Royals’ Cactus League finale served as Schwindel’s catching debut in big-league camp

Frank Schwindel’s Cactus League catching debut added some intrigue into the final day of Royals camp in Arizona. Schwindel, who hadn’t caught in a professional game since 2015, stepped behind the plate for the final two innings of the club’s spring training finale.

Schwindel caught relief pitcher Kyle Zimmer in the bullpen, and they entered the game together in the eighth inning. Schwindel remained behind the plate for the ninth of what ended as a 3-3 tie against the Texas Rangers’ split squad in front of 6,428 at Surprise Stadium.

“It was definitely good to see him, first,” Schwindel said of being in the bullpen. “I haven’t caught Zimmer in a couple years probably. I was just joking with those guys down there (in the bullpen). It was a good feeling, definitely knocked the cobwebs off in-game. I think it was my first in-game catching in big-league camp. It was a lot of fun.”

Zimmer pitched a scoreless inning and his fastball touched 97 mph. Schwindel threw out a runner attempting to steal second base and celebrated with a fist pump.

“Having the opportunity to throw somebody out is a good feeling,” Schwindel said.

As Schwindel started to tell reporters he wasn’t sure the last time he threw a runner out, speedster Terrance Gore gestured from his nearby locker and reminded Schwindel that he’d been the most recent victim.

“Oh yeah, I got him in instructs (instructional league) one time,” Schwindel said. “It was probably my proudest moment behind the dish. I was happy to get back there again. It was fun.”

Schwindel caught growing up and in high school in New Jersey as well as during his freshman year of college. He caught part of his first three professional seasons, though he caught just four games in 2015.

Schwindel, who didn’t get an at-bat on Sunday, finished the spring batting .327 with a .379 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage. He also played first and third base this spring.

Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out six in seven innings.

Return to sender: The Royals sent Rule 5 draft pick and right-handed pitcher Sam McWilliams back to the Tampa Bay Rays. McWilliams, who was competing for a spot in the KC bullpen, allowed 10 runs (eight earned) in 4 2/3 innings this spring. The move trimmed the Royals’ roster to 35 players after starting pitcher Heath Fillmyer was optioned to Triple-A Omaha on Saturday.

The Royals’ other Rule 5 selection, pitcher Chris Ellis, came into Sunday’s Cactus League finale having not allowed a run in four of his previous five outings. Ellis had also struck out seven batters in his previous four innings.

“They’re just hard decisions,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We wanted to keep him (McWilliams) in the organization, we really did. But it just didn’t work out.”

Up next: The Royals will play an exhibition game against their Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers, at Werner Park in Omaha, Neb., at 6:05 p.m. on Monday. Pitchers scheduled to throw for the Royals in that game include Kevin McCarthy, Ian Kennedy, Jake Diekman, Tim Hill, Wily Peralta, Brad Boxberger and Zach Lovvorn.

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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.