RC's Spring Training Notes: March 25

After spending the last few days with the A-ball clubs, RC headed to Peoria on Wednesday to watch the Royals' Double-A game vs. Seattle. Dan Cortes and Ray Liotta pitched well for the NW Arkansas club, and we spoke with both after the game. We also got a good look at reliever Greg Holland in the Triple-A game, which was played on an adjacent field. Check out our report inside.

The starters in the Double-A game were: John Suomi (C), Brian McFall (1B), Kurt Mertins (2B), Josh Johnson (3B), Mario Lisson (SS), Joe Dickerson (RF), Jose Duarte (CF), Adrian Ortiz (LF), and Ed Lucas (DH). Jeff Howell and Kiel Thibault entered the game in the later innings. In the sixth inning, Chris McConnell took over at short, Johnson moved to second base, and Lucas went to third base. Paulo Orlando also entered the game in the late innings at left field, and Ortiz moved to center field.

Hits were hard to come by, so there wasn't much offense to speak of. Indeed, we only saw the Royals' minor leaguers get a total of two hits, although there may have been a couple more while our attention was turned to the Triple-A game.

Joe Dickerson stroked a nice single to center field in his first at bat, although he struck out in his next two at bats. He also turned in a defensive gem, making a sliding catch on a sinking line drive in the second inning.

We got our first look at Mario Lisson as a shortstop. He didn't get much action, but he did make a nice play on a slow roller. He charged hard and made a strong throw across his body, nailing the runner at first by a step.

On the mound, Dan Cortes got the start and went his scheduled four innings. He was followed by Ray Liotta, who also went four frames before yielding to Kelvin Villa, who pitched the ninth.

Cortes looked pretty sharp. He was throwing hard and working the corners, and his secondary stuff was very good, particularly his curveball. Cortes struck out several batters, and he issued just one walk while we were watching. There are no scoreboards on the Mariners' back fields in Peoria, but it didn't look like he yielded any runs during his four innings. After his outing, RC grabbed him for a quick interview:

On his outing:

"I felt great. I kept the ball low, which the whole point of today's start. I just wanted to keep the ball low and not give anything to the hitters."

On his curveball, which was very sharp on Wednesday:

"That was surprising. Right before I went out there, in the bullpen, everything was up, and then everything was in the dirt. And then surprisingly, the curveballs I threw during the game were in the zone and I struck a couple of guys out with them. It was pretty nice having my curveball – and my changeup – in the game."

On his offseason:

"I only had two months off because of the Arizona Fall League. I busted my butt in the weight room and I ran my butt off. I worked on throwing my changeup, because I definitely need that pitch this year."

On his spring thus far, including his time in big league camp:

"Major League camp was an awesome experience. Everything I learned from the camp I carried on over here to the minor league camp. I was a little disappointed I got sent down a little too quickly, but it was a great experience. Right now I'm just trying to get ready for the season back in Northwest Arkansas."

Ray Liotta also had strong outing, yielding just one run on four hits in four innings while striking out three batters. The run he surrendered was very soft, resulting from a bloop double and a fielder's choice. His velocity looked pretty good, even though there was no radar on him, and he spun some dandy breaking balls with a lot of bite. After the game, Liotta told RC he was pretty happy with his performance.

"I felt great," said Liotta. "I kept the ball low, which the whole point of today's start. I just wanted to keep the ball low and not give anything to the hitters."

Over on the Triple-A side, Luke Hochevar got the start and went five innings. Because most of our attention was focused on the Double-A game, we didn't see much of Hochevar's outing, although it looked like he yielded five runs, including four on a grand slam. We did, however, make it over to get a look at Greg Holland, who breezed through the sixth and seventh innings while facing the minimum.

Holland, the Royals 10th round pick in the 2007 draft out of Western Carolina, was one of the Blue Rocks' best relievers last season. Possessing a fastball that can reach the mid- to upper-90s, Holland wasn't quite working at that velocity on Wednesday. His fastball was topping out around 91 mph , but he was keeping the ball low and hitting his spots. He also threw a slurvy breaking ball in the upper-70s with some good bite. Holland is likely slated for Double-A this year, and he remains one of the Royals' more intriguing bullpen arms.

Today the Royals' minor leaguers take on the Rangers farmhands. RC is planning to venture over to the Rangers' side of the complex to see the A-ball clubs, as Alex Caldera, Kelvin Herrera, Tyler Sample, and Carlos Fortuna are all scheduled to pitch. Stay tuned for our report.

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