Raul Mondesi continued his torrid start to this spring, collecting two more hits in the Royals’ 2-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday at Surprise Stadium.
Starter Jason Hammel made his first start of the spring. Lorenzo Cain ripped his first homer, a two-run blast in the fifth. The Royals moved to 6-2 in the Cactus League in front of a crowd of 8,006. Yet if there has been a breakout performer in the early weeks of camp, it is perhaps Mondesi, who finished 2 for 3 and improved his batting average to .538 while starting at second base.
“This year, he’s a different guy,” manager Ned Yost said on Saturday morning. “[General manager] Dayton [Moore] and I were talking about it today. He’s more confident, he’s more relaxed.”
Mondesi, a 21-year-old who struggled at the plate after debuting late last summer, entered camp competing with Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert at second base. But with Colon and Cuthbert out of options and Merrifield poised to win some role, his prospects for a roster spot appeared remote. That could change if he continues to impress.
On Friday, Mondesi homered in a road victory over the Dodgers. On Saturday, he started and lashed a couple of singles.
“It’s like he’s a different guy this spring,” Yost said. “And that is part of the growing-up process.”
Jason Hammel was the final Royals starter to make his Cactus League debut. He maneuvered through two innings without allowing a run. He allowed two hits and hit a batter in the first. He escaped the jam and added another scoreless inning in the second.
Hammel described the performance as a positive first step — though he conceded he was a little gassed by the end of the outing.
“Honestly, I think I blew everything I had in the pen,” he said, smiling. “I warmed up and I was great. But for the first outing, for my routine, it’s definitely the most I’ve thrown in one day [this spring].”
Once Hammel departed, the Royals continued a run of solid pitching. Reliever Mike Minor threw two scoreless innings, striking out one. Scott Alexander put up another scoreless frame. Kyle Zimmer concluded a scoreless inning by hitting 95 mph on the stadium radar gun. Zimmer, who has projected as a starter in his career, threw just one inning after throwing two in his first start.
“Zim had his fastball up to 95 on a slow gun,” Yost said. “He threw the ball really well.”
The Regular Guys
In addition to Cain’s homer, there was more good news from some regulars. Alex Gordon made another start in right field and finished 1 for 3. He’s batting .385 this spring. Salvador Perez finished 1 for 2 and is batting .556.
The Young Guys
Left fielder Peter O’Brien started in left field and finished 0 for 2, which dropped his average to .250. He’s cooled off a tick after hitting three early homers. Bubba Starling replaced Cain in center field and struck out in his only at-bat.