, I still think he’s a long shot to land the fifth spot in the rotation at the start of the season.

@MadDogKiller: who’s winning the back up catcher job?

I don’t think the Royals know at the moment. My guess — guess! — is they view Brett Hayes as a better fit for backup duty if Salvy Perez remains healthy. I believe they see George Kottaras as a better fit for extended duty.

Why? Hayes is better catch-and-throw guy, which is what teams generally want in a backup. But Kottaras has some legit pop that becomes a bigger factor if more regular duty is required.

@jsente4: will Lorenzo Cain eventually work into the leadoff spot if he stays healthy?

It’s possible, but I think the Royals see him as a better fit lower in the order.

@theshortandlong: Any updates on Wade Davis’ shoulder concerns?

All signs appear positive. He’s scheduled to pitch Friday in a minor-league game.

@85royal: Early question: What is signficiance of 60 day DL? Duffy on 60 day opens 40 man spot. Paulino is on 60 day. Whats the diff?

You can’t put a player on the 60-day disabled list unless there are no openings on your 40-man roster. Once on the list, the player doesn’t come off if a 40-man spot opens.

The Royals put Felipe Paulino on the 60-day list on Feb. 12 when they acquired Elliot Johnson from Tampa Bay as the player to be named later in the Dec. 9 trade.

The Royals are currently at 39 players on their 40-man roster. If they fill that vacancy and subsequently need another spot, then Danny Duffy is an obvious 60-day DL candidate.