The Royals took a break Monday from rampaging through the Cactus League when the schedule called for the first of their three spring open dates.
They resume their spring schedule Tuesday by playing an Oakland split squad at 2:05 p.m. Central time at Surprise Stadium. The game can be heard on KCSP (610 AM) in Kansas City.
The week continues Wednesday with a trip to Scottsdale to play Arizona at Salt River Fields before returning Thursday to Surprise to play a Seattle split squad.
Friday marks the first of the Royals’ three split-squad, day/night doubleheaders. They play Cleveland in an afternoon game in Surprise before returning to Scottsdale to play Colorado at Salt River Fields.
The Royals entered the week leading the majors in ERA at 3.00 through their 10 games. The second-best mark was Colorado at 3.42, and then it was another big drop to the New York Yankees at 3.83.
Right-hander Wade Davis has yet to allow a run in five innings over two starts. That paces a strong showing of a 2.95 mark by the starters, including 2.29 by the seven pitchers who are either locked into the rotation or competing for a spot.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas entered the week as the top spring hitter in either league at .579 with 11 hits in 19 at-bats. He has three doubles, a homer and six RBIs.
Outfielder David Lough is batting .533 at eight for 15, while Alex Gordon is batting .500 with seven hits in 14 at-bats.
First baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Brett Hayes and second baseman Chris Getz are tied for the club lead with five runs, while Hosmer and catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez share the club lead with seven RBIs.
The Royals have won nine straight. The last time they did that in the regular season was 2003, when they opened the season with nine victories. They never won more than four in a row during the 2012 regular season.
Yep, the Royals are playing good defense, too. They lead all teams in a metric called Defensive Efficiency Ratio, which computes the number of outs recorded in defensive opportunities.
In short, that means when the ball is put in play, the Royals are more likely to record an out than any other team.
Clubs often start trimming their big-league camp roster after the minor-league teams begin full-squad workouts (as they did Monday). But the Royals are already down seven players because of commitments to the World Baseball Classic. Few cuts are anticipated before Friday’s split-squad doubleheader.
Utility infielder Elliot Johnson is expected to return Tuesday to game action. He suffered a bruised left knee last Wednesday on a play at second against Milwaukee.
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation takes center stage Tuesday when the two top competitors, Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, pitch in a piggyback format against the A’s.
Chen will start, and Hochevar will follow. The piggyback format means the second pitcher prepares as if he were starting the game. If Chen fails to complete his scheduled workload — probably three innings — a reliever will be used as a bridge to Hochevar.
Relievers Aaron Crow and Greg Holland are each slotted for their second spring outings. They both gave up a bases-empty homer last Friday in one-inning appearances against Cincinnati.
Also scheduled: Louis Coleman, Donnie Joseph and Sugar Ray Marimon.
Royals (LHP Bruce Chen) vs. A’s (TBA), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
“It’s all kind of going to plan. It’s what I expected. I expected to make a big turnaround offensively with Moose, Hos and Frenchy (Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur). I expected us to play well defensively. Our starting pitchers, I knew (would do well). It’s just going right to plan.”
— Royals manager Ned Yost on the club’s 9-0-1 start in spring training.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: 27 DAYS