SURPRISE, Ariz. | It was just 20 pitches, all fastballs, and it was only a bullpen workout. But much of the Royals’ top brass made the trip Thursday morning to the practice mounds on the west side of their complex for a look at left-hander Noel Arguelles.
“It was the first time I’ve seen him off the mound,” pitching coach Bob McClure said. “Impressive. My first impression is how athletic he is. His fastball command, for his first time, was really good and had pretty good hair on it, too.”
The Royals kept Arguelles, 20, off a mound until Thursday as a precaution because he threw roughly 18 straight months following his defection from Cuba before signing in January with the Royals for a guaranteed $7 million over five years.
Tentative plans call for Arguelles, 6 feet 4 and 222 pounds, to open the season at Class A Wilmington, but he is clearly on the organization’s fast track _ and has already created a stir. “He was out in the outfield shagging (fly balls) the other day,” McClure said. “I went over there and watched, and he catches the ball like he’s a center fielder. He’s very athletic.
“Since he wasn’t supposed to throw the ball yet, he just picked it up right-handed and threw it like a right-hander. I couldn’t tell whether he was right-handed or left-handed. I’m serious. I was thinking, `You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
Stat wrap The Royals were one for six with runners in scoring position. Mitch Maier had a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning. The Rangers were eight for 20 with runners in scoring position.
Personnel moves The Royals wrapped up their contract negotiations Thursday by announcing one-year agreements with first baseman Billy Butler and 2B Alberto Callaspo prior to the game.
Butler gets $470,000 up from $421,500, while Callaspo jumps to $460,000 from $415,500. Both players lacked three years of major-league service, which left them little leverage in negotiations.
The 2010 payroll for the 25-man roster on opening day projects to be roughly $69 million or about $1.5 million less than last season.
Medical updates The decision to place right-handed reliever Henry Barrera on the 60-day disabled list wasn’t related to a setback in his recovery from reconstructive-elbow surgery.
“He looks good,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “We put him on the 60 because he’s not going to be ready before June 1, but he’ll throwing in extended (spring training) games down here.”
The Royals made the move Wednesday to clear space on their 40-man roster for right-hander Gaby Hernandez, whom they claimed on waivers from Boston. Hernandez, 23, was 10-9 with a 5.23 ERA last season for Class AAA Tacoma in the Seattle organization.
“He’s pitched at a high level for a young age,” Moore said. “He gives us more depth, and he’s got a couple of options. Our scouts think he still has some upside.”
Hernandez should be in uniform for Friday’s workout.
Etc. A couple of things to anticipate as the Royals swing into their Cactus League schedule:
Plans call for two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to start Sunday when San Francisco visits Surprise Stadium.
The Royals also will be the first team to face lefty Aroldis Chapman, the much-acclaimed Cuban defector who makes his spring debut Monday for Cincinnati in Goodyear, Ariz.
*The Royals’ seven hits came from seven different players.
*The Royals missed the chance for the consolation of an error-less game defensively when minor-league infielder Irving Falu, playing second base, failed to handle Joaquin Arias’ leadoff grounder in the ninth inning.
*Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt played the first seven innings and had a triple in three at-bats. No other starters played past the fifth inning.
*A sizable contingent of Wizards, who are training nearby for the upcoming MLS season, are expected to attend Friday’s game.
On deck Cy Young winner Zack Greinke makes his spring debut Friday when the Royals continue their three-game series against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.
Greinke is scheduled for three innings with Brad Thompson, Blake Wood, Roman Colon and Brian Bullington also expected to pitch.
Texas will start Scott Feldman, who was 17-8 last season, and also use Dustin Nippert, C.J. Wilson and Neftali Feliz. The game can be heard on KCSP (610 AM).
Up next Royals (RHP Zack Greinke) vs. Rangers (RHP Scott Feldman), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
Quote book “You can’t really get a game-feel in intrasquad games. So it’s good to get out there and play (another team). That said, it’s just the start of spring, the first game. There’s a long way to go.” _ first baseman Billy Butler, who had a single and a strikeout in two at-bats.
| Bob Dutton, firstname.lastname@example.org
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: 31 DAYS