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Royals camp update: Starting assignments already revised for early games

SURPRISE, Ariz. | The Royals have already pulled a switch in their pitching plans for Wednesday’s spring opener against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

Lefty Jorge De La Rosa is now in line to start and work two innings. He replaces veteran right-hander Brett Tomko, who is now scheduled to pitch two or three innings Thursday in an intrasquad game.

“It just lines up better for us this way,” manager Trey Hillman said.

De La Rosa is among at least seven pitchers scheduled for starts this spring in competition to determine the rotation’s fifth member. Tomko is viewed as a strong favorite for the No. 4 slot behind Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke.

Luke Hochevar and Brian Lawrence are also scheduled to pitch two innings Wednesday against the Rangers. Plans call for Ron Mahay, Yasuhiko Yabuta and Carlos Rosa to pitch one inning apiece.

The Rangers are scheduled to start right-hander Brandon McCarthy and use A.J. Murray and Frank Francisco in relief.

Thursday’s intrasquad game covers an open date in the schedule. Tomko heads a pitching list that also includes John Bale, Leo Nuñez, Tyler Lumsden and Ryan Braun.

Meche is ticketed to start Friday’s game against the Padres in Peoria, Ariz. He and Hideo Nomo are scheduled to work two innings, followed by Jimmy Gobble, Joel Peralta, Joakim Soria and Brandon Duckworth.

Huber in outfield only Justin Huber can forget about first base for the moment; he’ll be logging time solely in the left field. “Right now,” Hillman said, “we just want to see the bat and give him one position to worry about.” Huber, 25, is facing a make-or-break camp since he is out of options. He figured to get little opportunity in a crowd field at first base that includes Billy Butler, Ross Gload, Ryan Shealy and, perhaps, Mark Teahen. “I told him he would be better served in having an opportunity to make this club as a right-handed bat,” Hillman said, “if we put him in left field only.” Injury updates Lefty reliever Neal Musser reported no day-after problems with his back after throwing Saturday from a mound for the first time in camp. He has been slowed by back spasms. Outfielder Joey Gathright said he “good to go” after not taking batting practice Saturday because of a sore wrist.

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