03/22/2013 9:00 PM ET
Moose keeps flashing leather to match hot bat
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- There hasn't been any falloff in the defensive dash of Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Continuing a spring-long trend, he pulled off sterling plays in back-to-back innings against the Angels on Friday.
In the third inning, along with left fielder Alex Gordon and shortstop Alcides Escobar, Moustakas rushed deep into foul territory and caught Vernon Wells' high popup. When Alberto Callaspo tried to advance to second base after the catch, Moustakas quickly fired the ball to second baseman Chris Getz, who applied the tag for a double play.
"It was a foul ball that started off in the stands and the wind was blowing pretty good so it came all the way back in. I didn't give up on it, Gordo didn't give up on it, Esky didn't give up on it and I was just the one that came down with it," Moustakas said.
Both Gordon and Escobar yelled to Moustakas that Callaspo was breaking off first base.
"They helped me out tremendously over there," Moustakas said. "Telling me where the wall's at and letting me know the guy's going, so that's one of those plays that doesn't show up on the scorecard. Our shortstop and our left fielder don't get an assist, but they helped me out."
Moustakas opened the fourth by soaring to his left for a diving stab of Mike Trout's hard line drive.
"I was fortunate enough to catch it and not let my glove rip off," Moustakas said.
In the fifth, he was back at it, making a diving down-the-line stab of Wells' sharp grounder. However, he had to throw from his knees and the ball skipped past first baseman Eric Hosmer. Moustakas was charged with an error that allowed an Angels run for a 9-9 tie. The Royals ultimately won, 13-9.
"Our defense was phenomenal today," starting pitcher James Shields said. "You've got Gordon throwing out a runner at home, and Moose had some really, really good plays that you don't see that often so that was impressive. If we can have that kind of defense all season, we're going to be in business."
Butler likely set at No. 3 spot in lineup
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Manager Ned Yost is still tinkering with the Royals' batting order, but it appears that designated hitter Billy Butler might start the season in the third spot.
Butler most often batted fourth last season. He was in the cleanup spot 102 times, as opposed to 56 starts in the No. 3 position.
On Friday against the Angels, it was Alex Gordon leading off, followed by Alcides Escobar, Butler and Mike Moustakas, with Salvador Perez fifth and Eric Hosmer sixth. The important consideration here is that Moustakas and Hosmer are left-handed batters.
"We're trying to find ways to protect Billy. We're trying to split our lefties," Yost said.
By stacking the heart of the lineup with Butler (right), Moustakas (left), Perez (right) and Hosmer (left), Yost not only is alternating sides of the plate but avoiding one possible strategy by opponents.
If the Royals had Moustakas third, Butler fourth and Hosmer fifth, in a tight situation the other team could bring in a left-handed reliever to face lefty Moustakas, walk Butler intentionally and pitch to lefty Hosmer.
In that event, as Yost pointed out: "You've got one of your best hitters on the club not getting pitched to and you don't want that. You want to stay away from that as much as you can. So that's why we slip Billy into the three out of the four."
He also noted that Moustakas and Hosmer could be switched between the fourth and sixth slots, depending on how they're hitting.
On Friday, he had Lorenzo Cain batting seventh, Jeff Francoeur eighth and Chris Getz ninth. Francoeur could move up if and when he emerges from his spring slump.
"The last week, we're just going to get a feel for things and look at it and see if guys get a little comfortable in those spots," Yost said.
But he saw pluses in the lineup he used on Friday.
"It's got good flow, it's got good sequence on it. I like it," Yost said.
Royals release Chavez from Minor League contract
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Endy Chavez, a non-roster invitee, was released from his Minor League contract by the Royals on Friday.
Chavez, 35, had returned to the Royals this winter, 12 years after beginning his Major League career for them with 29 games in 2001. He'd since played with the Expos, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles.
In 18 Cactus League games, Chavez batted just .188 (6-for-32) with no extra-base hits or RBIs.
His departure leaves the Royals with 38 active players in camp.
All Royals players back in camp after Classic
TEMPE, Ariz. -- At last, all of the Royals' players were back in camp from the World Baseball Classic on Friday.
Infielder Miguel Tejada and pitchers Kelvin Herrera and Atahualpa Severino were back from the champion Dominican Republic team, as well as infielder Irving Falu from runner-up Puerto Rico. They returned Wednesday, but Thursday was an off-day for the Royals.
The Dominicans' victory set off big celebrations in the island country after they won the title on Tuesday night.
"We are excited; there is nothing better than that," Tejada said. "The people were really happy to see what we did. The country was really waiting for that moment."
Tejada played in all three Classics, but this was his first title.
"That was the third time for me and I was very happy to do it, because this is my last one so I'm happy to win it," Tejada said.
When the Classic began, the Royals had nine players taking part.
Francoeur's long homer adds to minor groove
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Eric Hosmer smashed a three-run homer off the Angels' C.J. Wilson in Friday's 13-9 Royals victory but Jeff Francoeur out-distanced him.
After Hosmer's blast sailed over the center-field wall, Francoeur hoisted a solo blast over the towering batter's eye that looms 30 feet or more over center field.
"I got jammed," Francoeur joked.
The two homers, helped by a brisk wind that was blowing out, were part of a seven-run third inning that wiped out a 7-1 Angels lead.
"That was great of the team to do what we did today," Francoeur said. "We got behind a guy like C.J. Wilson and confidence-wise -- it is Spring Training, but to come back the way we did and hit balls hard, I thought that was really good."
Francoeur was asked if he was able to follow the flight of his blast.
"No, but it felt really good, I'll just let it at that," Francoeur said. "I had to show Hoz."
Francoeur, fighting to get in a hitting groove, is 3-for-6 in his last two games, and his average is up to .237.
"I'm starting to see it, so that's the key for me," Francoeur said.
Two Royals spring games to be televised next week
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Royals' Cactus League schedule comes to FOX Sports Kansas City for two nights next week.
The network will televise Monday's game against the Dodgers and Wednesday's game against the Cubs, both starting at 8 p.m. CT. The Wednesday night game will be preceded by a Spring Training preview at 7:30 p.m. CT.
FOX will carry 140 regular-season games on TV.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.