If theatric tradition extends to baseball, and forgettable dress rehearsals lead to successful opening nights, then the Royals are right where they want to be.
Sure, the Royals closed their spring Wednesday afternoon with a 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres at The Diamond, which is home to the Lake Elsinore Storm, the reigning Class A California League champs and a Padres’ affiliate.
And there was a definite plus in watching lefty Danny Duffy roll through three perfect innings with seven strikeouts, a grounder to first and an infield pop – even if it came against a lineup stacked, at that point, with Lake Elsinore players.
“I was executing every pitch,” Duffy said, “which is really all I can worry about. It was late in the game, and a lot of their starters were out of the game. That was out of my control, but I feel I executed pitches pretty well today. That’s what I need to do.
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“I’m thinking (it would work against major-league hitters). Some people told me I was getting up there with the velocity, and I made sure I stayed downhill (in the plane of his pitches). Mid-to-upper 90s usually works against anybody. I just have to execute it.”
Other than that, this one had the feel of that final hour at the office on Friday afternoon.
“This is like kissing your grandma,” manager Ned Yost admitted. “Coming to an A-ball park, guys are going to play quick, and they’re waiting to be able to kiss Jennifer Anniston on Friday.”
Not literally, presumably. Opening day isn’t often that special, but you get the idea.
The Royals fell into an early 3-0 hole before the two clubs began liberal substitutions. Their comeback victory stemmed largely from successive home runs by Terry Evans and Mario Lisson in a three-run sixth inning.
But the Royals, with their regular lineup, mustered just two hits and one unearned run in four innings against Matt Palmer, a Missouri State alum whom the Padres summoned from their Triple-A Tucson affiliate.
Plus, San Diego built a 3-0 lead against right-hander Luis Mendoza, who delivered a disappointing conclusion to what has been a terrific spring. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings before getting pulled due to a scaled-back pitch limitation for his final start.
All three runs were unearned because of some suspect official scoring. Earned or not, they were deserved – because Mendoza committed a throwing error that opened the door. He gave up four hits while striking out five and walking two.
Both teams started substituting heavily in the fourth. The Padres open the season tonight with the start of a four-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals open Friday against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
KC picked up four runs in the middle innings. That came while Duffy was channeling Koufax.
“That’s what we’re going to see from Duffy,” Yost said. “We’re going to see brilliance, and we’re going to have frustration until he gets some consistency. He’s so much better now than he was at this time last year, and he’ll continue to get better.”
The victory enabled the Royals to finish their spring at 16-16; just the second time in their 43-year history that they ended at .500. They were 12-12 in 1978 while based in Fort Myers, Fla.
Roster set — Sean O’Sullivan cleared waivers Wednesday and was sent to Triple-A Omaha on an outright assignment. Any club could have claimed his contract for $20,000 by agreeing to keep him on their 25-man roster.
The move with O’Sullivan cleared the way for the Royals to file their official 25-man roster with Major League Baseball prior to the 4 p.m. Central time Wednesday deadline. It also creates one opening on the club’s 40-man roster.
The Royals placed right-handed pitchers Felipe Paulino, Joakim Soria and Blake Wood on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. The move means all three are eligible to return April 10 to active duty, although none are expected to do so.
Soria underwent season-ending surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The procedure, commonly called Tommy John surgery, typically requires a 10-14 months for a full recovery.
Club officials expect Paulino and Wood to be ready for minor-league rehab assignments before the end of the month. Paulino is recovering from a strained right forearm but is already playing catch without pain and expects to throw from a mound in a bullpen workout before the end of the week. Wood has an irritated ulnar nerve in his right elbow.
On to Anaheim — The Royals will hold a late afternoon workout today at Angel Stadium in Anaheim today in preparation for Friday’s season opener against the Angels.
The projected pitching matchups are Bruce Chen against LA’s Jered Weaver in the opener; Luke Hochevar against LA’s Dan Haren on Saturday; and Jonathan Sánchez against LA’s Ervin Santana on Sunday.