I am officially in Arizona!
I arrived late Saturday afternoon to the news that Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Courtney Hawkins homered off KC Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan for the White Sox walk off win.
My flight from New Jersey was a bit longer than expected due to a delayed takeoff (the flight before mine was late coming into Philadelphia) and lots of turbulence (which made me a little sick).
By the time we got the rental car, drove to Surprise, checked into the hotel, and then ate dinner, I was ready for bed.
Since the Royals are American League Champions, apparently a lot more fans have shown up in Surprise. I’ve come out here the last three years and have never seen this many Royals fans here or at games.
The big league backfields were crowded, especially when George Brett threw batting practice to Paulo Orlando, Parker Morin, Gabriel Noriega, and Terrance Gore. Mike Sweeney struggled hitting ground balls to second baseman Christian Colon and Ryan Jackson (he hit a lot of line drives to right-center).
Before checking out the big league fields, I headed to the minor leagues fields where all four groups were taking batting practice for a later game. Matt Fields hit a lot of line drives. I also caught the end of Miguel Almonte’s bullpen session. I ran into NW Arkansas manager Vance Wilson and chatted a bit with him.
At the big field for the Major League game, the first three rows were pack from the outfield fence, all the way to the dugouts for those seeking autographs. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain went over and signed a few, but the only player that really signed was minor league outfielder Ethan Chapman (who got to pinch run for Salvador Perez in the bottom of the sixth and came around to score).
Danny Duffy continues to be the Royals best starting pitcher this spring, as he cruised into the 6th inning. The SF Giants hit a few balls hard, but for the most part, he was dominant. Until the sixth, when he allowed an RBI double to Brandon Crawford (one of his two hits).
Kelvin Herrera was wild when he came in for Duffy and coughed up the lead. Greg Holland walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh, but then came back with two strikeouts in utter dominance. Wade Davis pitched the eighth and threw nine pitches. It was a great inning because it really was a hot one out there. Yohan Pino pitched the ninth and earned the save with two strikeouts (14 pitches).
Unfortunately, Pino was optioned to Triple-A Omaha after the game, along with Michael Mariot, Francisco Pena, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Reymond Fuentes. I guess that means Erik Kratz will be the Royals backup catcher (though JC Boscan is still in camp).
Terrance Gore was sent to High-A Wilmington, while Brett Eibner and Parker Morin were reassigned to minor league camp. The big name that was sent to the minors was Finnegan, who was optioned to Double-A. The minors is a great place for Finnegan to work out the kinks.
I saw Finnegan on the backfields this morning and he was really gracious with signing autographs and taking pictures. I then saw him (along with Hosmer, Cain, and Jarrod Dyson) out to dinner at Chili’s.
*Former Royal Nori Aoki led off for the Giants and had two hits. He had a nice reception from the fans (and his former teammates who made sure to give him a hug during warmups).
**Raul Mondesi was back in a big league game today, as he came in to play shortstop late in the game. He went 0-for-1 at the plate (he swung at the second pitch he saw). He made one play at shortstop, a nice backhand, but a high throw to first.
**Tomorrow I am headed to Goodyear to see Cleveland play Oakland. I am really hoping to see Billy Butler play some first base (he is expected to make the trip, along with many of the A’s starters).