Jakob Junis changes it up and the Royals hold on to beat the Cubs

Royals P Jakob Junis committed to his changeup in spring outing against Cubs

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis struck out five and allowed two runs over five innings against the Chicago Cubs in a split squad game on March 19, 2019.
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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis struck out five and allowed two runs over five innings against the Chicago Cubs in a split squad game on March 19, 2019.

Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis has pledged to throw his change-up more this season, and he took another step in that direction on Tuesday night.

Despite the bullpen allowing four runs, the Royals held on for an 8-6 win over a Chicago Cubs split-squad in front of an announced 9,563 at Surprise Stadium.

Junis allowed two runs, five hits and two walks in five innings. He also struck out five. He came away feeling good about his change-up and slider with a little more than a week before the regular-season begins.

“I definitely wanted to make a point to throw some more change-ups today, and that’s the best it’s been for sure,” Junis said. “So (it was) promising on that front, throwing change-ups, getting some swing and misses and even a strikeout on it too.”

Junis allowed both runs the Cubs scored against him in the third inning, including a solo home run by Mark Zagunis. Three of the five hit he allowed came in that inning. The home run was the only extra-base hit he allowed.

“I struggled locating my fastball a little bit with a couple walks and just timing on getting on top and getting down in the zone,” Junis said. “I was leaving a lot of balls up and out of the zone, but very happy with my slider and my change-up tonight.”

The Royals scored eight runs in the first two innings, including a five-run second capped by Ryan O’Hearn’s three-run home run (his first of the spring).

Catcher Martin Maldonado, playing in his first spring training game for the Royals, doubled and threw out a runner attempting to steal second base.

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Right-field group thinned out: The Royals optioned outfielders Jorge Bonifacio and Brett Phillips to Triple-A Omaha along with right-handed pitcher Glenn Sparkman on Tuesday. Bonifacio and Phillips were both competing along with Brian Goodwin and Jorge Soler for the everyday right-fielder job. Soler figures to see a large chunk of his playing time as a designated hitter.

“I’m planning on them helping us sometime this year,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Bonifacio and Phillips. “Both kids, in my mind, still have the opportunity to be everyday players. Right now, we’ve got enough depth on our team where they don’t need to be up here sitting the bench. I want them playing. I want them getting their everyday at-bats. I want them to continue to develop.”

Up next: The Royals will play the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields on at 8:40 p.m. Central time Wednesday. The Royals list Jorge Lopez as the scheduled starter, while Chris Ellis, Michael Ynoa, Scott Barlow and Zach Lovvorn are also scheduled to pitch. KCSP (610 AM) will broadcast the game on the radio, and Fox Sports Kansas City will televise the game.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.