02/28/2013 8:00 PM ET
Relief effort could help Smith in rotation bid
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Yes, James Shields looked marvelous on Thursday for the Royals, but ...
"If you could look any better, Will Smith did," manager Ned Yost said.
Smith followed Shields with three innings in which he gave up two hits and a run, but struck out five Padres and walked none. For that, Smith earned credit for the Royals' 5-4 victory and praise from Yost.
The plan was for Smith to pitch just two innings.
"The first two were so easy that I said, 'Man, we've got to give him another one,'" Yost said. "He had all three of his pitches working today. Great downhill action on his fastball, really good changeup and a really good curve. He threw all three pitches for strikes."
Actually, Smith referred to his breaking pitches as sliders.
"Me and Sal [catcher Salvador Perez] were on a pretty good page today. We usually are," Smith said. "We were working first-pitch fastballs for the most part and I think all the strikeouts came on sliders. It's still kind of a new pitch but not really. I'm starting to get a better feel for it and throw it for strikes. I like it."
Slider or curveball, it worked.
"For me, curveballs," Yost said. "Because we had opposing hitters telling our players that it was starting over the batter's eye and then breaking down into the strike zone. So it was pretty impressive, whatever it was."
The only run off Smith stemmed from Gregorio Petit's triple that hit the left-field wall between Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain, who seemed to miscommunicate as to who would attempt the catch.
"I thought it was gone. It was right down the middle. He's a good hitter and did what he was supposed to do with it," Smith said.
Logan Forsythe's two-out single scored Petit but it didn't diminish the impact of Smith's effort. He's had just two outings, but he's looking as if he could challenge Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar for the fifth starting job.
"We'll see," Yost said. "It's too early."
Shields' first Royals outing easy as 1-2-3
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Things went perfectly in James Shields' first pitching performance for the Royals.
It was easy as one-two-three. A perfect inning of 13 pitches -- a ground ball to first, a fly ball to right, a called third strike.
"It's good to be out there again and rockin' and rollin'," Shields said.
Shields decided to work just one inning in the Royals' 5-4 victory over the Padres on Thursday, but then went to the bullpen to throw a simulated inning of 10 to 15 pitches. So his total workout was about 28 pitches.
"No breaking balls. I ended up throwing some cut fastballs, and obviously I was working my four-seam and my changeup as well," Shields said.
This, of course, marked the culmination of a 2 1/2-month wait by Royals fans to view the primary acquisition of the Royals' whopper of a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. On Dec. 10, Shields, fellow pitcher Wade Davis and (as it developed) infielder Elliot Johnson came to Kansas City in exchange for four prized prospects.
The deal set up a new-look rotation that is supposed to put the Royals in a better place, standings-wise. And, at the moment, they do stand as the Majors' only unbeaten team in Spring Training.
"We've got a lot of good starting pitching around here. I think there's going to be a lot of anticipation every five days. So I'm excited about it," Shields said. "I watched Hoch [Luke Hochevar] and Bruce [Chen] throw yesterday, Wade threw the other day and I'm looking forward to seeing Ervin [Santana] tomorrow."
And, he might have said, Jeremy Guthrie on Saturday.
"We've got a pretty exciting team and hopefully we can compete every five days," Shields said.
Sticking around to watch Cactus League games isn't necessarily required but Shields wanted to educate himself about Hochevar and Chen, who are both battling for the fifth starting job.
"I'm a new guy and I wanted to take a look at their first outing and see how they are. I'm the type of guy that likes to talk to all the starters," Shields said. "I'm all about feeding off each other. There may be some things that maybe [pitching coach] Dave Eiland may not see and players may see. So I'm a big talker between starts and try to get everybody on the same page."
Shields was on a good page in his first outing for Kansas City.
"Shields was phenomenal," manager Ned Yost said. "It's funny, there's just something about a guy that's your No. 1 guy -- he's just got that special aura, and it was definitely out there when he was on the mound. It was just really fun to see him out there."
Royals remain undefeated in spring play
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Typically, Royals manager Ned Yost was not especially overwhelmed that he has the only undefeated team in the Major Leagues. The Royals might be 6-0 with one tie but, after all, these games don't count.
"That's nice," Yost said. "Everybody's healthy, that's why it can't be going any better. We're swinging the bats really well, I love our approach, I love the way our pitchers are attacking the strike zone for the most part and we've played very well defensively. You combine all those things and it's going quite nicely for us."
The undefeated record was in jeopardy on Thursday when the Padres loaded the bases with one out in the ninth as Nate Adcock walked two and hit a batter. But he ended the game by getting Alexi Amarista to ground into a double play, second baseman Chris Getz to first baseman Xavier Nady.
That preserved a 5-4 win, and in the meantime, the previously unbeaten White Sox and Orioles had lost.
Herrera adds hook to pitching repertoire
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As if Kelvin Herrera's 100-mph fastball wasn't enough, the Royals right-hander is polishing up a curveball for his arsenal.
"I'm trying to throw it more often now. That's what I'm going to work on my next outing," Herrera said.
That will be Saturday against the World Series champion Giants. So far he's pitched two scoreless innings, giving up three hits.
"I need to add a pitch this season," Herrera said. "It's a sweep curveball."
Manager Ned Yost said an effective curveball will make Herrera even more dominating than he was last year, when he posted a 2.35 ERA, four wins and three saves as a rookie.
"It's definitely the one thing that he needs to make a bit of an improvement on and be more consistent with," Yost said. "He basically throws strikes with his fastball, has a very good changeup and was a tad bit inconsistent with his breaking ball. If he can develop more consistency with his breaking ball, that gives him three above-average pitches that he can get guys out with."
This spring, Herrera has a secure hold on a bullpen spot. A year ago, he was a kid hoping to land a job.
"Last year, I was worried about where I was going to be," Herrera said.
Gordon, Cain back from minor injuries
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Outfielders Alex Gordon (stiff back) and Lorenzo Cain (strained hand) got through Wednesday's return to action just fine, and were back in the lineup on Thursday against the Padres.
Infielder Elliot Johnson remained out with a bruised shin sustained when a Brewers runner slid into him during Wednesday's 3-2 Royals victory.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.