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2/21/2014 3:44 P.M. ET

Chen, Duffy to take mound in spring opener

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Bruce Chen will start the Royals' first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Thursday at Surprise Stadium. Another lefty, Danny Duffy, is also scheduled to pitch.

Chen, expected to pitch two innings, is already slotted into the Royals' starting rotation, so there's no urgency for him to perform well enough to win a spot. That was the situation last spring when Chen lost a battle for the last rotation spot to Luis Mendoza.

"The most important thing is to be ready for the season and there are some things I need to do -- first of all, I need to get my arm strength, I need to make sure I pound the strike zone, I need to make sure I have my fastball command," Chen said.

Duffy, on the other hand, would like a good showing because he's one of several pitchers competing for the fifth starting spot this year.

No word yet on the Rangers' starter.

Vargas, Shields impress Yost in live batting practice

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Newcomer Jason Vargas joined James Shields in sharing the mound on Friday morning for a round of batting practice, and both impressed manager Ned Yost.

"It was a good workday, they threw all their pitches and were in good shape," Yost said.

Each pitcher threw against Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Justin Maxwell for the equivalent of two innings. The batters all looked at a lot of pitches, swung at and missed a few and hit a few fly balls and grounders.

"Vargas is going to be a big pickup for us, I think," Yost said. "He's a guy that throws strikes, changes speeds, is a great competitor, knows how to pitch. He looked great today, it was impressive to watch him work at 9:30 in the morning."

The Royals reeled through their second full-squad workout with no injuries reported.

Moustakas among seven Royals to sign 2014 deals

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Mike Moustakas and six other Royals have agreed to 2014 contract terms.

Moustakas, who struggled last season with a .233 average and slipped to 42 RBIs, will make $549,000, up from $524,500 last year.

Reliever Louis Coleman agreed to $537,000; third baseman Danny Valencia to $532,500, and reliever Kelvin Herrera to $522,250. Outfielder Lane Adams, third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert and pitcher Justin Marks all took the Major League minimum of $500,000.

There are still 13 unsigned players on the 40-man roster, including regular center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

Crown points

• Already busy with pitcher Yu Darvish on the Rangers' side of the Surprise complex, the Japanese media are also at work covering the Royals' new right fielder from Japan, Norichika Aoki.

Yost told them that Aoki is fitting in well with the Royals.

"I really like what I see from Nori so far, a lot of life, a lot of energy," Yost said. "He's got a great, nice, quiet swing. Very athletic in the outfield, a lot of bounce to his game. A great sense of humor, a great personality -- there's a lot to like about Nori."

• MLB Network will carry six of the Royals' Spring Training games in the Kansas City market. They are: March 5, at Diamondbacks, 4 p.m. CT; March 8, at Brewers, 3 p.m. CT; March 12, Dodgers, midnight CT; March 14, at Indians, 9 a.m. CT; March 20, Angels, 3 p.m. CT (live); March 22, Rangers, 3 p.m. CT (live). The first four games are on tape delay.

Alex Gordon, a proud University of Nebraska product, visited with the Cornhuskers as they took batting practice at the Royals complex prior to the Pac 12-Big Ten Challenge tournament at Surprise Stadium. Gordon planned to watch the Huskers take on the Oregon State Beavers.

• To allow time for physical examinations, the Royals will get a late start on Saturday, stretching at 1 p.m. MT. They usually begin the workout at 10 a.m.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.