04/07/12 2:43 AM ET
Royals aim to keep Pujols from dictating fate
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Royals manager Ned Yost plans to approach Angels slugger Albert Pujols in much the same way this season.
"Yeah, absolutely. We'll take our chances with Torii Hunter, who's behind him today," Yost said before Friday night's opener. "We'll try not to let him beat us. You get in certain situations where there's no way around it, you've got to go mano-a-mano. But we're not going to walk the dadgummed guy with nobody on. We'll let the game dictate what we're going to do. We're going to try not to let him beat us."
Seven Royals experience first Opening Day
ANAHEIM -- This is the first Major League opener for seven Royals, including first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas who surfaced from Triple-A Omaha to become lineup regulars after the season began last year.
The others are center fielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Everett Teaford.
"A lot of jitters, a lot of excitement, nervousness, all that rolled into one," said the normally relaxed Cain in the Royals' clubhouse. "But I'm definitely excited and ready to go. I worked hard all spring to get to this point, and I'm ready to get this thing started tonight."
Once Cain got started, however, he had a tough time against the Angels' Jered Weaver, striking out all three times he faced him in the Royals' 5-0 loss. He tempered that with an excellent play on a Kendrys Morales blast, grazing the right-center-field wall as he made the catch after a long run.
There are seven other players who weren't on the 2011 Opening Day roster against the Angels: pitchers Jonathan Broxton, Luis Mendoza, Jose Mijares and Jonathan Sanchez, catcher Humberto Quintero, second baseman Yuniesky Betancourt and outfielder Jason Bourgeois.
So that's 14, meaning there are only 11 holdovers on the 25-man active roster from last Opening Day: pitchers Bruce Chen, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Luke Hochevar, catcher Brayan Pena, designated hitter Billy Butler, second baseman Chris Getz, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielders Jeff Francoeur, Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier.
On the disabled list this year are pitchers Joakim Soria, who was on last year's Opening Day roster, Felipe Paulino and Blake Wood and catchers Salvador Perez and Manny Pina, who were not.
Manager Ned Yost sees the yearly turnover declining, though, as more young players become fixtures.
"It'll be less and less as we go along. It'll be five or six or fewer every year. It won't be 14," he said.
Royals go down swinging against Weaver
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver's 10 strikeouts made him just the third Angels pitcher to have double-digit whiffs on Opening Day. And he's not the first to do it against the Royals either.
Nolan Ryan had 12 in 1973 and 1975, both against the Royals, and Andy Messersmith had 11 in 1970 at Milwaukee.
Against Weaver, the Royals got only two runners as far as second base on Friday night before succumbing, 5-0.
"The bottom line is we knew what he had. I've faced him before, and he was locating his pitches well and was executing," the Royals' Billy Butler said. "We had some opportunities, but he maximized 'em and he pitched a good game. You can't take anything away from him."
This was Weaver's 11th career start against the Royals, and he's 6-4 with a 2.12 ERA in those games.
"That's no fluke, that's what we see from Weaver every time we face him," said Royals manager Ned Yost.
Focused Hochevar restores faith in changeup
ANAHEIM -- Luke Hochevar, who'll face the Angels in Saturday afternoon's second game of the series, had a productive Spring Training.
He made five Cactus League starts, with a 3-1 record, 2.84 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 19 innings. In terms of technique, he was especially happy with his ability to focus on each delivery, pitch by pitch, and the improvement in his changeup.
"I think the biggest thing is having the opportunity to work on my changeup and throw my changeup a lot. In the past, it's never really been a pitch for me," Hochevar said.
"I've shown it four to six times a game, maybe. I worked really hard on it over the offseason because I want it to be a pitch that I use four times an inning -- so I can keep hitters' timing off my fastball. I want it to be a usable pitch, and I think this spring was big for me in working on that. I threw it a ton and still am throwing it a ton. And I'm seeing the results that I want, and it's coming along good. I'd still like to see it get a little bit better and have more action."
Oddly, even though Hochevar has pitched 100 Major League games, this will be his first appearance at Angel Stadium. Against the Angels at Kansas City, he's 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA in four starts. The losses include last year's opener at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals begin the season with the youngest 25-man roster at an average of 27 years, 155 days -- actually up from last year's 27 years, six days. Next youngest are the Astros at 27 years, 301 days and the Braves at 28 years, 99 days. The youngest Royal is pitcher Kelvin Herrera, 22 years, 97 days. Oldest team? The Yankees at 31 years, 61 days.
Bruce Chen became the 21st different pitcher to start in the Royals' 44 openers. He's also the oldest player on the roster at 34 years, 292 days.
This was the Royals' eighth opener at night -- they were 2-5 in the previous games. This was their fourth opener, all at night, at Anaheim, and they were 1-2 in the previous games, with both losses to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, in 1973 and 1975.
Of the 243 foreign-born players on Major League Opening Day rosters, including disabled players, the Royals have the most of any club, with 13. Venezuela tops the list, with five -- Alcides Escobar, Jose Mijares, Humberto Quintero, Salvador Perez and Manny Pina.
Triple-A Omaha opened defense of its Pacific Coast League title with an 8-4 victory over Albuquerque. Kevin Kouzmanoff knocked in three runs with two doubles. Double-A Northwest Arkansas lost its opener, 9-0, at Corpus Christi. Class A Kane County outslugged Quad Cities, 11-10, with Lane Adams hitting a grand slam in its opener.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.