Royals 'pen drops Tejeda's spot start
Walks bring down KC relievers in Halos' eighth-inning rally
KANSAS CITY -- Robinson Tejeda did a superb job in a spot start for the Royals on Friday night, but his bullpen buddies couldn't hold on for him.
The Los Angeles Angels, leaders of the American League West, rallied for 2-1 victory over the Royals as 17,447 fans watched at Kauffman Stadium. The Angels got just three hits to the Royals' 11, but still won.
As a late fill-in for starter Gil Meche, who had a tired shoulder, Tejeda won an A-plus from Royals fans. He worked 5 1/3 innings, shut out the dangerous Angels on one hit, and departed with a 1-0 lead.
"Tremendous job, with the way the day unfolded," manager Trey Hillman said.
Oh my, yes. On a day that began with Meche and fellow starter Brian Bannister going to doctors with fatigued pitching shoulders, the bullpen began to disintegrate during the game. Kyle Farnsworth was through after one inning because of a pull in his back and John Bale was through after one pitch with a strained right hamstring.
To top things off, closer Joakim Soria wasn't able to pitch because his right shoulder was still tired after a six-out save in Oakland. A quick assurance for Royals fans, though, came from Hillman.
"We don't have an injury situation with Jack, but his shoulder was a little tired," Hillman said. "Obviously with there having been a history of that this season, we were not going to risk running him into an injury situation."
But watch for some pitchers to be summoned quickly from the Minor Leagues in time for Saturday night's game.
"They're dropping like flies," Hillman said.
So it was a wonderful thing that Tejeda was able to extend his first start of the season into the sixth inning.
Tejeda, known for his oft-erratic control, breezed through the first five innings without a base on balls. The only hit was Maicer Izturis' first-inning single. After that, Tejeda retired the next 15 batters.
But the 15th out was after a tough, seven-pitch battle with Mike Napoli. That's when he first encountered a bump, walking both Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins. Hillman then replaced Tejeda with Farnsworth.
"I was OK, just my pitching wasn't," Tejeda said. "I don't know if my arm was tired, but I was ready to keep going."
Farnsworth, after getting a groundout and walking Bobby Abreu to load the bases, got Vladimir Guerrero to tap back to the mound. But, as he threw to first, he tweaked his back and couldn't return for the seventh inning.
The Angels threatened again in the seventh against another of Tejeda's bullpen compatriots, Jamey Wright, who gave up a one-out walk and single. But as Napoli struck out, catcher John Buck rifled a throw to third base to snuff out a double-steal attempt and end the inning.
Trouble, though, was ahead as Wright issued a one-out walk to fleet-footed Figgins in the eighth.
"I was trying to be quick to the plate, got a fast runner with the tying run on," Wright said, "and I was hoping I'd get a chance to face Abreu, but after walking the last two lefties, I understand."
Yep, he also walked Izturis and Bale was summoned from the bullpen to face Abreu. He threw one pitch and bent over in pain from his hamstring injury. Out he came and in came Roman Colon.
Colon walked Abreu to load the bases and Guerrero whistled a single past third base and into left field to score two runs and take the lead. Colon felt it was a good pitch.
"The thing about Vladdy is even if you throw the perfect pitch, you never know with that guy," Colon said. "That guy can hit balls that bounce out of the dirt."
Colon also walked Torii Hunter to again fill the bases, but Kendry Morales rolled into a double play.
The Royals notched nine hits off Angels starter Jered Weaver (14-5) in seven innings, but stranded seven runners. Their only run came in the fourth on Mike Jacobs' two-out double and Alberto Callaspo's triple, a high fly that dropped behind right fielder Abreu at the warning track.
Tejeda now can look back on 13 consecutive scoreless innings. Before making his first start of the season, he had put together 7 2/3 shutout innings in four relief outings.
"He deserved a 'W' for that one," Wright said. "He pitched lights-out and that's the way he's been pitching for a while now. It looked pretty promising until that eighth inning, but it got a little out of whack for us. That's a tough one."
Colon also felt bad for Tejeda.
"My boy Tejeda did a great job tonight, it was awesome," Colon said. "It was unbelievable what he did, just coming out of the bullpen and just throwing six innings like that. You've got to give it to him, it was unbelievable."
With Meche and Bannister in the iffy category, Tejeda probably will get another start. That was his role in his previous tours with Philadelphia and Texas and he'd like to get back to that.
"I don't want to do that because people get hurt but, yeah, I'm happy to get the opportunity and do what I did today," he said.
Hillman wasn't the only manager that was impressed.
"We've never seen him on like this," Mike Scioscia said. "He really pitched well. He had good velocity -- was throwing a lot of strikes and mixing up some offspeed pitches -- and obviously we didn't have too many good looks at him while he was in there."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.