SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Will Smith came into spring training as the longshot in Kansas City’s four-man competition to be the fifth starter.
The young left-hander got the first chance and impressed, throwing two perfect innings with a strikeout and outpitching two Texas starters already with rotation spots in a spring training opener that ended in a 5-5 tie after nine innings Friday.
“I’m trying my hardest. That’s not my job to worry about. My job is to go out there and get outs, help my team win,” Smith said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it’s not my call.”
Smith, who was 6-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 16 starts as a rookie last season, is competing for the No. 5 spot with former No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar, right-hander Luis Mendoza and left-hander Bruce Chen. Mendoza is set to pitch Sunday.
While Smith is trying to earn a rotation spot, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are in a different situation for the Rangers.
Holland allowed a run and six hits in three innings. Ogando, returning from the Texas bullpen to the rotation this season, gave up three runs in 1 1-3 innings.
All six hits off Holland were singles, with leadoff hits in each inning. The lefty threw 38 of 54 pitches for strikes and didn’t have any walks.
“I felt good. The main objective was to go out there and execute my pitches,” said Holland, who is on the U.S. roster for the World Baseball Classic. “I threw all my pitches for a strike, behind the count, ahead in the count. The only thing I was kind of upset with, I gave up a couple of 0-2 hits.”
Nelson Cruz and Yangervis Solarte homered for Texas.
Solarte’s tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Blaine Boyer followed Brandon Allen’s two-out triple. The game was called after the inning ended.
Though the Rangers no longer have Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, Smith went through his two innings not allowing any runners while facing Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, David Murphy, Cruz, A.J. Pierzynski and Jeff Baker.
“I felt good out there. Dave (Eiland, pitching coach) gave me something to go home in the offseason and work on,” Smith said. “I took it and I worked hard with it. I feel comfortable out there with my delivery now and slowing the game down. I feel a lot more comfortable out there now. I’m excited. I’m happy with it.”
Holland allowed consecutive hits to start his outing. Royals leadoff hitter Alex Gordon reached on an infield hit, a ball to the right side that second baseman Kinsler went a long way to field before a wide throw to first.
Alicides Escobar then singled before Gordon scored on a grounder by Eric Hosmer.
Ogando, an All-Star and 13-game winner as a starter two years ago, walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, then hit the second batter. After giving up a soft single to No. 9 hitter Jarrod Dyson, who had two hits, Xavier Nady drew a bases-loaded walk and Elliot Johnson had a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
After Cruz’s two-run homer in the fourth, Royals backup catcher Adam Moore went deep to start the fifth against Ogando.
“When you can’t find the strike zone, bad things happen,” Ogando said through a translator. “I was trying to work on both sides of the plate, and I was working on my changeup, but it seemed like nothing was working today. … It’s not typical of how my bullpens and live BPs have been going. Just today, just didn’t seem to work out.”
NOTES: Rangers Gold Glove 3B Adrian Beltre (right calf tightness) didn’t play and likely will sit out a few more games as well. … Rangers lefty Robbie Ross, who as a rookie last season had a 2.22 ERA in 58 appearances, will get a chance to be the fifth starter this year. He allowed a hit in two scoreless innings. … The Royals and the Rangers, who share the spring training complex in Surprise, also play Saturday and Sunday. After that, they play only once more this spring.