by Alan Eskew, AP
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Yordano Ventura pitched seven innings of no-hit ball before being lifted because of pitch count, leading the Kansas City Royals to a 5-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.
The Royals’ opening-day starter walked two and struck out four, facing only one batter over the minimum. Ventura, who threw 49 strikes in 88 pitches, retired the final 11 batters he faced after walking Seth Smith to lead off the fourth. Ventura induced Nelson Cruz to ground into a double play to end that inning.
“It was his day,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was good, really good, great stuff.”
Ventura said he realized he had a no-hitter going after five innings, but knew he would not be allowed to complete it.
“Everybody knows it’s spring training,” Ventura said. “If you’re throwing a no-hitter or a perfect game, you’re out of the game when you reach your pitch count.”
Ventura said the key for him was “throwing strikes.”
“Everything was working, every pitch,” Ventura said.
The Mariners did not get a hit until Tyler Smith’s RBI single off Jason Frasor with one out in the eighth. Frasor walked Mike Zunino and Dustin Ackley before Smith laced a single to left for Seattle’s only hit.
Brian Flynn and Wade Davis completed the one-hitter.
Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in the first off James Paxton.
The Royals scored three unearned runs in the fourth after a fielding error on second baseman Tyler Smith. With two outs, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas stroked back-to-back run-producing doubles.
After Paxton walked the next two batters to load the bases, he was replaced by Matt Anderson.
Anderson walked Escobar to bring home Moustakas.
“I wasn’t following through and I was spinning towards third base,” Paxton said. “I wasn’t really using my legs. It’s something I’ll have to go to the bullpen and fix.”
Mariners: Paxton said it was bad location on the pitch Hosmer hit out. “I was trying to go low and away and I left it low and in,” Paxton said. “He’s a left-handed power hitter, a low and in fastball that’s what he hits out of the ball park.”
Royals: Ventura had yielded 15 hits and eight runs in seven innings in his first three starts.
ROLLINS’ SUSPENSION RAMIFICATIONS
LHP Dave Rollins was having an outstanding spring – 1-0 with a 1.73 ERA in seven appearances – and the Rule 5 pick appeared on the verge to earning a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen before receiving an 80-game suspension after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
“He’ll come off the 40-man roster,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “What we will do is wait for guidance from MLB on how this will all be handled. But he’s our property during the 80-game suspension. He will be allowed to stay here in Arizona. He will be under our supervision, and he can pitch and continue to work with the extended team.”
With Rollins suspended, if the Mariners opt to keep another lefty reliever beyond Charlie Furbush, the candidates are Tyler Olson and Joe Saunders.
McCLENDON TAKES FIFTH ON FIFTH
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he is not ready to announce the Mariners’ No. 5 starter, but it appears RHP Taijuan Walker is winning the battle over LHP Roenis Elias. Walker is scheduled to start Monday against the Angels, while Elias is not slated to start the next six games. McClendon said Elias might pitch in a minor league game. Walker has not allowed a run in five games and just six hits in 18 innings, while striking out 19.
Mariners: SS Brad Miller was sent home with flu-like symptoms.
Royals: RF Alex Rios is sidelined with a right thumb injury, which he irritated in his final at-bat Wednesday.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma will start Saturday against the Giants
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy will start Saturday against the Diamondbacks.
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The pitching-depleted Texas Rangers acquired left-hander Sam Freeman from the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday for a player to be named or cash considerations.
The 27-year-old Freeman was 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in a career-high 44 relief appearances last season with the Cardinals. He pitched once against the Dodgers in the playoffs.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he expects Freeman, who is out of minor league options, to make the opening day roster.
“He’s got a good arm and the acquisition price was right,” Daniels said. “We’ll bring him in here and give him an opportunity.”
The Texas pitching staff has been beset by health problems in spring training, including a season-ending injury to ace Yu Darvish.
VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman made an early exit after jarring himself diving for a grounder, and the Nationals said he was OK after a 1-1 tie with the split-squad St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.
