03/09/2013 7:21 PM ET
Spring production pleases Royals skipper
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It doesn't impress Royals manager Ned Yost all that much that his 12-1-1 team is leading the Major Leagues in hitting with a .341 average. What he likes better is that the Royals are fourth in runs scored with 95.
"The thing that I'm impressed with is our production," Yost said after Saturday's 13-2 rout of the Giants. "Twenty hits, 13 runs. We needed to score more runs than we did last year. We always could find ways to get hits and we were always at the top of the league in batting average but always at the bottom of the league in runs scored. Our production has been fantastic this spring. We're scoring runs and a bunch of them."
Johnny Giavotella had four RBIs and joined Billy Butler and David Lough with a three-hit game. There were no home runs but Elliot Johnson had two of the Royals' five doubles.
"We're playing together, we have a lot of confidence and we believe in each other," Butler said. "We have a good bunch of guys, we enjoy playing together and we're just out there having fun."
Lough has been one of the Royals' hottest hitters. He's 13-for-23 (.565). He faces an uphill battle to win a backup outfield job but believes he benefited by last September's callup from Triple-A Omaha.
"I think it's a confidence booster," Lough said. "Just getting your feet wet a little bit and being around the guys and playing at that level gives you a little confidence going into Spring Training. And knowing that you can play up here and try to prove that."
Giavotella, scrapping with Chris Getz for the second-base job, boosted his average to .318.
"For me, it's just about getting at-bats under my belt, feeling comfortable in the box," Giavotella said. "I've been getting some extra swings with Jack [Maloof, hitting coach] before the games and just feeling comfortable now."
Ventura continues dazzling spring campaign
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Ned Yost had a little anecdote after his Royals crushed the World Series champion Giants, 13-2, on Saturday.
"The umpire, Ron Kulpa, came over in the second inning and he said, 'Who is this kid? And, wow!'" Yost said. "He goes, 'This kid is some kind of nasty.' And I said, 'Yeah, he's pretty good.'"
Yost had to chuckle. The subject of that tale, right-hander Yordano Ventura, seems to be headed for his Major League pitching staff in a hurry. Probably not at the beginning of the season but soon -- he doesn't seem to need much more Minor League seasoning.
"I can say this for the kid, he's getting really, really close," Yost said. "Seasoning means you're down working on your command, working on your stuff. He's got three pitches he can throw for strikes and they're all three above-average pitches. He needs more experience -- a little bit, but not a whole lot more."
Ventura, ranked as the Royals' No. 3 prospect by MLB.com, reeled off three no-hit innings in his first Cactus League start. He struck out three and walked two, the only runners against him.
The youngest player in camp at 21, the slender kid from the Dominican Republic critiqued his own performance by saying his pitches were a bit up in the first inning.
"They were but the thing that's so impressive about a kid like him is he made an adjustment," Yost said. "And when he made his adjustment, he was almost untouchable today."
Because of his relatively small size and big power on his pitches, he's been compared to three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez. But like Martinez during his career, Ventura is growing.
"Before Pedro was big Pedro, he was small Pedro. Didn't weigh much and five or six years later, Pedro was big Pedro," Ventura said.
This has been Ventura's first Major League camp and, after pitching in four games with a 2.08 ERA, he's feeling comfortable.
"It's been a very good experience," he said.
And he's made a big impression.
"We call him 'Ace' for a reason because he's got unbelievable stuff," second baseman Johnny Giavotella said. "You could just see the velocity explode out of his hand. It's just a pleasure to be out there on the same field with somebody that has that kind of talent."
"He's got an electric fastball, upper 90s," said first baseman Billy Butler. "I see a guy that commands the ball well, I see a guy that's not far away from the big leagues. I see a guy that can contribute this year for us, if we need him."
Watching from the other dugout, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was no less impressed.
"We faced the best arm we've seen this spring," Bochy said.
Relievers turn in solid effort vs. Giants
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Royals continue to lead Major League pitching staffs with a 3.36 ERA through 14 games and they had some strong relief pitching Saturday behind starter Yordano Ventura.
After Louis Coleman and Greg Holland each reeled off a perfect inning, the Giants were hitless through the first out of the sixth inning before Gregor Blanco and Nick Noonan hit back-to-back triples off J.C. Gutierrez. Donnie Joseph gave up his first run of the spring, a leadoff homer by Brandon Belt in the seventh. Nate Adcock worked a perfect eighth and Dan Wheeler had a scoreless ninth.
It was Coleman, battling to keep his bullpen spot, who came in for special mention from manager Ned Yost.
"Louie was sharp as he's been all year. I mean his slider was nasty. It had good downward bite to it, good tilt on it. And spotted his fastball with life on it. Yeah, it was his best inning by far this spring," Yost said.
Two players sent down from Royals camp
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Catcher Manny Pina and outfielder Luis Durango were reassigned to the Royals' Minor League camp late Friday night.
Pina was up with Kansas City briefly the last two years, playing just five games and going 3-for-16. Last Spring Training he underwent right knee surgery and missed about half the season. He played 43 games at the Double-A level, batting .260 for Northwest Arkansas.
Durango, who played briefly for San Diego in 2009-10 and Houston in 2011, was one of several outfielders brought in this year to provide depth, especially in center field. Last year he hit .289 for Triple-A Gwinnett and led the International League with 46 stolen bases.
In four Cactus League games this year, Pina was 3-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs. His chances were reduced when the Royals picked up potential backup catchers George Kottaras and Brett Hayes. Durango was 2-for-13 with one triple in eight games.
Royals keeping tabs on Classic participants
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With eight players from the Major League camp involved in World Baseball Classic play, the Royals are keeping close track.
"We're all pretty interested; we're watching. We want them all to do good," manager Ned Yost said. "Like last night, you're torn when Hoz is facing Mendy. It's, 'All right, who do we root for here?'"
The Eric Hosmer vs. Luis Mendoza confrontation in the USA-Mexico game ended with Hoz grounding out to his Kansas City teammate.
But the Royals are checking beyond TV watching and the box scores, especially with the pitchers.
"We've been monitoring it pretty good. We've got all the managers' and pitching coaches' phone numbers so we're watching pretty good," Yost said.
How the players do in the games, though, does not figure in on the Royals' evaluation process.
"What are we going to do? Send [Hosmer] down if he goes 1-for-11?" Yost cracked. "We just want them there for the experience, not to evaluate. They're all there for the experience."
Royals adjust pitching plans after rainouts
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rainouts in the early innings of both ends of a day-night doubleheader Friday had the Royals doing some juggling with pitchers so they could get their work in Saturday.
Closer Greg Holland and reliever J.C. Gutierrez, bumped out of Friday night's game against the Rockies, were moved into Saturday's game against the Giants.
Five pitchers -- Everett Teaford, Blaine Boyer, Chris Dwyer, Justin Marks and Brian Sanches -- were sent to the Minor League camp to throw in intrasquad games.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.