3/10/2013 9:38 P.M. ET
Yost OK with courtesy runner for Pujols
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It wasn't a local kickball game, but it felt like it the two times Albert Pujols reached base and gave way to what can simply be called a "courtesy runner."
For each of Pujols' three starts this spring, the Angels have made an agreement with the opposing manager to let them deploy a pinch runner whose sole purpose was to run the bases so their recovering slugger could simply hit.
It didn't come into play in the first two games, with Pujols going 1-for-6 with a homer. But on Sunday, when Pujols went 2-for-2 with a walk and his second home run in as many days, it raised confusion at Surprise Stadium.
Non-roster invitee Matt Young, who finished the game in center field, replaced Pujols on the bases after a line drive single in the first inning, but the umpires thought that meant Pujols was out of the game. So they were surprised to see him come to the plate in the third, which prompted a long on-field discussion between Angels manager Mike Scioscia, crew chief Bill Miller and Royals skipper Ned Yost.
"I talked to Mike about it before the game and I didn't have a problem with it," Yost said. "On a number of fronts: One, we had a packed house [7,417 announced attendance] and they want to see Albert Pujols; and two, I want our pitchers facing Albert Pujols. I didn't think it would be an issue, but Bill thought it'd be an issue."
The Angels were eventually allowed to use Young after Pujols drew a walk in his second plate appearance -- but they let Pujols jog around the bases when he took Bruce Chen deep in the fifth.
Pujols ran the bases for the first time on Saturday and has said all along that he'll be ready by Opening Day, but the Angels are being extra cautious with him after offseason right knee surgery.
There's still no target date for Pujols' debut at first base, where he continues to field groundballs, but simply appearing in back-to-back games is a good sign -- even if it comes as the designated hitter.
"I think it's significant in the fact that still he has to run, he has to swing; there's some things that he needs to do," Scioscia said. "But I think when he gets out there and plays first base and repeats it, we'll know that he's far enough along that his leg's feeling where it should be."
Perez expected back from the Classic by Tuesday
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Salvador Perez, with his Venezuelan team eliminated in the World Baseball Classic, is expected back in the Royals' camp shortly.
"I think he's coming back Monday. I've got him in the lineup on Tuesday, so he better be here," manager Ned Yost said.
Perez was 1-for-5 in two games for Venezuela, which went 1-2 in the Classic.
Also returning after Monday's day off will be pitcher Luis Mendoza, whose team Mexico was also eliminated. He'll resume his bid to get in the running for the fifth rotation spot with Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar.
First baseman Eric Hosmer and pitcher Tim Collins are heading for Miami with Team USA for the second round. Hosmer hammered a three-run double in the ninth inning on Sunday to cement USA's 9-4 victory over Canada.
Also headed for Miami are second baseman Irving Falu with Puerto Rico, and pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Atahualpa Severino and third baseman Miguel Tejada with the Dominican Republic. Both teams also advanced to the second round.
Francoeur impressed with Royals' ability to score runs
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Maybe the Royals will use their off day on Monday to catch their breath. In the last two games -- a 13-2 victory over the Giants, followed by a 17-11 romp over the Angels -- they've combined for 38 hits and 30 runs.
On Sunday, right fielder Jeff Francoeur was just a single shy of the cycle after hitting a triple, double and home run in four at-bats. After the home run, manager Ned Yost took him out of the game.
"I thought he did good enough," Yost said. "I was glad to see Frenchy is getting his timing, he's starting to swing the bat well."
The Royals lead the Majors with a .347 average this spring, and are second in runs scored with 112 (although the Mariners, with 113, have played one more game).
"We've got big guys that can drive the ball and hit home runs," Francoeur said. "I'm not saying we're going to jack three home runs a game, but there's no reason that we can't go out and score runs. That's what we need -- drive the ball in the gap -- especially in Kansas City where we have a huge park -- and score some runs."
In terms of Spring Training home runs, the Royals have 15, which ranks 15th out of 30.
Hochevar, Chen struggle against the Angels
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The battle between Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen for the Royals' No. 5 starting job was a standoff on Sunday. They both got banged around in a 17-11 win over the Angels.
Hochevar started and gave up five hits and four runs -- on a pair of two-run homers -- in 3 1/3 innings. Chen took over and gave up five hits and five runs, one on a homer, in 3 2/3 innings. Each pitcher walked two. Hochevar struck out three, and Chen struck out four.
"Nobody took a step forward today. It was kind of neutral," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I just walked in after that game, thinking the positive is we pitched good enough to win. When you score 17 runs, you better."
Hochevar threw 68 pitches, including 42 strikes. Chen's count was 67-40.
Despite the statistical upheaval, Hochevar saw some positive signs in his performance.
"I thought my changeup has come a long way," Hochevar said. "I threw it quite a few times today, and got some swings and misses out of it and some really soft contact. I feel like my fastball command is coming along better and better every time, and my arm strength is coming along as well. And I feel like my breaking ball is right on track."
Davis throws successful bullpen session on Sunday
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Wade Davis threw in the bullpen on Sunday and his right shoulder passed the test.
"It went pretty good," Davis said. "I've been playing catch the whole time, I just threw my side today and I'll throw another on Tuesday."
Soreness in Davis' right shoulder prompted the Royals to skip his turn in the rotation on Saturday. He expects to make his scheduled start on Friday against the Padres.
Davis said his shoulder muscle just tightened up in a very small area.
"Nothing extreme. Actually, it felt great through the whole process. It was just a really small little deal that we wanted to take it easy on, so we just took a couple days [off]," he said.
Royals, Rangers to play 'B' game on Tuesday
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- After two games were abbreviated by rain on Friday, the Royals have scheduled a "B" game at 10 a.m. MT on Tuesday against the Rangers.
The purpose is to get pitchers Blaine Boyer, Francisley Bueno, Michael Mariot and Brian Sanches an inning of work each in what's planned as a 4½-inning game. More than rain figured in the decision to play the extra game.
"It's more of a product of guys starting to build their innings up," manager Ned Yost said on Sunday. "We've got two guys going today [Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen] that hopefully are going to get through four [apiece]. We've had games where we can have five or six pitchers throwing, but now we've got three if everything goes well."
Royals starting pitchers are at a point where they'll throw either four innings or 60 to 65 pitches in an outing.
Pitcher traded for Santana cut by Angels
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brandon Sisk, the relief pitcher the Royals traded for starting pitcher Ervin Santana, was cut by the Angels on Sunday and assigned to their Minor League camp.
Sisk appeared in just two Cactus League games, giving up one run and one hit in two innings. A left-hander, Sisk last year pitched in 50 games for Triple-A Omaha and had a 3-2 record with eight saves and a 2.54 ERA.
Santana, his $13 million option declined by the Angels, would have become a free agent had not the Royals jumped in with a trade offer at the last moment.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.