SURPRISE, Ariz. —The word that keeps surfacing when the Royals evaluate what they have in right-hander Vin Mazzaro is "pitchability."
While that often serves as a code word for lack of stuff, the Royals suggest Mazzaro, obtained last November from Oakland in the trade for outfielder David DeJesus, possesses above-average stuff and pitchability — or knowing what pitch to throw in a certain situation.
And that, potentially, is a potent mix.
"He's young," pitching coach Bob McClure said, "but his pitchability is higher than his age. He feels the hitter and how to pitch to him. Unless you've got really, really good stuff, pitchability is how you win games.
"Command the ball and keep the hitter off-balance. That's how you pitch."
Mazzaro, 24, was a third-round pick in 2005 who blossomed into a major prospect three years later by going 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A Midland. A fast start the following year at Triple-A Sacramento earned him a promotion to the big leagues.
What followed were flashes of impressive potential, but only flashes, along with a relationship with A's manager Bob Geren that, for whatever reason, didn't quite click.
"It was up and down," admitted Mazzaro, who was 10-17 with a 4.72 ERA in 41 games over the two seasons. "I think I had a pretty good stretch in the middle part (of last season). Then things happened, and they had to make their changes."
The trade that brought him to the Royals was, in short, hardly a surprise.
"I knew something was going on," he said. "I had a feeling (something might happen), but I think it was a great trade for me, and I'm excited.
"Coming over here, I thought I had a good shot. They liked what they saw in me. That's why they picked me up. I'm real comfortable over here, and I've only been here for a few weeks."
Mazzaro — and it's pronounced muh-ZAIR-oh not ma-ZAR-oh — worked two scoreless innings Monday in his spring debut against Texas and is scheduled for two more innings Saturday against Colorado.
"There are spots open now," he said, "but it's a battle. Every spring training, everyone is fighting for a job. The last few years, I was fighting for a spot over in Oakland. Come over here, and it's the same battle."
His spot in the rotation is not guaranteed largely because he has options remaining, but the Royals acquired Mazzaro in the expectation that he would be part of their five-man unit.
"I like him," manager Ned Yost said, "and I liked him last year when he pitched against us. He's got a good changeup, and I had him at an above-average fastball, about a 55 fastball and a 55 command (on the 20-80 scouting scale).
"He's been everything I thought he would be. He's a command guy with decent stuff. He has savvy out there. He changes speeds. He pitches. He's not out there just rarin' back and firing. He has pitchability."
There's that word again.
Royals 8, Angels 2 — Mitch Maier went 4 for 4 with two RBIs for Kansas City, which finished with 11 hits. Kila Ka'aihue had two hits and drove in a run. Kyle Davies started and worked two innings. Closer Joakim Soria made his first spring appearance, striking out two in a scoreless inning.