Royals right-hander Brad Keller’s next start comes on opening day Thursday in front of the home crowd at Kauffman Stadium, the first opening day start of his young career. So you’ll have to excuse him if he’s not lingering too much on his spring training outing against a Milwaukee Brewers split squad.
Keller wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in some other starts this spring, but he’s stretched out and ready for the games that count. While he didn’t issue a walk, he hit a pair of batters and uncorked a wild pitch along the way to giving up four runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings during a 6-4 Royals win in front of 8,171 Saturday at American Family Fields of Phoenix.
Just two pitches concerned Keller, both were swatted out of the park for two-run home runs by Christian Yelich and Travis Shaw in the third inning.
“It felt like everything was working, just two mistake pitches got me,” Keller said. “A slider down and in to Shaw that ran right into his bat and a sinker that didn’t sink to Yelich. But besides those two pitches I felt pretty good.”
Keller’s focus this spring has been adding a change-up and developing a slider as a put-away pitch.
“Today it was little hit and miss here and there,” Keller said of his slider. “It comes with also learning. I think it’s going to be a good weapon for me as well as the change-up.”
Hunter Dozier hit his fourth home run of the spring, his third in the past four games, and Lucas Duda also smashed a solo homer in just his second game since signing a minor-league deal with the Royals.
With the score tied going into the ninth inning, the managers have agreed to let each team start their half of the inning with a runner on second base. Terrance Gore’s two-run triple provided the margin of victory.
Former Royals Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas each went 1 for 3 for the Brewers.
Roster moves: The Royals optioned Heath Fillmyer, one of the pitchers in contention for a spot in the starting rotation, to Triple-A Omaha.
“He’ll go down there, make a couple starts and be back if he’s doing good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Fillmyer.
Starting pitchers Jorge Lopez and Homer Bailey are also expected to remain in Arizona to get starts in extended spring training when the club breaks camp following Sunday’s final Cactus League game.
Keller, who started on Saturday, will start the season opener against the White Sox on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Jakob Junis, who’ll start on Sunday, lines up to pitch the second regular-season game on Saturday. Yost said the exhibition game in Omaha on Monday will feature primarily bullpen pitchers.
Lopez last pitched on Wednesday, while Fillmyer’s most recent start was Thursday, followed by Bailey on Friday night. Danny Duffy and Brian Flynn, who had their spring training throwing programs interrupted by ailments, will also begin the regular season in extended spring.
The Royals won’t need a fifth starter until April 10.
Gordo good to go: Royals manager Ned Yost said left fielder Alex Gordon was feeling fine on Saturday after coming out of Friday night’s game because of calf tightness. Yost described the calf issue as more of a cramp. Yost said Gordon likely won’t play Sunday with the Rangers likely to sit out several starters.
Up next: The Royals play their final Cactus League game of the spring on Sunday at Surprise Stadium. They’ll play the Texas Rangers with first pitch scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Central time. The Royals list Jakob Junis as the starting pitcher, while the Rangers list Lance Lynn. Fox Sports Kansas City will televise the game, and KCSP (610 AM) will broadcast the game on radio.