There was something for everyone here on Thursday.
The optimist could marvel at top pitching prospect Josh Staumont, who struck out five in three scoreless innings in the Royals’ 13-3 split-squad victory against the San Diego Padres at the Peoria Sports Complex. The defeatist could fret about left-hander Jason Vargas, who allowed four runs (two earned) in two innings while the defense wobbled in a 9-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Surprise Stadium.
In the end, perhaps neither result necessitated much concern or praise. The Royals (10-11) split two Cactus League games while a contingent of minor leaguers got some work.
In some ways, the performances were mirror images. In Peoria, the Royals took advantage of a leaky Padres defense and put up a run in the first and eight in the second. Whit Merrifield finished 3 for 4 with a triple and scored a run. Alex Gordon had two hits before departing. Paulo Orlando ripped a double to left field in his return from a brief trip back to Kansas City to witness the birth of his son.
The offense was plenty for Staumont. Making his return to big-league camp after being re-assigned to the minor-league side last week, Staumont showcased his mid 90s fastball and biting curveball. He finished his three-inning outing by striking out San Diego’s Cory Spangenberg on a 95 mph called third strike on the outside corner.
“Hopefully I’m building this spring, so each performance is getting better,” Staumont said. “I felt really good out there.”
In Surprise, meanwhile, it was the defense that handcuffed the Royals. Second baseman Raul Mondesi committed an error that led to a run in the top of the first inning. Mondesi and shortstop Ramon Torres made errors as the Mariners scored three more runs in the second.
Royals manager Ned Yost cited the rock-hard conditions here in Arizona. Yet the defensive issues did contribute to Vargas’ pitch count getting elevated in just two innings. Scheduled to go four innings or 65 pitches, Vargas departed after throwing 58, including 35 in the second inning.
“I thought Vargy threw the ball well,” Yost said. “Two or three times I thought he had hitters locked up and didn’t get the call. Three errors behind him, but he elevated his pitch count so it was a good day for him.”
The Mariners would tack on another run against reliever Joakim Soria in the fourth, scoring on a walk and a double from Tyler O’Neill. Right-hander Chris Withrow allowed three runs in the sixth.
Royals reliever Matt Strahm threw a scoreless inning against the Mariners and has not given up a run this spring. Royals right-handed reliever Peter Moylan also recorded a scoreless frame and continued to make his case for a roster spot.
The Regular Guys
The Royals’ Jorge Soler continued his sluggish spring in the loss to the Mariners. He started in right field and finished 0 for 2 with a walk, his batting average falling to .132.
One year after an offensive breakout, backup catcher Drew Butera has offered more signs of an improving offensive profile. After hitting a couple of homers for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, Butera finished 1 for 2 with a homer against the Mariners.
Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas went hitless, while designated hitter Brandon Moss finished 1 for 3.
The Young Guys
Peter O’Brien slotted into the designated hitter role against the Padres and finished 2 for 3. Billy Burns started in left field and finished 2 for 5 with an RBI.