The oft-injured Zimmerman made a dive to the left, and was pulled after the second inning.
“He’s good,” Williams said. “He’s played three in a row. He’s fine. He dove for that ball, banged himself a little bit. But he’s good. No worries. … If he had to play, he could play. No issues.”
Injuries have been a recurring theme for the Nationals this spring.
Center fielder Denard Span had surgery on March 9 to repair a core muscle injury and won’t be back for opening day. That same day, third baseman Anthony Rendon sprained his left knee making a diving play – though the team initially said it was a short-term injury, he has not played since and his status for the opener is in doubt.
Right fielder Jayson Werth and backup outfielder Nate McLouth are both still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery and might not be ready for the start of the season.
Most of the injuries Zimmerman has had throughout his career have come when he’s tried to make a diving stop.
“No more of those,” Williams said. “We don’t want any more of those. He’s good, though.”
Zimmerman was not on the Nationals’ travel roster for Saturday’s road game against the New York Mets. That was likely a planned thing since, as Williams mentioned, he has played three consecutive games. Washington hosts the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Nationals closer Drew Storen made his second spring training appearance and threw one scoreless inning. He had not pitched since March 11, two days before the righty had surgery to remove a bone in his left hand.
Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run over six innings.
Carlos Martinez, vying for the fifth spot in the St. Louis rotation, gave up one run in five innings.
Jose Lobaton had three hits for the Nationals, including a pair of doubles. The game was stopped after nine innings.
ZIMMERMANN NOT OPTIMISTIC
Despite dealing with a nasty crosswind that made his breaking pitches hard to control, Zimmermann had his longest outing of the spring.
Not only is the right-hander closing in on the start of the season, but also his opening day deadline to get a contract extension worked out with the team.
“I’m not going to talk during the season, so if something gets done before the season, which is probably pretty rare right now, then it gets done,” Zimmermann said. “But it’s not looking good.”
Martinez said he thought this was his best outing of the spring. A candidate for the fifth starter spot, he believes he has stated his case.
“I’ve been working hard,” Martinez said through a translator. “Some of the outings haven’t gone as good as I’ve wanted to, but I’m just trying to learn from that and get better every day.”
OF Bryce Harper, who was sent home with a stomach bug on Thursday, was back in the lineup Friday and went 1 for 4.
Cardinals: Lance Lynn gets the start as the Cardinals travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg starts as Washington travels to Port St. Lucie to play the New York Mets. He missed his previously scheduled start because of a twisted left ankle. Williams said Strasburg will likely go four innings.
by Dave Skretta, AP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Wichita State reached another Sweet 16 this season thanks in part to the frenzied, full-court press that coach Gregg Marshall often employs to such success.
Now, it may be Marshall’s turn to deal with another kind of full-court press.
After a run of unparalleled success with the Shockers, including a Final Four trip a couple years ago, Marshall will have no shortage of suitors trying to lure him away. Alabama has already been identified as one school interested in hiring Marshall, and with several other jobs certain to come open, the longtime Wichita State coach will have some difficult decisions to make.
“That’s not something I’m worried about,” Marshall said before Thursday night’s 81-70 loss to Notre Dame ended the seventh-seeded Shockers’ season.
“None of my players are worried about it, none of my staff’s worried about it, and I’ve said how content and happy I am at Wichita State over and over, and we are,” he added. “It could be the last job I ever have. I could retire from there.”
That said, Marshall acknowledged he doesn’t “bury my head in the sand.” If the right offer came along, he would be foolish not to listen. That was the case when Wichita State approached him in 2007, finally pulling him away from Winthrop after nine wildly successful seasons.
“That’s been something we’ve dealt with for 17 years,” Marshall said. “Probably 13 of the last 17 years, we’ve had decisions to make, but I’ve had two jobs in that amount of time.”
One thing that could factor into his decision is whether point guard Fred VanVleet and small forward Ron Baker, two juniors with NBA potential, return for their final seasons.
