Winter ball star Mendoza ready for spring debut
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Luis Mendoza, coming off his Most Valuable Player prominence in the Caribbean Series, will make his first spring start for the Royals on Sunday against the Rangers.
He's well prepared, making eight starts this winter, including his starring turn for the Obregon Yaquis, who claimed the Carib Series title for Mexico. He made 107 pitches and carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his last start.
"When I came here, they decided to push me back a little bit," Mendoza said.
Mendoza didn't want to overdo it in winter ball, resting for three months before joining Obregon in the stretch drive for a third consecutive Mexican Pacific League championship.
"That's why I just decided to play in January. I wanted to be ready for the World Baseball Classic," he said.
Mendoza will report to Mexico's team next Saturday in nearby Glendale, joining such starters as the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo, the Red Sox's Alfredo Aceves, the Mariners' Oliver Perez and the D-backs' David Hernandez.
Mirroring his status with the Royals, Mendoza isn't certain if Team Mexico will use him as a starter or as a reliever.
After a couple of exhibition games, Mexico will play Italy on March 7, the USA on March 8 and Canada on March 9.
"We're in a tough group. The USA is going to be a tough team to beat," Mendoza said.
Because of Mendoza's winter work, Royals manager Ned Yost plans to use him for an extended outing against the Rangers.
"We'll probably go 50, 60, upwards of 70 pitches," Yost said. "We'll see how he's going, making sure he's not getting in any spots where he's starting to labor out there. But just keeping him maintained."