A four run first inning, highlighted by a Mike Moustakas double, was enough for the Royals to beat the Oakland Athletics this afternoon in Cactus League action. The Royals added a few more runs, including homers by Brett Hayes and Brandon Wood as they won 8-2 to get their tenth straight spring victory.
Of course there’s optimism, but it should be for the team’s record. They can’t take that with them to opening day. But they can take a team that’s playing well, and two big names – Moustakas and Hosmer – are just as important as the new faces in the starting rotation. The Royals didn’t score much last year, a fact that gets overlooked because the rotation was so thin, especially after injuries. Through 11 spring games, Moustakas has 12 hits (including four doubles) in 22 at bats. Hosmer has nine hits in 23 at bats. The duo, combined with Billy Butler, are atop the team’s RBI ranks which is exactly what you want to see from those guys. Even better, Hosmer’s doing much of his damage by going the other way. If that continues into the regular season, he should pick up where he’d left off after his rookie year.
Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar dug in for round two of their battle for the fifth starter spot. Chen was efficient, working three innings with 44 pitches and gave up just two hits and one run. Hochevar had some trouble, but gave up no runs and improved as his outing went on. He finished with one walk and three hits allowed, and stranded two runners in the fourth inning and another pair in the fifth after catching a break. Grant Green hit a ground rule double to right that forced Miles Head to stop at third. With just one out, Hochevar got two foul pop ups in a row. Then he struck out the side in the sixth inning, his third and final one.
The Royals were able to test out their endgame blueprint in this one. After six innings, they brought in Louis Coleman, then Aaron Crow and finished with Greg Holland. If Kelvin Herrera weren’t preparing for the World Baseball Classic, he’d have likely been setting up Holland with Crow in Coleman’s spot. That’s a pretty nice trio to have available if you want to cut a game down to six innings most nights.
Apparently, there were a number of scouts in attendance as well. With both Chen and Hochevar going, the Royals excess starters were on display. Teams looking to add some depth could come calling on either of them. Texas is notably looking for help after Martin Perez suffered an injury that’ll keep him from throwing for a few weeks. Other injuries may pop up in other camps as well.
The Royals have Luis Mendoza in reserve and Will Smith could live in the #5 spot in the rotation as well. For a change, as Jeff Zimmerman noted, the Royals have decent depth at starting pitcher, carrying enough players to handle injuries as well as any ineffectiveness. Last year they had to go to emergency options and we all know how well most of those turned out.
Injuries are just going to happen in any given year. In 2011, the Royals hardly lost anyone to injury. In 2012, it seemed like it happened every other week. Will Carroll, injury expert, assessed the Royals injury risks for 2013 and in general there are some moderate injury risks, but the only red rating went to Ervin Santana who shows “the pattern of an elbow injury“. Santana will be looking for good health and good luck this season. His velocity was better in his first start in camp, so maybe he can prove Carroll wrong.
Another note on that, Carroll pointed out that the Royals made the wise decision with their treatment of Salvador Perez last spring. After he’d torn his meniscus, they could have removed the meniscus, but with a long-term vision in place, they took extra time to repair it and let him recover. Carroll suggests that Perez could remain mostly healthy over the next few years as a result.
Miguel Tejada went crazy on the Phillies (as did the whole Dominican Republic team) in an exhibition today as he was in the lineup in a WBC warmup game. He got four hits before the fifth inning had completed. Hard to see him being left off the team when the season starts.
Tomorrow, James Shields will throw again, and unlike last time, he may go three innings if his pitch count is right. In his first start, he only threw one inning per his request. Ned Yost granted the veteran the luxury.
Final note: Keith Law of ESPN answered some prospect questions today on Twitter and had nice things to say about Bryan Brickhouse, naming him as an under the radar prospect who could thrive in 2013. He also echoed the opinion of many in suggesting that Kyle Zimmer could be a #1 or #2 pitcher with an estimate of 2014 for his Kansas City arrival.