The fun part of spring training are the early games where teams get a look at the young players who won’t make the team out of spring training, but who look to be factors down the line. Guys like John Lamb, Yordano Ventura and Justin Marks have gotten work in over the weekend. Donnie Joseph, who has a shot at a spot on the roster, pitched as well. On Monday, it’s Chris Dwyer and Noel Arguelles getting a look.
Ventura’s outing had some good and some bad. He reportedly looked strong, but his at bat against Nelson Cruz showed that he has to improve his poise on the mound. An experienced slugger like Cruz was waiting for a pitch he got to crush after Ventura had gotten wild. The Royals still insist they see him as a starter, though who could blame them for wanting to use him as a reliever at some point? A Ventura/Kelvin Herrera/Greg Holland combo at the end of the game would be pretty nasty to deal with. That being said, if Ventura can be a starter, he’s more valuable providing 30 starts to a team and close to 200 innings than 60-70 in setup relief.
Joseph struck out the side in the seventh inning facing Brandon Allen, Mike Olt and Leonys Martin. Allen and Martin are both left-handed batters and Joseph dispatched them with sliders (Baseball America deemed Joseph’s slider the best in the organization, and against lefties it’s going to be particularly effective). Olt, batting right-handed, foul-tipped a fastball into Adam Moore‘s glove.
Lamb threw today and he was in the strike zone, throwing 16 strikes out of 20 pitches, but four of those strikes were base hits. Leury Garcia singled to third on a grounder, then Julio Borbon grounded into a double play. Craig Gentry hit a grounder up the middle with two outs. So far, so good, all grounders. Then Eli Whiteside doubled to center and James Adduci lined a single to right. Lamb ended the inning with a strikeout to Yangervis Solarte on a slow curve. Jason Parks reported that Lamb was working around 85-88 mph with his fastball with a curve and changeup around 70 mph. Bob Dutton noted that he saw Lamb hitting 84-87 on the stadium radar, with one fastball hitting 89. That’s something to watch as spring continues. Before Tommy John surgery, Lamb would be in the lower 90s but could touch 95 mph with his fastball. Parks suggested that the arm strength isn’t there yet, and JJ Cooper of Baseball America is showing concern.
For tomorrow’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, checking the velocity on Noel Arguelles will be another hot topic. He’s had shoulder problems in the past, but was said to look good (though not against starters) in the Royals instrasquad action. For Dwyer, it’s more about seeing if he can control his curveball.
Another note – Lorenzo Cain should play this week after taking some swings this weekend in the cage. He was fighting a hand strain but has to get onto the field. The Royals aren’t giving Jeff Francoeur a long leash in right field and if Cain is hurt, Jarrod Dyson would be in center field. If Frenchy is cut loose, Cain has to be the contingency plan to play right field. If he makes it through spring training without any setbacks, the Royals can feel more comfortable. If not, there’s no ready-made backup in the minors anymore. They’d have to ride with Dyson and Francoeur.
So far the Royals are 2-0-1 in spring games, which means nothing, but many of their starters have performed. Salvador Perez has five hits already and Alcides Escobar has three. Eric Hosmer has two RBIs, both on groundouts, but no hits in four at bats. Adam Moore and Brandon Wood have the only homers so far. All that really tells is, though, is that there’s a lot of spring to go before the season starts.