3/26/2014 6:30 P.M. ET
Shields shrugs off tough start in final tuneup
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The final tuneup for Royals Opening Day starter James Shields on Wednesday started on a sour note. He walked Padres leadoff man Everth Cabrera on four pitches.
Things went downhill from there.
Shields was zinged for seven runs in the first inning on six hits, that walk and a hit batter in the Royals' 9-5 loss in their Cactus League finale. The Padres were aggressive, jumping on Shields' first pitch five times -- good for four of the hits and a sacrifice bunt.
But Shields breezed through the next three innings with barely a ripple of trouble and no more runs.
"I felt in the first inning, they were just hitting ground balls that found some holes. I was trying to stay aggressive right there," Shields said. "Walking the first guy didn't help too much but, other than the first inning, I thought it was a pretty good effort out there. Normally during the season that's not going to happen in the first too much."
This game inflated Shields' final Cactus League ERA from 2.61 to 4.74, but he felt primed and ready for the Detroit Tigers on Monday afternoon. But first there's a stop at Milwaukee for two more exhibition games against the Brewers.
"I feel good, my body feels great," Shields said. "I think we're all ready to go here, so we're excited to get on this airplane tonight and get this thing started."
Finger injury could force Coleman to DL to start season
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It turns out that second baseman Omar Infante's cranky right elbow isn't the Royals' only uncertainty for the opening of the season. Now, pitcher Louis Coleman's swollen right middle finger has re-emerged as a factor.
Coleman, a right-handed reliever, jammed the middle finger of his pitching hand in a fielding drill as Spring Training began. After a while, he resumed pitching and no more was said about the finger. However, it's continued to bother him, manager Ned Yost said on Wednesday.
So much so that Coleman's readiness for Opening Day is very much in doubt.
"It's been dogging him," Yost said. "It's getting better, but there's still some swelling in there. There's still a bone bruise in that finger. Actually, the last time he pitched, it felt as good as it did all spring long, but he couldn't command the ball."
Bottom line: Coleman could start the season on the disabled list and Yost could begin the year with only 11 pitchers instead of 12, using Coleman's roster spot for an infielder to back up Infante. Nothing's been decided yet, and if Infante isn't ready to play on Opening Day, that could further complicate matters.
However, Yost got a good report on Infante's five innings in a Minor League game on Wednesday at the Royals' camp.
"Really good report -- 2-for-5, five good innings, felt really good at the end of the day," Yost said. "He'll DH [Thursday] and if he feels as good as he did today, we'll hop him on a plane and get him to Milwaukee."
The final roster hasn't been announced, and won't be until probably Sunday, but third baseman Danny Valencia seems to be in as a backup infielder. That leaves Pedro Ciriaco and Jason Donald as the options for Infante's backup -- or even temporary replacement -- at second base.
"We haven't decided yet between Ciriaco and Donald," Yost said.
Ciriaco is on the 40-man roster but is out of Minor League options. Donald is a non-roster player on a Minor League contract.
"Right now, with Louis' finger situation and Omar's elbow situation, there are too many uncertainties now with what we're doing. The possibility of opening the season with 11 pitchers could be a possibility," Yost said. "And go day to day from there. But we just don't know yet."
Coleman will stay behind in Arizona to test his finger and undergo treatment while the club leaves for Milwaukee on Wednesday. If he has to go on the disabled list, his stay could be backdated to Monday, and he'd miss only about eight days of the regular season.
Yost explained that the middle finger of a pitcher's hand is a pressure point and that Coleman's finger became sore and swollen after 15 pitches in one game.
"He's been dealing with this all spring," Yost said. "The other day, he faced Texas' 'A' lineup and struck out the side. It's the worst his finger has felt all spring. Can he pitch through it? Yeah. But can he command the ball? That's the question."
The uncertainty of Coleman's ability to throw strikes is the unsettling thing.
"The worst thing as a manager, when you've got a really good team, is bring in a reliever [and] you don't what you're going to get in a tough situation," Yost said.
Team trainers told Yost that a bone bruise typically takes six to eight weeks to heal. Coleman's injury occurred about six weeks ago.
"Louis is a big part of our bullpen when healthy -- a big, big part of it," Yost said. "But Omar's a big part of our infield defense and our offensive lineup, and we have to have a guy who can play second base if [Infante] can't, to start the season."
That's why an infielder with experience at second base, such as Donald or Ciriaco, is still in the picture as insurance for Infante.
"That may happen, depending on how Louis is," Yost said.
Bueno tightening grip on spot in Royals' 'pen
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Left-hander Francisley Bueno hasn't heard anything definitive from the Royals, but he's undoubtedly strengthened his bid for a bullpen job.
Bueno pitched three shutout innings in Tuesday night's 9-6 loss to the Mariners and, though he gave up two hits, faced the minimum nine batters. There was a double play and Bueno also threw out a runner trying to steal third.
"Bueno was outstanding -- three innings," manager Ned Yost said. "We were going to try to lengthen him out to about 40 pitches to be a multiple-inning guy and he got through the first two innings at 22 pitches, and I said let's give him a third and he looked fantastic."
Bueno's status undoubtedly improved more with new doubt cast over the readiness of Louis Coleman, one of six relievers considered locks for the bullpen.
Bueno has a 1.64 ERA in the Cactus League, notching 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. He's given up nine hits and two walks but just two runs.
Yost believes Bueno could function as a long man in the bullpen among other things.
"He's a guy you could do that with. He's a guy you could use in different roles, that's what makes him so attractive," Yost said.
Bueno, 33, has pitched in 25 games for the Royals in the last two years, compiling a 1.05 ERA for 25 2/3 innings.
His only previous big league experience was one game with the Braves on Aug. 13, 2008. Bueno was ejected for throwing at the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano and later was suspended for three games. Bueno didn't serve the suspension until four years later -- when he finally returned to the Majors with the Royals in September 2012.
Salvy says he's fine after taking pitch to head
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Royals catcher Salvador Perez was taken out of Wednesday's game against the Padres after being struck in the head by a pitch, but afterward said he was all right.
Head athletic trainer Nick Kenney reported that it was a "non-concussive head impact" and that no tests were planned for Perez.
"I'm really fine," Perez said through a team spokesman.
Perez was struck behind the left ear by a 2-1 pitch, a breaking ball, by Padres pitcher Johnny Barbato in the third inning. After going down into the dirt, Perez got up and left the field under his own power, rubbing his head next to the ear. He went into the dugout to be checked by team trainers.
Then, after the top of the fourth, Perez emerged from the dugout pulling his equipment bag and waving and smiling to the crowd as he made his way down the right-field line toward the clubhouse.
"He's doing fine," Royals pitcher James Shields said. "It just kind of rung his ears a little bit, but he's doing pretty good. Any time you get hit in the head, it's scary, but he's fine."
Perez was replaced by Minor League catcher Jesus Flores.
Last season, Perez spent a week on the disabled list after sustaining a concussion when a foul ball struck his mask and jarred him in a game against the Mets at Citi Field.
"It's always scary, but it's even more scary when it's Sal and you know his history," manager Ned Yost said. "It was a slower-type breaking ball, it wasn't a fastball. He was fine."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.