A goal for Royals right-hander Jakob Junis is to leave Arizona with a change-up he can readily use.
Last season, Junis threw his slider 40 percent of the time, followed by a four-seam fastball (33.3 percent) and sinker (20 percent), according to data from Baseball by Brooks. Junis relied on his change-up just 6 percent of the time, but he hopes to increase the usage this season.
That, of course, means Junis is relying on it more in spring-training games. That was case in the Royals’ 5-4 loss Thursday to the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Junis allowed five runs on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.
“I threw a lot of change-ups that normally maybe I would throw some sliders, but I want to get that change-up down and want that to be a pitch that in those situations during the real season that I can throw it,” Junis said. “So I’m going to keep working on it and hopefully I can bottle some of the good ones and take that into the season for me.”
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One of the bad ones was hit by designated hitter Danny Santana over the wall in right field for a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth inning that gave Texas a 4-2 lead. The Rangers never relinquished the advantage.
“Going into the fifth inning is good. Getting 77 pitches under my belt, so building up, that’s good,” Junis said. “One pitch I really wish I could get back is the home run. ... I threw a change-up and it just cut right over the middle of the plate and he smashed it. The change-up is a work in progress. I threw some good ones and I threw some bad ones. Hopefully it gets better.”
Mondesi shaken up: Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi stole third base in the fifth inning, was shaken up and left the game.
“He kind of slid in and he just had a little tiny cut (above his eye),” manager Ned Yost said. “I mean little. Just one little drop. I was taking him out anyway.”
Relief work: Relief pitcher Brad Boxberger had his first scoreless outing of the spring. He gave up a hit and struck out two in one inning. ... Richard Lovelady allowed one hit, walked a batter and struck out three in two scoreless innings. ... Wily Peralta relieved Junis and pitched a hitless inning, issuing a walk and striking out one.
Up next: The Royals travel to Salt River Fields to face the Colorado Rockies at 3:10 p.m. Friday. Jorge Lopez will get the start for the Royals and Kyle Zimmer is expected to pitch as well.