RC's Spring Training Notes: March 26

The minor league game schedule changed without RC's knowledge, so we were an hour late to Thursday's games. In the innings we saw, however, a few players stood out. Be sure to read RC's spring training report inside.

We arrived just in time to see Tyler Sample face his final hitter in the Low-A game. He surrendered a two-run double, and the inning was called to a halt. However, Royals Director of Minor League Operations Scott Sharp told us that Sample had looked good, and he was encouraged by his outing.

Over on the High-A field, Mike Moustakas had a big game. Although we missed his first couple of at bats, we saw Moose have a couple of great at bats. In the sixth inning, with the Royals' down 3-0, Moustakas stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on second. He smoked an RBI single to right center, plating the Royals' first run.

In the eighth inning, the Low-A club mounted a small rally. Derrick Robinson plated a run with a base hit to make it 3-2, and then Moustakas knocked Robinson in with a laser double over the right fielder's head to tie the game. Moustakas then scored from second on an infield hit by Jeff Bianchi to give the Royals a one-run lead.

Unfortunately, the Royals couldn't hold on to the lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Michael Penn surrendered a pair of home runs, thanks in part to the day's strong winds, and the inning ended with the Royals down 7-4.

Up to that point, Penn had pitched quite well. The 2005 11th rounder out of Michigan is working his way back after missing the entire 2008 season. Penn's fastball was sitting in the upper-80s, and he was mixing in a quality curveball that got several swings-and-misses.

Down 7-4, Kelvin Herrera came in to pitch the ninth inning. He left a couple of balls up, resulting in a couple of hits that netted the Rangers another run, but he flashed a couple of pitches to the last two batters he faced that showed why he's so highly regarded by the organization.

First he struck out Mitch Moreland (who hit .324/.400/.536 last year in the Midwest League) on an absolutely filthy changeup. Then he faced Ian Gac, who hit 32 home runs last year between Clinton and Bakersfield, in addition to the bomb he hit earlier in the game against Penn. Herrera got ahead of Gac and threw him an excellent two-strike curveball in the dirt that fooled him. The first base umpire ruled (incorrectly, in our opinion) that Gac checked his swing, so Herrera had to throw another pitch. The next pitch was a high fastball that blew Gac away. With command of three potentially plus pitches, Herrera could be set up for a brilliant season in the Midwest League this year.

We made one other note on the day. When the Royals acquired outfielder Jamar Walton back in 2007, we heard all about his five-tool potential. However, it wasn't until today that we really saw the big man's speed. In the eighth inning, a Rangers' batter hit a high fly ball to center field. However, centerfielder Derrick Robinson immediately lost the ball in the Arizona sky, and it was clear that he wasn't going to be able to make a play. Walton streamed in all the way from right field and made a tremendous diving catch, which at the time kept the tying run off the bases. In his next at bat, Walton bounced a chopper to second base, and he came within half a step of beating out what should have been a routine play.

Tomorrow, the Royals' minor leaguers face the Los Angeles Dodgers' farmhands. We don't yet have a pitching schedule, but we anticipate that we will stay behind in Surprise to see the Double-A and Triple-A clubs. Stay tuned for our report.

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