Marshall said both players will consult with the NBA draft advisory committee, something that Baker also did a year ago. If they are projected to go in the first round, it could make sense for both players to leave school early.
“If you’re midway through the second round, chances are about 50-50 that you never play a second in the NBA,” Marshall said. “They have to make some really tough choices.”
If all three choose to return, the Shockers could be even better next season.
Sure, they lose a lockdown defender in Tekele Cotton and 6-foot-7 forward Darius Carter to graduation. But they otherwise return their entire team, including gritty junior Evan Wessel and promising freshmen Rashard Kelly, Shaq Morris and Zach Brown.
That would be a far cry from this season, when more than half of the roster was new.
“No one expected us to be where we are,” Baker said. “When you’ve got eight, nine new faces coming into your program, a lot of people probably didn’t expect us to make it this far.”
There will be new faces next year, too, as Wichita State begins to reap the rewards of its success – including a 35-0 start to last season – on the recruiting trail.
Four-star prospect Markis McDuffie, a rangy 6-7 forward from coach Bob Hurley’s juggernaut at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey, highlights the incoming recruiting class. Shooting guard Landry Shamet is one of the best prospects in the Kansas City metro, and Tyrone Taylor and Eric Hamilton are joining the Shockers from prestigious academies to provide some additional depth.
In other words, the Shockers could be even more loaded next season.
That doesn’t take the sting away from the way the Shockers’ season ended Thursday night.
After rolling to another Missouri Valley regular-season title, then knocking off Indiana and Kansas – the latter of which has been a game the Shockers have been trying to schedule for years – they ran into a talented team from Notre Dame having an exemplary shooting night.
They started off in a 15-5 hole, rallied back to briefly take the lead in the second half, then watched as the Fighting Irish pulled away late to earn a date with Kentucky.
“It’s been a heck of a ride, man. Been a great year for us, lots of ups and downs, lot of fighting,” VanVleet said. “Just feel sorry for the seniors, you never want to end on a loss, but it happens. They had great careers, and I’m just happy to be able to play with those guys.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A food safety manager at Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums in Kansas City says he was fired after complaining about dirty conditions.
Jon Costa shared with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” a letter that he said came from his former employer, Aramark. The March 17 letter said Costa was being fired “for cause” for several reasons, including that he violated the company’s media policy by taking his concerns public.
ESPN says Costa’s complaints prompted a Nov. 3 inspection that found violations at 20 out of 26 food stands. The stadiums later passed a follow-up inspection.
Aramark said in a written statement that it considers personnel matters confidential. It added that food safety is “a top priority.” Costa’s attorney, Ryan McClelland, didn’t immediately return phone or email messages from The Associated Press.
DALLAS (AP) — Michael Sam says there are “a lot” of gay players in the NFL and some have reached out to him.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sam gave a speech Thursday at the Dallas Holocaust Museum and took questions from the audience.
Sam said: “I’m just saying there is a lot of us.” He added he’d never out a player who confided in him, but “there’s some famous people.”
Sam came out before last year’s NFL draft. The defensive end from Missouri was selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams and cut in training camp. The Dallas Cowboys signed him to their practice squad but released him in October.
He’s currently a free agent.
Sam revealed he’s not talked to his father since Michael Sam Sr. criticized his son’s sexuality shortly after he came out.
by RB Fallstrom, AP
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Cardinals hope Michael Wacha is ready to stand alongside ace Adam Wainwright at the top of their rotation.
Wacha was the NL Championship Series MVP as a rookie but just 5-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 19 starts last year. He was sidelined for most of the season’s second half by a stress reaction in his shoulder, and was rusty in October before giving up Travis Ishikawa’s series-winning homer in Game 5 of the NLCS.
Now he feels healthy.
“It’s very encouraging, the long term of what this kid could be and the short term of how he feels, somebody every fifth day that can bring the kind of stuff he does,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “He feels good about himself and we feel good about what we’re seeing.”
