SURPRISE, Ariz. — On the day so many looked forward to - the Cactus League opener - Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost took time to gaze back on the wild 2013 season that has spurred this year's optimism.
The fast start, 17-10 into the first week of May. Then the disaster, a 4-19 stretch that caused grief, cost hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David their jobs and returned George Brett to the dugout. And then a 65-47 finish that ranked the Royals with the game's best over the final four months.
"We just kind of quit hitting," Yost said of the May doldrums. "We just couldn't score. A lot of that had to do with offensive pressing."
Corner infielders Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas suffered power outages in the first two months, but battled back. Hosmer hit 16 of his 17 home runs after June. Moustakas, .215 before the All-Star game, hit .259 after.
Bigger things are expected from both this season.
Yost sees a more mature team, one that will slump like any team can but not allow the malaise to drag on for an extended period.
"It's about having confidence in your ability, having the confidence that when things go bad, you don't press," Yost said.
If confidence doesn't work, maybe corner infielder Danny Valencia will. He was acquired from Baltimore in a trade for outfielder David Lough and provides a solid bat, especially against left-handed pitching.
A play you might not see all season happened Thursday in the second inning of the Royals' Cactus League opener against Texas.
The Rangers' Mitch Moreland was at second when J.P. Arencibia hit a slow grounder to Royals shortstop Pedro Ciriaco. He charged, and his throw to Hosmer was in time but low. Hosmer attempted a scoop but the ball didn't stick in his glove. Arencibia was safe on an error.
But while the ball didn't stick in Hosmer's glove, it did fly back to Ciriaco. Moreland had taken off from second when he saw the bad throw, but Ciriaco threw him out at third. Score the play E-6 for Arencibia, and Moreland out 3-6-5.
TEN AGREE TO TERMS
The Royals announced Thursday that 10 players not yet eligible for arbitration have agreed to one-year contracts: left-handed pitchers Francisley Bueno, Chris Dwyer, Donnie Joseph and John Lamb, right-handed pitchers Michael Mariot and Yordano Ventura, infielders Ciriaco and Christian Colon, and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson.
Terms were not disclosed by the Royals, but Cain's contract is for $546,000, Dyson received $530,000, Ciriaco $513,500, Bueno $504,500, Joseph $501,200 and Ventura $500,500. The four other players signed for $500,000.
The Royals will be the visiting team today against the Rangers, and James Shields will start. Others getting work: Dwyer, Jason Adam, Sugar Ray Marimon, Everett Teaford, Mariot and Tim Collins.
Starters are on a two-inning, 40-pitch count, but if they breeze through two, they could get another inning. The pitch count is more important than the innings.
First pitch is 2:05 p.m. Central, and the game will be broadcast on radio station KCSP (610 AM).
VENTURA THROWS STRIKES
The last thing Ventura heard before facing five Royals hitters in live batting practice on Thursday morning, was: "Everything is a first-pitch strike." Ventura appeared to do that to three of the five hitters he faced: Justin Maxwell, Carlos Peguero, Mike Moustakas, Cain and Jarrod Dyson. Peguero let out an "aww" after missing a breaking ball in the dirt.
In the Royals' first scrimmage on Tuesday, Ventura walked two of the four batters he faced.
"We're just back to the basics," Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "He was, in that intrasquad game, leaving the rubber too soon, which was affecting his arm angle. And then he was trying to overthrow a bit, too. But that's to be expected the first time out.
"I'm not going to say we made some adjustments. Just kind of got backs to basics."
ROYALS IN ARIZONA
The Royals spent their first 34 years training in Florida. This marks the 12th season at the club's complex it shares with the Rangers in Surprise. The Royals are 187-140 in Arizona.
Royals spring-training sites:
- 1969-87: Fort Myers, Fla.
- 1988-2002: Baseball City, Fla.
- 2003-present: Surprise, Ariz.
The Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough contributed to this report