The Royals returned to the win column on Wednesday, securing a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Zack Greinke looked sharp, and both Alex Gordon and Mark Teahen had excellent days at the plate. Andres Blanco continued to flash the leather, and Luke Hochevar was impressive in minor league camp.
Zack Greinke on Wednesday took a step toward claiming the rotation's final spot, tossing four shutout innings against the Rockies while striking out six and allowing just four hits. His fastball command was excellent, and he threw it between 88-94 mph. Also very sharp on Tuesday was Greinke's slider, which showed late movement and generated several swing-and-misses. Greinke did, however, hang a couple of curveballs, which were tatooed for extra base hits. However, on the whole, Greinke was excellent on Wednesday, and he had the look of a player who is determined to make the club.
Greinke threw four shutout innings on Wednesday
Octavio Dotel has been outstanding in his spring training appearances thus far. On Wednesday, Dotel entered the game in relief of Greinke, and he wasted little time blowing away the Rockies in order. Dotel's fastball was topping out around 95, and the Rockies couldn't touch his slider. Through three appearances this spring, Dotel has yet to allow a run, and he has surrendered just one hit and no walks while striking out four.
Andres Blanco on Wednesday made a few plays that certainly won't hurt hurt his chances of winning the starting shortstop job. First, he ranged into the hole at deep short to field a ground ball and flashed his great arm, making a strong throw across the diamond to nail the runner at first. Later, he turned an excellent double play, arriving at the bag just in time to take the toss from the second baseman, then making a perfect throw to first while leaping over the charging runner.
Blanco made several outstanding plays on Wednesday
With another runner on first later in the game, Blanco made an incredible diving stop on the right side of the second base bag, rolled over, and made a perfect no-look glove flip to a stunned Fernando Cortez. Cortez caught the ball, but his relay to first just narrowly missed completing the double play. When the ball was hit, it looked like a sure base hit up the middle, but Blanco showed off his excellent range and turned it into an out. Additionally, first baseman Justin Huber made a nice backhanded pick of Cortez's one-hop throw, which was also encouraging to see.
A few keys players continued to rake on Wednesday. Alex Gordon blistered a single to center in his first at bat, and later he rocketed a ball into the right field corner for his second triple of the spring. Mark Teahen followed up his 2-for-3 performance on Tuesday with two more hits, including a no-doubt, two-run home run to deep right field. Billy Butler hit a sharp single in his only at bat, and John Buck just missed a home run to dead center, settling instead for his first triple of the spring as the ball hit off the top of the centerfield fence.
Teahen's home run was his second extra base hit in as many days
The Royals took a 6-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning, and they summoned Ken Ray from the bullpen to close the game out. However, Ray ran into trouble immediately, as first baseman Jeff Baker led off with a mammoth home run that cleared the left field bullpen and took one hop out of the stadium. The Rockies then continued the hit parade with three more hits and another run, and after Ray finally retired his first batter, the Royals called upon Jarod Plummer to finish the game.
Plummer entered with one out and runners on second and third, and he immediately jumped ahead of shortstop Clint Barmes, striking him out on a beautiful 92 mph fastball. He then coaxed Frank Menechino into a harmless ground out to short, putting out the fire and putting the finishing touch on the Royals' seventh win of the spring.
Over at the minor league camp, the Royals had three intrasquad games going on simultaneously. On one field, Luke Hochevar was opposing Luke Hudson, and Hochevar was very impressive. He was throwing gas, and his slider was generating lots of "wows" from the throng of bystanders who had gathered to watch the game. Jason LaRue was left shaking his head after Hochevar struck him out, but Hochevar's outing ended early when he was struck on the lower leg by a comebacker.
Hochevar was impressive in his outing on Wednesday
When the ball hit him, it sounded as though it hit a lot of Hochevar's shoe, and the ball bounced straight to the first baseman, who stepped on the bag for the out. Hochevar was walking gingerly afterward, but he wanted to stay in the game and finish his outing. However, the Royals decided not to risk it, and they pulled him from the game prematurely. After the game, we learned that the ball had actually hit Hochevar just above his ankle, but there doesn't appear to be any real damage. He's likely just bruised, and it doesn't look like he's going to miss any time.