The 23-year-old Wacha has long insisted the injury is behind him.
“Ever since I came back last year, I haven’t thought about it when I was on the mound,” Wacha said. “As far as I know, it was a rare injury. I’m not sure where it came from.”
If it stays away, the Cardinals figure to again have one of the deeper starting staffs despite trading 15-game winner Shelby Miller for outfielder Jason Heyward. Wainwright was a 20-game winner for the second time, and Lance Lynn has averaged 16 wins during three years in the rotation.
John Lackey is a proven late-season talent. Jaime Garcia’s resurgent spring following surgery to relieve nerve compression may cause promising Carlos Martinez to be related to the bullpen again.
Lackey expects to be more comfortable in his first full NL season, saying “It’s different for a lot of reasons.”
Things to watch for with the Cardinals, who open April 5 at Chicago:
There are five lefty bats in the lineup, a potential downside. But there also figures to be more power on the bench. Mark Reynolds, who has hit 20 or more homers each of the last seven seasons, was signed as a free agent. He could factor in as a semi-regular, especially at first base, where Matt Adams has struggled against lefties.
Only 25, Heyward is a potential future core member of the franchise. His is eligible for free agency after the World Series, and the wooing began not long after the trade with Atlanta – which also brought set-up man Jordan Walden.
“He fits in very well with how our guys work, how seriously they take the game,” Matheny said. “He’s mixed in very well to this point.”
St. Louis hit just 105 homers last season, second-fewest in the majors. They Cardianls are anticipating more out of right field from Heyward, who had a career-low 11 last year while forced into the leadoff spot with Atlanta. Jhonny Peralta followed his drug suspension with a 21 homers, a franchise record among shortstops, and the smooth-swinging Adams is capable of hitting a lot more than 15.
A full return by Garcia would be an unexpected bonus after two injury-filled seasons. Wainwright and Lynn are recovering from health setbacks early in spring training. Center fielder Jon Jay made a delayed exhibition debut following wrist surgery. “I said the whole goal was to be ready April 5,” Jay said.
Along with increasing the power profile, there will be an emphasis on manufacturing runs. The Cardinals stole 57 bases last year, third-fewest in the major leagues, but are primed for at least a little more thievery with both Wong and Heyward capable of swiping 20-plus.
“I want to see bigger leads. I want to see more aggressive chances with balls in the dirt,” Matheny said. “I want to see us take a first-and-second double steal because we have the kind of players to do that.”
by Dave Skretta, AP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Every once in a while, Ned Yost will spin a story about his days on Bobby Cox’s bench with the Atlanta Braves, back when the organization was winning NL pennants by the fistful.
Inevitably, Yost would start drawing comparisons to his Kansas City Royals – that they were building through the farm system in the same manner as the Braves, and Kansas City would embrace the franchise in the same way Atlanta did if it ever became a winner.
Last year, that narrative finally made sense.
After squeaking into the playoffs as a wild card, the Royals swept all the way to the World Series. If not for a virtuoso performance by Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, the Royals might very well have been celebrating their second championship.
The postseason run led Yost to draw one more comparison when he arrived in Arizona for the start of a new season, and his players filed into the clubhouse for the first time.
“It definitely reminded me of that feeling in Atlanta,” he said, “when you came to spring training every year with the feeling that you have an opportunity to go to the World Series – instead of hoping, you know? And it’s a different feeling.”
There is good reason for that feeling, too.
The Royals return most of the pieces from the club that ended a 29-year playoff drought, including one of the best bullpens in baseball history. And the pieces they did lose to free agency have been replaced with what could turn out to be upgrades.
Designated hitter Billy Butler is gone, Kendrys Morales signed in his place. Alex Rios is taking over for Nori Aoki in right field. Edinson Volquez was signed to fill the rotation spot of staff ace James Shields, who chased bigger money all the way to San Diego.
Even though a few faces have changed, the tenants that the Royals believe in have not: They will continue to rely on speed, defense and pitching to chase another playoff berth.
