The field was chalked, the umpires showed up, and the first competition for the Royals since game seven of the World Series began at 10:31 a.m. local time with Jeremy Guthrie’s first pitch to Alcides Escobar to open a 5 1/2-inning intrasquad scrimmage.
The scoreboard on the practice field didn’t illuminate until the game was well under way, and even then runs weren’t tallied.
“There are no judgments being made on an intrasquad game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
That’s good news for pitchers such as Joe Blanton, the veteran who was roughed up in his inning, and Jandel Gustave, the hard-throwing right-hander acquired from the Red Sox, who surrendered four straight solid singles.
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“I just want them to get the inning under their belt,” Yost said. “Right now we’re just making sure everybody is heading in the right direction of being ready to play a competitive game on the big diamond.”
Still, players want to impress the Royals, like those battling for jobs.
“Especially for someone like me, it’s the first time the eyes are on me,” said Brian Flynn, a former Wichita State pitcher who was acquired from the Marlins in the Aaron Crow trade. “You just want to go out there and get a nice, quick inning.”
Flynn surrendered a single to Eric Hosmer but struck out Lorenzo Cain looking in his inning.
Gustave, 22, has never pitched above high Class A. The Red Sox got him from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. He spent last season at Quad Cities, going 5-5 with a 5.01 record.
“We like his stuff,” Yost said.
The rosters were split by birthplace — U.S. and international — with a few exceptions, like Kentucky-native Blanton throwing for the world squad.
Royals’ veterans got good swings. Jarrod Dyson opened with an infield single. Mike Moustakas and Cain followed with solid singles, and Hosmer hit one high off the wall in straight-away center.
The blast also provided the day’s first laugh when Moustakas misread the ball and hesitated long enough for Cain to catch up to him. Moose rounded third and veered into the dugout.
The day’s defensive highlight belonged to shortstop Raul Mondesi. He made a diving stop of Brett Eibner’s shot up the middle, snapped his glove up to pick the short hop and throw Eibner out by a step.
Hunter Dozier drew a four-pitch walk from Christian Binford, who then struck out Bubba Starling.
As for the Royals’ newcomers, Alex Rios singled in two appearances, and Kendrys Morales sent Cain to the warning track.
“We got a lot accomplished,” Yost said. “But I’m not into liking or disliking anything right now.”
The plan for Monday is to play a four-inning scrimmage, but rain is in the forecast.