Chris Young was a victim of the long ball Friday, surrendering back-to-back homers in his second start of the spring. Young, a leading candidate to earn a final spot in the Royals’ rotation, allowed four earned runs in two innings in a 12-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Surprise Stadium.
The first home run — a two-run shot by Arizona’s Nick Ahmed in the top of the second — was of the Cactus League variety, a high fly ball that carried through the thin air. The second homer — off the bat of Evan Marzilli — was a no-doubt blast over the visitors bullpen in right field.
Young was scheduled to pitch three innings Friday if his pitch count remained under 50 pitches. He allowed a single run in the first inning while striking out three, including NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. When he threw his 46th pitch in the top of the second, Royals manager Ned Yost was ready to turn to reliever Joakim Soria.
“The results weren’t as good as I’d like, but physically I felt good,” Young said. “I actually felt like I threw the ball better today than my last one. And the slider was sharper. I feel like I did a better job working ahead; I just made some mistakes with a couple of guys.”
Young had allowed a single run in his spring debut, a two-inning effort against the Angels. He views his spring buildup in simple terms — an opportunity to work on his timing and command. The results, he says, are secondary.
“His command was off today a little bit,” Yost said. “But he got his work in, got his pitch count up early, which cost him an inning. We were looking for him to go three, but we’re not worried about him.”
Soria entered the game in the top of the third. He soon ran into his own trouble. With two out in the third, left fielder Peter O’Brien hit a sharp single to right field. Jake Lamb then reached on an error by second baseman Omar Infante, a play that would have ended the inning. Arizona catcher Chris Herrmann turned the game into a rout, clubbing a three-run homer to deep right.
On the offensive side, the Royals had no luck against Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin, who yielded just two hits in three scoreless innings.
The Royals finally broke through in the eighth on a solo homer to right from right fielder Reymond Fuentes. First baseman Balbino Fuenmayor, who finished 2 for 2, added an RBI single in the eighth. Reserve catcher Cam Gallagher then drove in Fuenmayor on a double off the wall in left-center.
The Diamondbacks tacked on another three runs in the ninth off reliever Peter Moylan.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar continued a sluggish start at the plate. He finished 0 for 3 and is 1 for 11 in four games. Center field Lorenzo Cain was 2 for 2, including a sharp, opposite-field single to right-center. Salvador Perez was hitess in two at-bats, falling to 1 for 19 in six games. Mike Moustakas is now batting .533 this spring after stroking a single in three at-bats. Left fielder Alex Gordon and first baseman Eric Hosmer took days off after playing on Thursday.
In his quest to make the opening-day roster, right-hander Dillon Gee allowed a run in three innings while recording three strikeouts. A former starter with the New York Mets, Gee could be headed to the Royals’ bullpen as a swingman. He has allowed one run in five innings across two appearances.
“We’re getting our work in that we need to get in,” Yost said. “We just didn’t have a lot of good results today, with the exception of probably Gee. I thought he threw the ball well.”
Infante and Christian Colon entered camp in an open competition for the job at second base. To this point, neither player has done anything to add any separation to the battle. Infante went 0 for 2 on Friday and is now hitless in nine at-bats this spring. Colon is zero for his first 17.
Top prospect Raul Mondesi, meanwhile, recorded his fourth hit of the spring after replacing Infante at second. Mondesi, 20, is likely headed to the minor leagues after making his debut in the World Series last fall.
Another player who can handle second base is Whit Merrifield, a former ninth-round pick who has developed into a useful utility man at the minor-league level. Merrifield is 5 for 11 with a double and triple in 8 games this spring. As the days have passed, Yost has become increasingly intrigued.
“More and more, it’s interesting to watch Merrifield play,” Yost said. “He’s a kid that’s played center, he’d played left, he’s played third, he’s played second, he’s played first, and he continues to swing the bat well. So that’s an interesting side note to keep an eye on.”
Earlier Friday, Yost confirmed that outfielder Paulo Orlando is a virtual lock to make the opening-day roster. Orlando was expected to platoon in right field with Jarrod Dyson, who suffered a strained oblique in the Cactus League opener. Orlando now projects to be the opening-day starter in right field.
The Royals will continue the weekend home-and-home with the Diamondbacks, traveling to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a 2:10 start.