SURPRISE, Ariz. — Is there an early surprise brewing in Royals’ camp?
How about lefty reliever Donnie Joseph, who has faced six hitters in two appearances and struck out all six? Or catcher Adam Moore, who already has two booming homers in eight at-bats.
“It’s (just a few) games,” Moore said, “but at the same time, you’ve got to make them all count. I feel confident. I feel good at the plate. I’m getting pitches I can hit … I know I’ve got to keep this going.”
Every camp seems to have somebody who starts hot, stays hot and beats the odds by playing his way onto the club.
Sometimes, it’s a prospect like reliever Kelvin Herrera, whose performance last spring simply prevented the Royals from sending him, as anticipated, to Triple-A Omaha to start the season.
Other times it’s the longest of long shots.
Outfielder Emil Brown appeared to be mere organizational filler when he came to camp in 2005 after winding his way through seven organizations in the previous decade while amassing fewer than 500 big-league plate appearances.
Brown hit his way onto the club and led the Royals in RBIs for three straight years.
“The thing you want to do,” manager Ned Yost said, “when you come into spring training for the first time, is make an impression. Fair or unfair, first impressions last. They really do.
“You come in and struggle your first two or three times….”
Impressions don’t come much better than Joseph’s six strikeouts against six hitters. He responded by observing: “All that matters is what you do next.”
The Royals acquired Joseph, 25, at the July 31 trade deadline last year in the deal that sent veteran closer Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati.
“He’s got great stuff,” Yost said. “At times, his command can get a little all over the place, but he has not exhibited that here in these games. You never know when it’s going to click.”
Joseph struggled last year at Triple-A Omaha following the trade. He struck out 19 in 17 1/3 innings over 11 appearances but allowed eight runs on 21 hits and an alarming 13 walks.
“(Reds manager) Dusty Baker told me numerous times, every time I see him, ‘I didn’t want to get rid of Donnie Joseph,’” Yost said. “‘You know, Dusty, I didn’t want to get rid of Broxton either.’”
Joseph still faces an uphill battle to win a roster spot but, if nothing else, a strong spring would make him a more attractive in-season promotion candidate when the need arises.
The odds are also stacked against Moore, who is battling George Kottaras and Brett Hayes for duty as Salvy Perez’s backup.
Moore is on a minor-league contract, which means he can be reassigned to the minors at any point without clearing waivers. Kottaras and Hayes are on the big-league roster and out of options.
“Adam Moore is in that mix,” Yost insisted. “Defensively, he’s fine, and he’s got a tremendous arm. He fits the bill. All three of those guys are doing really well.”
For his part, Moore is just happy to be healthy after battling injuries for much of the last two seasons in Seattle before coming last July to the Royals in a waiver claim.
“It’s been a tough road the last few years with injuries over in Seattle,” he admitted. “But things happen, and God’s got a plan. I truly believe that. We’ll just see how it goes the rest of spring.”