“Any time you’re fortunate enough to keep those key pieces, you feel good,” said Greg Holland, the Royals’ All-Star closer. “Yeah, we lost Billy and Shields and Nori, but for the most part, we’re right where we need to be.”
Besides, the back end of the bullpen is still intact.
Kelvin Herrera harnessed his electrifying fastball to become a shutdown seventh-inning reliever last season. Former starter Wade Davis had a historically dominant year as the setup man. Holland further cemented his status as the AL’s best closer.
“The way you tilt the field in your favor, in my opinion, is having quality pitching and really good defense,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Those are things that hopefully can show up every single day and perform for you.”
As the Royals approach opening day against the Chicago White Sox on April 6 at Kauffman Stadium, here are a few other story lines to watch this season:
THE ROTATION: Shields was the anchor in 2014, but he struggled mightily in the playoffs. So when the Royals signed Volquez to replace him, it was mostly met with a collective shrug.
Besides, the success of the rotation will more likely be determined by the success of young flamethrowers Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, both of whom have ace ability.
INJURY BUGS: The Royals stayed remarkably healthy last season. Will karma even out?
Second baseman Omar Infante already missed long stretches of spring training with a bone spur in his elbow that could require surgery next offseason. Left fielder Alex Gordon also got a slow start to the spring after undergoing wrist surgery this past offseason.
SLOW STARTS: The last couple of seasons, the Royals have gotten off to slow starts. They unsuccessfully dug out of a big hole two years ago, but pulled it off last season.
Considering every other team in the AL Central appeared to get better over the winter, the Royals can ill afford to let Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota and the White Sox bury them.
RESTING SALVY: All-Star catcher Salvador Perez faded in the playoffs in part due to his heavy work load in the regular season, where he appeared in 150 games. Yost intends to give him more days off this year, though it’s hard to take his bat out of the lineup.
BASEBALL TOWN: Did the World Series run turn Kansas City into a baseball town again? The club has been overshadowed for decades by the Chiefs, who play just across the parking lot in Arrowhead stadium. How will fans respond to having the reigning AL champions?
by Jose Romero, AP
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Felix Hernandez pitched two-hit ball for six innings in his longest outing of the spring Thursday as a split squad of Seattle Mariners lost to the Kansas City Royals 3-0.
Hernandez, the ace who led the AL with a 2.14 ERA last season, gave up one run. He struck out four and walked none.
“Changeup was nice, slider was good, fastball was unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “Got a lot of ground balls. It was good.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon thought so, too.
“Very good outing, one that I was anxious to see. It was very important to get him built up, get him up and down five or six times. He got the pitch count up where he needed to be,” McClendon said.
Hernandez retired the side in order in four of his six innings. A leadoff double by Christian Colon followed by a wild pitch and Jarrod Dyson’s sacrifice fly in the third produced the Royals’ run against Hernandez.
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie shut out the Mariners on two hits for 5 2-3 innings. Closer Greg Holland relived and finished the sixth with a strikeout.
“It was good. Able to throw all my pitches for strikes and felt healthy and strong,” Guthrie said. “Kept it down for the most part.”
Ryan Jackson hit a two-run single with two outs in the eighth off reliever Danny Farquhar, who is in contention for a Seattle bullpen job.
Royals relievers Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson each pitched a scoreless inning.
Madson hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 because of complications from previous injuries.
“We’re really pleased with what he’s done so far. That’s been a really good find for us,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The competition remains open for what might be six of seven bullpen spots on the Mariners’ opening-day roster, with right-handed closer Fernando Rodney the only sure thing. Two of the spots could be for left-handers with four more for right-handers. Charlie Furbush figures to be one lefty – he threw a scoreless inning Thursday. Veteran Joe Saunders and rookies Tyler Olson and David Rollins are competing to be the second lefty.
Olson continued to make his case Thursday, retiring the only batter he faced. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight spring appearances (9 2-/3 innings).
