KC Royals: Quick takes on first Cactus League game

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

After engineering a reunion with pitcher Zack Greinke and the acquisition of promising reliever Amir Garrett Wednesday, the KC Royals turned their attention back to the field Friday. The result, a 5-5 tie with Texas, wasn’t as satisfying as Wednesday’s roster additions, but it did have its interesting features.

First, of course, was the club’s lineup for its belated Cactus League opener. Manager Mike Matheny didn’t surprise anyone—consistent with his previously announced plan to deploy Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop (Mondesi did indeed start there), leadoff man Whit Merrifield started in right field, Nicky Lopez hit second and played second, and MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 major league prospect Bobby Witt Jr. opened at third.

Nothing else about positioning was new. Salvador Perez hit third and caught, cleanup man Andrew Benintendi played left, first baseman Carlos Santana batted fifth and played first, DH Hunter Dozier hit in the sixth slot followed by Mondesi, while Witt batted eighth and center fielder Michael A. Taylor ninth.

Jon Heasley started on the mound.

KC Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi opened his spring season with a bang.

Mondesi, upon whom all eyes will be cast this spring as he tries to prove he can handle playing regularly, grounded out in his first at-bat, but drilled a solo home run off Texas reliever Cody Bradford in the fourth. He took the rest of the day off and finished 1-for-2.

Mondesi’s fourth inning departure shouldn’t be taken for anything other than what it appeared to be, a typical early spring training game exit for a veteran.

Two hot KC Royals prospects fared well at the plate while another did not.

Three of Kansas City’s finest prospects—Witt, first baseman Nick Pratto, and catcher MJ Melendez all saw action Friday and went a combined 4-for-5. Pratto, who replaced Santana at first, led the way with a two-run homer and a single, Witt had a double and single, and Melendez went 0-for-1 with a strikeout.

It’s only a matter of time, of course, before Melendez makes pitchers pay.

Four KC Royals newcomers made their 2022 spring debuts with the club.

Friday’s contest marked the first Kansas City action for four players new to the organization.

Outfielder JaCoby Jones, who the Royals signed to a minor league contract in December, pinch-hit for Merrifield in the fourth and walked, but then struck out twice and finished 0-for-2.

Iván Castillo, who also inked a minor league deal in December, took a turn at shortstop and, like Jones, was 0-for-2.

Several days after joining the club on a minor league contract, pitcher Brad Peacock gave up two runs on two hits in his one inning introduction to the Royals.

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And Colten Brewer, another minor league signee who the club added in January, struck out two in a scoreless inning.

How did KC Royals hitters do with runners on base against Texas Friday?

The Royals had some success in important situations. Four of their five runs came with two outs and they hit .300 with runners in scoring position.

But they also stranded 11 runners, the kind of troubling number they’ll need to work hard to improve.

None of the Royals’ pitchers worked long. Some pitched well and some didn’t.

Matheny gave Heasley, who went 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA after Kansas City called him up for the first time last season, Friday’s start. Heasley pitched 2.1 innings and was charged with the two runs he put on base in the third inning before Matheny replaced him with Foster Griffin. Griffin, making his way back from Tommy John Surgery, immediately gave up a two-run homer to new Ranger Corey Seager. Only Seager’s run was credited to Griffin.

Heasley also walked a batter; Griffin surrendered a pair of hits but struck out one.

After Heasley, Griffin, Peacock and Brewer pitched, Matheny used Collin Snider, Jace Vines and Jose Cuas for an inning each. Snider struck out two and Vines one, and none of the three gave up any runs.

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The Royals are off today, then host Arizona Sunday with first pitch set for 3:05 p.m. CDT.