Right-hander Kyle Zimmer warmed up during the Royals’ spring-training game Thursday, but never left the bullpen.
That may seem insignificant, but when Zimmer tossed a scoreless inning Friday during the Royals’ 2-1 loss to the Rockies, it was a significant step in his quest to make the Royals bullpen.
“I’m obviously competing for a job, so results do matter for me. I’m more so focused on just repeating my mechanics, bouncing back,” said Zimmer, who struck out two. “I got up yesterday in the game and felt great ... being able to come back out there today and get into a game. Not quite back to back, but getting up on it. Getting back in today was great, so I checked that off the list for me. “
Zimmer reached 97 mph on a fastball for a called third strike on Colorado’s Mike Tauchman to end his inning of work.
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“I felt good. Thought the ball was coming out well. Got to mix in all three pitches for strikes today, which was great,” Zimmer said. “Fastball command felt good, curveball command felt good, change-up felt good, so I was happy with it.”
So was Royals manager Ned Yost.
“We wanted to see with him getting hot yesterday and we were going to bring him into a situation in which he’d have to come and get hot fairly hot,” Yost said. “Get an out (if needed) and then bring him back today, and he did fine.”
Zimmer, who was the Royals’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft, has been one of the best stories this spring. He has dealt with injuries throughout his career and missed all of last season. Zimmer has pitched a total of 259 innings in six years.
But Zimmer, 27, spent about six months with Driveline Baseball working to get ready for this season and the results have been impressive. He has struck out seven in 8 2/3 scoreless innings over six outings.
Yost said Thursday he sees a fit for Zimmer in the Royals bullpen, but offered a caveat.
“We’ll just have to see if there is a puzzle piece left over to fit in,” Yost said.
Lopez shines: Starter Jorge Lopez went five-plus innings, allowing just one run to the Rockies. He gave up two hits, but walked five. He wasn’t concerned about the bases on balls.
“I think I just missed a few pitches,” Lopez said. “I got behind in the count, but I got back in. I held the runners and started making pitches. I liked a lot of things today.”
In fact, Lopez said Friday reminded him of when he carried a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Twins last September.
“When you go to the computer to watch the video, it was a lot of close pitches,” Lopez said. “It reminded me of the day I almost threw a perfect game in Minnesota. My sinker was really big with good sink today but just a little off the plate. Sometimes a hitter swings, sometimes they don’t. But it was really good.”
Owings at first: Chris Owings started at first base and had a pair of hits, including a double in the fourth inning after Nicky Lopez reached on an error. Jorge Soler’s single brought home Nicky Lopez with the Royals’ lone run.
Yost said he hoped to play Owings, Whit Merrifield and Humberto Arteaga at least one time at first base this spring.
Storen struggles: Drew Storen gave up the winning run in the ninth inning. Because it was tied, the Diamondbacks had a runner on second to begin the inning. David Dahl walked, and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. Chris Rabago was hit by a pitch and Ryan McMahom followed with an RBI single.
Up next: The Royals will play a pair of games Saturday. A split squad will play host to the Milwaukee Brewers at 3:05 p.m. at Surprise Stadium with Homer Bailey getting the start. That game will air on KCSP (610 AM). Another split squad will travel to Peoria to face the San Diego Padres at 3:10 p.m. Heath Fillmyer is the scheduled starter. The game will be shown on Fox Sports Kansas City.