With two starts now behind him this spring, Royals left-hander Jason Vargas doesn’t feel like anything is out of the ordinary.
This is a good thing.
Vargas had Tommy John surgery in July 2015 and returned to make three starts late last season. That’s why an innocuous outing — one run allowed on three hits in two innings on Saturday in a 9-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds — is just fine.
“Everything is good — my arm feels great,” Vargas said. “This spring feels like a lot of other springs. You’ve got to go out there and build up and execute when things matter.”
Vargas’ line: two innings, three hits and one run allowed with three strikeouts. It was an improvement from his first start of the spring against Seattle on Feb. 27, when he gave up three runs on four hits and two walks.
Sanchez’s line couldn’t have been worse: no outs and seven runs allowed on five hits and two walks. It was a setback for Sanchez who is attempting a comeback. He has not pitched in the majors since April 2013 with Pittsburgh.
“He was obviously just a little bit flat and fell behind and it kind of snowballed on him a little bit,” said bench coach Don Wakamatsu, who managed the team. “Again, he’s trying to get back into shape.”
Vargas hit a much smaller bump. He worked around a two-out double by Reds All-Star first baseman Joey Votto in the first inning, and got the first two outs in the second. However, third baseman Patrick Kivlehan singled and scored on a double by catcher Rob Brantly.
“I probably didn’t execute the pitch like I would like on the guy that hit the double,” Vargas said. “But at the same time we just move along and try and get the next guy out and just get through your outings and progress to the season.”
Vargas struck out shortstop Zach Vincej to keep the Reds’ advantage at 1-0.
The Royals erased that deficit as they muscled up against Reds reliever Drew Storen in the fourth inning. First baseman Samir Dueñez, who started in place of Brandon Moss (lower back stiffness), then launched a three-run shot to deep right.
Brayan Peña crushed a double to the wall in left center and, after an out, Jorge Bonifacio hit a home run into the Reds bullpen in left field for a 5-1 lead.
It was 7-1 when Sanchez took the mound in the bottom of the eighth. The Reds opened with a double, walk and an RBI single. An infield single loaded the bases, and Sanchez issued a run-scoring walk, then gave up a two-run double and a RBI single.
Reid Redman was called on to stem the tide with the score 7-6 and runners on the corners. However, Arismendy Alcantara hit a three-run homer and completed the rally.
Left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic struck out three in two scoreless innings. Righty Andrew Edwards tossed a scoreless fifth, allowing a hit and a walk. Brandon League, who is attempting a comeback of his own after not pitching in the majors since 2014, allowed a single but no runs in an inning.
Mike Moustakas, who was the designated hitter, went 0 for 4 and struck out thrice, while Paulo Orlando struck out three times, but reached base once on a wild pitch. After going zero for two with a walk on Saturday, Jorge Soler is still hitless this spring.
The Young Guys
The home runs by Dueñez and Bonifacio were the highlights for the Royals. Both also had a hand in a two-run sixth. Dueñez singled and scored, while Bonifacio had an RBI single.