MINNEAPOLIS — Is it too soon for the Royals to worry about Zack Greinke?
Their Cy Young winner is winless after three starts, and Friday's 10-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins showed an alarming inability to throw strikes.
Greinke threw 108 pitches in five innings, just 57 for strikes, while walking five — or more than he's walked in any of his previous 51 starts.
Two walks set up a two-run third inning. Another forced in a run in a two-run fifth. Greinke (0-2) allowed four runs and six hits, although two runs were unearned — if not wholly undeserved — due to an error by second baseman Willie Bloomquist.
It could have been worse.
Left fielder Scott Podsednik made two sparkling catches, including an acrobatic diving catch at the line on Delmon Young's hooking drive in the second inning.
Twins starter Scott Baker, in contrast, turned in a brisk, efficient seven innings before handing a three-run lead to the bullpen. He yielded seven hits but limited damage because he didn't walk anyone while striking out six.
Matt Guerrier and Brian Duensing closed out the victory in front of a sellout crowd 38,532 in the first night game of Target Field's inaugural season.
The temperature for Baker's first pitch was 56 degrees with a 16-mph north wind, which made it the Twins' coldest home game in 29 years. The crowd didn't seem to mind.
Greinke's problems were sufficient to sink the Royals, but his departure brought the bullpen into play which, these days, is sort of like a Zippo bringing bottle rockets into play.
Kyle Farnsworth, on cue, began the sixth by surrendering a single to Brendan Harris, hitting Denard Span and walking Orlando Hudson.
But Dusty Hughes replaced Farnsworth and limited the damage to one run when Joe Mauer hit a sacrifice fly to deep center.
The reprieve was temporary. Minnesota cuffed Robinson Tejeda and Juan Cruz for five runs in the eighth. Hudson's two-run double and J.J. Hardy's two-run single were the key blows.
That makes 29 runs in 31 1/3 innings this year against the bullpen.
The loss dropped the Royals to 4-6 and 3 1/2 games behind first-place Minnesota in the American League Central Division.
Greinke set the tone when he started the first inning by walking Span after jumping ahead 0-2 in the count. Another walk followed, to Hudson, but Greinke escaped (this time) against the heart of the Twins' lineup.
Mauer grounded into a fielder's choice; Justin Morneau struck out; and Michael Cuddyer flied to right. Even so, it all required 28 pitches.
The Royals nearly scored in the second after Alberto Callaspo lined a one-out single and stole second.
Yuniesky Betancourt pulled a two-out single to left, but Young made a strong online throw to the plate that nailed Callaspo.
Podsednik's first web gem helped Greinke in the second inning. Young's drive is probably a double if Podsednik plays it safe; a possible inside-the-park homer if his diving attempt fails.
Greinke lost command of the strike zone again with two outs in the third by walking Mauer and Morneau on eight pitches. That loaded the bases after Span's one-out single.
This time, Cuddyer made Greinke pay by lining a two-run double to right. Greinke stranded runners at second and third by striking out Jason Kubel, but his pitch count was 67 after just three innings.
The Twins put Greinke in more trouble in the fourth when Hardy and Harris reached on one-out singles before Span grounded into a double play.
Betancourt made it 2-1 with a 420-foot homer to center with two outs in the fifth, but the Twins answered later in the inning.
Singles by Hudson and Morneau put runners at first and second with one out, but Greinke should have been out of the inning when Cuddyer hit a potential double-play grounder to third.
Instead, the Royals got no outs when Bloomquist dropped the throw from Callaspo for an error that loaded the bases. Greinke then made things worse by walking Kubel and forcing in a run.
Young sacrifice fly to deep center extended the Twins' lead to 4-1. Both runs were unearned, but the inning finished Greinke. He failed to pitch past the fifth just four times last season in 33 starts.
The Royals got one run back in the sixth after David DeJesus led off with a triple into the right-center gap. Billy Butler produced the RBI with a one-out single to right. They got no closer.