Lance Zawadzki capitalized on an unexpected start Sunday afternoon by getting two extra-base hits and producing a sparkling defensive play in helping the Royals to an 8-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.
Zawadzki replaced shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was scratched because of an infection resulting from a bug bite. Zawadzki had a double and an opposite-field homer in three at-bats.
But it was his diving stop on Alexei Ramirez’s two-out grounder in the third inning that served as the game’s top highlight. Zawadzki jumped to his feet and made a strong throw for the out.
“It was just a good day all around,” he said. “You put in a lot of work in spring training, defensively and offensively, so it’s nice to go out and see both sides pay off.”
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Mike Aviles went 3-for-3 in pacing a 17-hit attack. The Royals spanked veteran lefty Mark Buehrle for five runs and nine hits in three innings. They opened with a three-run first inning, led 5-1 after three, 6-1 after four and 8-1 midway through the seventh.
“He was normal Buehrle, throwing strikes,” Aviles said. “But it’s spring. He was throwing more balls over the heart of the plate. That’s not him. Normally, he’s on the corners, but he was leaving a couple of balls up.”
The Royals improved to 6-2, while the White Sox fell to 1-6.
Clint Robinson had two hits and two RBIs while playing the entire game as the designated hitter. Salvador Perez started at catcher and had a single and a double in three at-bats.
Luke Hochevar gave up one run and three hits while becoming the first Royals pitcher to work three innings. He said he felt sharper than in his previous outing but also benefited from some superior defense.
There was Zawadzki’s play, a strong throw by left fielder David Lough that turned a single into an out at second, and a fine running catch by right fielder Lorenzo Cain.
“We’re a lot more athletic defensively,” Hochevar said. “We go get it. When your defense is making plays like that, it makes your job as a pitcher easy. Just go right after them and make them put the ball in play.”
The Royals are 7-0 against the White Sox and Dodgers at Camelback Ranch since the facility opened in spring 2009. That includes victories this spring over both co-tenants. The Royals won’t play here again until next year.
Look for trims in the 65-player camp roster after Monday’s split-squad doubleheader. The organization begins full-squad workouts Monday for its minor-league operations. The four full-season affiliates begin playing games March 17.
The Royals scratched Escobar prior to their departure for Glendale.
“He’s got a bug bite (near the wrist) on his throwing arm,” manager Ned Yost said. “He scratched it, and now he’s got red streaks (up his arm), and it’s swollen and warm. That’s the first signs of infection.
“It’s nothing major. They’ve got him on antibiotics to get that knocked out.”
Yost said Escobar, 24, will miss today’s split-squad doubleheader against Arizona and San Diego but is expected to return later in the week to the lineup.
It was 42 years ago Sunday – March 6, 1969 – that the Royals collected 16 hits in their first-ever exhibition game but still lost 9-8 to the Montreal Expos, another expansion team. The Royals are 562-532-28 in spring play after their victory over the White Sox. Notables
Lough’s assist from the left-field corner foiled Tyler Flowers’ bid for a one-out double in the second inning.
Reliever Blake Wood was hit in the hip by Brent Lillibridge’s sharp hopper in the seventh but remained in the game and finished the inning.
The Royals’ 17 hits were a spring high but marked the sixth time in eight games in double figures.
Aviles is eight for 17 in seven games.
Mitch Maier’s streak of reaching safely in 10 straight plate appearances (eight hits and two walks) ended when he struck out in the sixth inning.
The Royals split their squad Monday for the first of two doubleheaders in a four-day span. They play Arizona in the afternoon in Surprise before making the eight-mile trip down Bell Road to Peoria for a night game against San Diego.
The other split-squad games are Thursday, when the Royals play afternoon games against Oakland in Phoenix and against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.
Royals split squad (LHP Jeff Francis) vs. Diamondbacks (RHP Aaron Heilman), at 2:05 p.m. Central time in Surprise, Ariz.
Royals split squad (RHP Sean O’Sullivan) vs. Padres (RHP Aaron Harang) at 8:05 p.m. Central time in Peoria, Ariz.
“(Lance) Zawadzki made some great plays. He went from having the day off to being the star of the game, defensively and offensively. ” - manager Ned Yost on Zawadzki’s performance as a late replacement for Alcides Escobar.
Countdown to opening day: 24 days