SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Ervin Santana’s first appearance with the Kansas City Royals couldn’t have gone much better.
That could have been deduced from the smile on his face.
After arriving from the Los Angeles Angels in a November trade, Santana finally got on the mound Friday with his new team. He wound up pitching two scoreless innings, wiggling out of a jam in the second, as the Royals beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 to remain unbeaten this spring.
“Every time you go 1-2-3 in the first inning and then in the second inning you work a little bit, it’s good,” Santana said. “Everything was very good.”
Brett Hayes, trying to win a job as a backup catcher, broke a 2-all tie when he homered in the eighth inning off the Reds’ Jeff Stevens. Salvador Perez drove in a run and threw out two on base, and light-hitting Chris Getz also went deep in the fifth inning for Kansas City.
The Royals improved to 7-0-1 in their first eight spring games.
Mat Latos went two scoreless innings for Cincinnati in his first spring start. Backup catcher Devin Mesoraco and reserve outfielder Kristopher Negron hit solo homers.
“Latos threw well,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “In his first time out he was over-throwing early. But he did a good job. Everybody did a good job, really.”
Santana has said that he feels like a rookie again with the Royals after spending his entire career with the Angels. In fact, the right-hander’s been a fixture in their rotation since 2005, going 96-80 with a 4.33 ERA while starting at least 28 games in eight consecutive seasons.
He was only 9-13 last season, though, when he dealt with a series of nagging injuries.
That wasn’t enough to scare off the Royals, who were desperate to upgrade their pitching. And now Santana is being counted upon along with James Shields and Wade Davis, who were acquired in a blockbuster trade from Tampa Bay, and Jeremy Guthrie, who was re-signed this offseason, to make up a rotation that looks nothing like what manager Ned Yost trotted out most of last season.
“It’s a different experience,” said Santana, who threw 31 pitches in his Royals debut. “I like it here. Everybody is cool, and we’re like a family. They have all the talent and they can do good things, especially this year. Everybody is excited.”
Mesoraco, who hit just .212 over 54 games for the Reds last season, showed what made him a former first-round pick in the fifth inning. He hit a 3-0 pitch from closer Greg Holland over the left-field wall to give Cincinnati a 1-0 lead.
The Royals got an answer from the most unlikely of places.
Getz, who’s competing with Johnny Giavotella for the starting job at second base, only has two career homers — both of them in 2009 — in 371 big league games. But he said he’s made a couple of minor tweaks to his stance recently, and the result has been a little more pop.
Enough that he could muscle a pitch from right-hander Sam LeCure over the wall in right.
“I was just fooling around with some stuff, and I don’t know. Tried something new today and connected,” Getz said. “Was able to get a quick result, I guess. A positive result.”
Kristopher Negron gave the Reds the lead back with a first-pitch homer off Aaron Crow, Perez answered in the bottom half of the sixth with an RBI single, and that allowed Hayes to become the hero.
He turned on a 0-1 pitch from Stevens and sent it soaring onto the berm beyond the left-field wall, allowing the Royals to remain the only team without a loss in spring training.
“Blind squirrel finds a nut, right?” said Hayes, who is known more for his defense than his offense. “I’ve worked really hard the last six months or so. We all have. It’s nice to see it paying off a little bit.”
NOTES: Reds CF Shin-Soo Choo (right quadriceps) and C Ryan Hanigan (left oblique) were scratched from the lineup with what Baker called typical spring training soreness. … OF Billy Hamilton, who last year broke the minor league record with 155 steals, swiped his first two bases of spring in the eighth. … Guthrie makes his first appearance of spring Saturday against San Francisco. … Reds RHP Bronson Arroyo is expected to start Saturday against the White Sox.