This must be a different Bruce Chen this spring

Bruce Chen throws three clean innings with three strikeouts in the Royals' 9-5 win over the Reds.

Bruce Chen, through five innings of spring ball, has given up just one run (1.80 ERA).

Tony Gutierrez / AP

Is this really Bruce Chen pitching for the Royals this spring?

Can't be, at least not the one Royals skipper Ned Yost was talking about at FanFest when he told me that the reason Chen already was a lock for the rotation then was because his spring training numbers were always too misleading:

"I'm going into (spring training) with the mindset that you can't evaluate Bruce in spring training," Yost said then. "He's not one of those kind of guys that can go in and compete because he's not a spring training pitcher."

Hmmm. Yes, it's ridiculously early, but Chen sure seems to be competing quite well. Chen threw three clean innings with three strikeouts in the Royals' 9-5 win over the Reds on Tuesday.

Chen threw 36 pitches, 25 for strikes.

And now Chen, through five innings of spring ball, has given up just one run (1.80 ERA).

Chen admitted to 610 Sports' Josh Vernier on Tuesday that he is "feeling really good."

"I still have to work on some things," Chen said. "(But) I feel like I'm there ... keeping the ball down ... changing speeds"

To be fair to Yost, this Chen is quite a departure from springs past.

Last spring, Chen gave up 19 hits, including seven homers (not a typo), and 12 runs in just 16 2/3 innings.

And the spring before was even worse: 37 hits, including six homers, and 23 runs in just 22 innings (9.41 ERA). That is beyond Jonathan Sanchez bad.

But early this spring, Chen already seems to be in a groove, which is a good sign (we think) for the Royals and Yost.

"Once the bell rings, he's been phenomenal for us," Yost said of Chen as a regular-season pitcher. "He's been as consistent as anyone can be. You know what you're getting with Bruce. You're going to get six or seven really solid innings and he's going to keep you in the game."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.