RHP Jandel Gustave was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres. Gustave, a former Rule 5 draft pick, was waived by the Royals earlier this week.
Royals: Guthrie is already slotted as the fifth starter in the rotation. He’ll get one more spring training outing in Arizona and will throw at some point when the Royals play in Houston before the regular season starts.
“It was his day,” Yost said. “He was just sharp. He was executing all his pitches. His changeup was just phenomenal. He was consistently down in the zone … Hernandez looked really, really good and Guthrie just matched him.”
Mariners: Hernandez is in line for one more start before he takes the ball on opening day. He finished his afternoon with some additional pitches in the bullpen.
“I feel I’m where I want to be,” Hernandez said. He’s looking forward to an opener in Seattle in front of the King’s Court, his legion of devoted fans that occupy sections at Safeco Field.
“Going to be fun. It’s been a while,” he said. “You’ve got to be pumped. But I’ll be calm.”
Royals: OF Alex Rios is day-to-day with a bruised thumb.
Royals: Opening day starter Yordano Ventura has a 10.29 spring ERA, but he allowed only a run on four hits in five innings on March 21. He starts Friday against Seattle.
Mariners: James Paxton continues to work his way back to regular-season form after an injury delayed his start to spring training. He’ll start vs. the Royals on Friday.
by Chuck King, AP
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright gave up four runs, including a solo homer by Giancarlo Stanton, in 3 2-3 innings Thursday before a rain delay ended his outing in a 5-3 loss to the Miami Marlins.
Wainwright gave up six hits in his second spring start and struggled with his fastball.
After rain held up play for 55 minutes, Wainwright went to the indoor batting cages for more work. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist noticed a flaw in Wainwright’s mechanics.
“It’s the best I felt all spring,” said Wainwright, whose spring progression was slowed by an early abdominal strain. “I know it’s not against hitters, but it translates for me.”
Wainwright threw 65 pitches on the field and an estimated 25 more in the cage.
“I went from being kind of frustrated with the way I pitched and then I left that cage thinking I’m ready for next time,” Wainwright said.
Jason Heyward hit his first home run with St. Louis.
Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez allowed two runs and four hits in three innings.
Wainwright walked one batter and hit another as part of a two-run third inning. Christian Yelich singled home Alvarez in the fourth on the last pitch Wainwright threw.
Cardinals: Manager Mike Matheny has yet to officially announce Wainwright as the opening day starter, but everything is falling into place for that to happen.
“I think the first day we were talking about how to make it work so that Adam could throw then, but if we have any kind of hiccup we’ve got other guys that, because of some of the extra rest with the off days, we’d be covered,” Matheny said.
Marlins: Miami scratched Jarred Cosart from Friday’s scheduled start because of a blister on his middle finger. Instead, the Marlins will give the ball to Brad Hand, who will likely begin the season in Miami’s bullpen.
“It’s nice to have that strength and depth guys that can not only pitch out of the bullpen but also be starters for us,” manager Mike Redmond said.
Cardinals: Matt Carpenter, removed from Wednesday’s game after being hit in the quadriceps by a pitch from Max Scherzer, returned to the lineup and went 1 for 2.
No member of the Marlins starting lineup returned following the rain delay. St. Louis kept three players: Randal Grichuk, Dean Anna and Pete Kozma.
Matheny said he wasn’t worried that Heyward didn’t have an extra-base hit prior to his first-inning homer, saying he’d seen enough line drives and balls hit barely foul to believe those hits are coming.
“Hopefully he’s not going to start trying to do too much because of all the talk, but I’m not concerned about it at all,” Matheny said.
KOZ AND EFFECT
Light-hitting Cardinals utility infielder Pete Kozma led all National League batters this spring going into the game, then went 1 for 2 to raise his average to .455.
Cardinals: Split-squad games on Friday. John Lackey will face Matt Harvey and the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium while the Carlos Martinez-led squad will head to Viera to face Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals.
Miami expects to face Dallas Keuchel when it travels to play Houston.