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Kennedy finds changeup in strong spring start

Wind causes fielding problems in Surprise; Starling enjoys effective day at plate
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This early in camp, starting pitchers aren't supposed to have great command.

But on Saturday, Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy was in midseason form, at least early on, throwing 10 out of 13 pitches in the first inning for strikes as he fanned the side. He tired a bit in the second inning and gave up two runs on three hits, one of which was a wind-aided triple.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This early in camp, starting pitchers aren't supposed to have great command.

But on Saturday, Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy was in midseason form, at least early on, throwing 10 out of 13 pitches in the first inning for strikes as he fanned the side. He tired a bit in the second inning and gave up two runs on three hits, one of which was a wind-aided triple.

Kennedy threw 42 total pitches, 26 strikes, and struck out five, as the Royals lost to the White Sox, 9-5.

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"I was happy with that," Kennedy said. "Every spring, first couple of innings I just try to work on keeping the ball down. I was pumping a lot of strikes."

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Kennedy only threw four or five breaking balls, two of those changeups, a key pitch for him. And the changeup was the pitch he lost last season after a right hamstring injury sidelined him in May.

"Everything feels good," Kennedy said. "I could tell in my live [batting practice sessions] earlier this spring that my changeup was there. Last year, for 12 outings, it wasn't there. Today it felt good and it has felt good.

"Last year, having just fastball-curveball, you feel like you're pitching naked a little bit."

Tough conditions
Saturday was a brutal day for catching anything in the air because of the high sky and the windy conditions. The White Sox lost a fly ball by Ryan Goins that turned into a triple, as well as a popup behind the pitcher's mound by Alcides Escobar that turned into a double.

Royals center fielder Bubba Starling couldn't corral a fly ball to left-center field that turned into a triple, and right fielder Hunter Dozier lost a ball in the sun that turned into a triple.

Camp battles
• Starling had a nice day at the plate. He came back in the count to draw a walk against Michael Kopech in his first at-bat and singled in the fourth inning. Starling likely is headed for Triple-A Omaha, but he will likely see time in the big leagues this season.

Video: Starling discusses hopes for 2018, replacing Cain

• Left-hander Brian Flynn, who is out of Minor League options and trying to grab a spot in the bullpen, gave up six runs in one inning, but all the runs were unearned thanks to a throwing error from third baseman Jack Lopez. Dozier also lost a ball in the sun in right field during the inning.

• Left fielder Terrance Gore, with an outside shot to make the 25-man roster, threw out a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.

Up next
Right-hander Jason Hammel will make his first start of the spring as the Royals travel to Goodyear to face the Reds in a 2:05 p.m. CT start. Right-handers Wily Peralta, Seth Maness and Blaine Boyer also are expected to pitch. The game can be heard live on Gameday Audio.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Ian Kennedy