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Smith bolsters rotation chances with performance

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Will Smith might face a tough challenge for the Royals' No. 5 starting job, but he certainly did not hurt himself Friday.

Smith started against Texas and pitched two perfect innings in a 5-5 tie with the Rangers in the Cactus League opener at Surprise Stadium. The Rangers got just one ball out of the infield against Smith, and he notched one strikeout, getting David Murphy.

"I felt good out there," Smith said. "Dave [Eiland, pitching coach] gave me something in the offseason to go home and work on, so I took it and worked hard with it. I feel comfortable out there with my delivery now. I'm slowing the game down. I'm happy with it."

The goal, he said, was to stay back more in his delivery.

"I get a little too excited and start rushing, so I stay back and break my hands, and it helps me get downhill, to the bottom of the strike zone better," Smith said.

The Royals also got a two-inning look at one of their top pitching prospects, right-hander Yordano Ventura. He worked a scoreless third inning, with catcher Salvador Perez throwing out a base-stealer, but gave up a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz in the fourth.

"I thought his first inning was very good," manager Ned Yost said of Ventura. "His second inning he got a little inconsistent with his command. His stuff was phenomenal, very electric."

Blaine Boyer, a non-roster right-hander, gave up a two-run homer to Yangervis Solarte with two outs in the ninth to create the tie. The Rangers' other run came off Sugar Ray Marimon. Justin Marks, Nate Adcock and Michael Mariot each pitched a scoreless inning.