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Karns battling for fifth spot in Royals' rotation

Right-hander throws two perfect innings in spring debut
Special to MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nathan Karns' Major League career has been brief to this point, but not being guaranteed anything in Spring Training has been a constant.

This year, with a new team in the Royals, that remains true.

View Full Game Coverage

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Nathan Karns' Major League career has been brief to this point, but not being guaranteed anything in Spring Training has been a constant.

This year, with a new team in the Royals, that remains true.

View Full Game Coverage

Karns, acquired in a January trade from the Mariners for outfielder Jarrod Dyson, is in contention to be the Royals' fifth starter. He is competing with fellow righty Chris Young and lefties Travis Wood and Mike Minor.

Karns won't focus on the competition, he said, but he made a good first impression Wednesday afternoon. The hard-throwing Karns tossed two perfect innings against the Cubs in a 7-3 loss at Surprise Stadium.

"I always feel like it's best to get off on a good foot," said Karns, who is in his fourth organization. "So I'm happy with what I was able to do today. It was nice to get the first one out of the way."

The 29-year-old needed just 19 pitches to get through two innings. He struck out three and didn't allow a ball in play out of the infield.

Video: Moore discusses Royals' acquisition of Karns

"First time out, command can be an issue," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Generally, you see guys with pretty good stuff, but fight command a little bit. His stuff was really good and [he] didn't fight his command a bit.

"I thought he was real sharp. I thought he threw the ball really, really well. It was an impressive first time out, for me."

Karns struck out Jon Jay in the first, and Albert Almora Jr. and Chris Dominguez in the second -- all swinging. He was so efficient that he went to the bullpen after he left the game to get closer to 30 pitches and build up arm strength.

"I definitely had some adrenaline going into this one," Karns said. "I felt like I was getting a little fast out there, but my biggest takeaway is I feel like I was able to stay within myself, kind of pull the reins back.

"There are a lot of reasons I could have been amped. But I look at it as it was the first time to toe the slab in a game, with opponents in the [batter's] box."

Karns, who owns a 4.41 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Nationals, Rays and Mariners, could also have felt the extra adrenaline knowing he could earn this spring -- a spot in the Royals' rotation.

"Every camp I've been in, I've been in a competition for a roster spot, so for me it's just another camp," Karns said. "I have to go out and compete. I can't worry about what the guys next to me are doing. I have to focus on what I need to do. But at the same time, the competition is going to bring the best out in everyone. If you're a competitor, you embrace it, you enjoy it. We're here to support one another. So whoever at the end of the day has to make the decision, it's not us."

Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com.

Kansas City Royals, Nathan Karns