Say farewell to the Cactus League. The Royals’ time in Arizona has finished.
With Wednesday afternoon’s 4-4 tie with the Dodgers, Kansas City wrapped up its Cactus League schedule ahead of a two-game exhibition series at Houston and Opening Day on Monday against the White Sox. The Royals finished Cactus League play 18-10-1.
Kansas City rested most of its projected starters for Wednesday’s game as only Alex Rios, Omar Infante and Kendrys Morales played against Los Angeles. Each player had only two at-bats.
Now, the focus for the Royals shifts from escaping Arizona in decent shape to adjusting to games that actually matter. Only five days separate Kansas City from starting defense of its American League championship.
• Ventura exits unharmed. Heading into his final start before he receives the ball on Opening Day, Yordano Ventura simply needed to finish his outing without injury. He did. Ventura didn’t have to stretch out his pitch count; that was already done. He also didn’t have to deliver stellar results since the game didn’t mean anything.
The 23-year-old just had to get his work in and come out early, which he did after four innings of two-run ball. He gave up four hits and struck out three.
• Running game nets a run. The Royals’ running game struck again when aggressiveness resulted in Kansas City’s first run of the game. Paulo Orlando knocked a one-out single, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher A.J. Ellis.
Then, Whit Merrifield drew a two-out walk and was enough of a threat to warrant pickoff attempts from Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw the ball wide of the bag at first and Orlando trotted in to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.
• Eibner finishes spring hot. Royals minor leaguer Brett Eibner continued to torch Cactus League pitching Wednesday, crushing two homers off Los Angeles’ Zach Lee. His second homer, a two-run shot in the ninth inning, tied the game at four. Eibner’s two dingers gave him five for the spring and upped his Cactus League average to .536.
• Surprise. The Royals said goodbye to their spring training facility in Surprise on Wednesday, flying to Houston to play the Astros this weekend. Big leaguers won’t visit the facility, which is shared by the Royals and Rangers, until next spring. But the Arizona Fall League, a circuit for teams’ top prospects, features the Surprise Saguaros, who will use the complex.
• Dropping the ball. Defense cost the Royals two runs, with both Rios and Ryan Jackson making mistakes. In the fourth inning, Chris Heisey lifted a ball into no-man’s land down the right-field line. Rios arrived at the ball but couldn’t make a belt-high grab and Heisey advanced to second. He later scored on a groundout.
One inning later, Jackson couldn’t cleanly catch Erik Kratz’s throw at second that likely would have caught Travis Witherspoon stealing. In the same at-bat, Witherspoon came home on a one-run single.
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• Getting deked out. Jarrod Dyson got doubled off first base in the first inning after a clever fake by second baseman Darwin Barney. With Rios batting, Dyson took off for second base.
But, unbeknownst to Dyson, Rios popped the ball up on the infield. All Dyson saw was Barney pretending to field a throw from the plate and applying a fake tag. By the time Dyson stood up from his slide, the Dodgers had completed the double play with a throw to Kershaw at first.
The Royals have a day off Thursday and will resume play Friday night with a game against the Astros in Houston. Edinson Volquez will start his final tuneup before the season begins while Houston sends Scott Feldman to the mound.
Opening Day for Kansas City is on Monday against the White Sox.