Notes: Benintendi's debut; Davis' win

Top of Royals' lineup looks sharp in Cactus League opener

March 1st, 2021

In the bottom of the second inning of Kansas City’s 3-2 win over the Rangers in their six-inning Cactus League opener on Sunday, the Royals saw what they hope their lineup can do all season. At least, they almost saw it.

After , playing shortstop to open exhibition games, singled to right field, put two on base with a slow single to third. Then left fielder turned a long plate appearance into a walk to load the bases for first baseman -- the exact scenario the Royals had in mind when they acquired Benintendi and signed Santana this offseason.

But because it was Spring Training in 2021, the Rangers were able to end the inning there, with two outs, because right-hander Nick Vincent had reached his pitch count.

“I understand why, but obviously there we wanted to see what we could do with two outs with the score 2-1,” Benintendi said. “Good first day, though.”

Benintendi was 0-for-1 with the walk in his Royals debut. The 26-year-old is focusing on the first few weeks of exhibition games to get his timing down.

“He’s already going in and working deep counts, and you can just see he’s got an approach,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Some guys just see the ball better. I always thought that’d be a lot of fun to be able to see the ball like some of these guys because they see it different. He’s still a young player, but he has a mature approach at the plate. Obviously strike zone awareness, but also trying to take advantage of portions of the plate or choosing a pitch type.”

In addition to that plate discipline, Benintendi had focused this offseason on his swing path and making sure it’s level, which promotes solid contact and line drives to all parts of the field.

“For a player like me, obviously I’m not a huge guy, so I don’t have to really worry too much about power,” Benintendi said. “And I think that’s going back to like 2018, where if it goes out, cool. If it doesn’t, then hopefully it’s a double or triple. I think, for me, I can tell when I have the plane right if I pull the ball and it has backspin not topspin. In my work, BP, in the cage, they’re being backspun to right field, so I’m pretty happy with where it is.”

Benintendi said the transition from the Red Sox to the Royals has been an easy one, thanks to the group of players he’s around. He’s leaned on Merrifield for help adjusting to the new organization.

“It’s been great,” Benintendi said. “Everybody here’s been extremely receptive. They made this transition extremely easy for me. I already feel like I’m tight with the group. I don’t think it could have gone better.”

Davis gets quick inning
In his spring debut, Royals reliever flashed an improved velocity, life on his fastball and the ability to get what Matheny called “some ugly swings.” Plus, the veteran earned his first win of the spring.

Davis allowed one hit, but he got a 1-2-3 inning when center fielder Bubba Starling threw out Jason Martin trying to take second on his single. Otherwise, Davis got two soft outs with a groundout and a popout.

“I imagine Royals fans are excited to see Wade Davis on the mound in a Royals uniform again,” Matheny said. “And then you see the ball come out of his hand like it did. It was jumping. ... I was excited to see Wade out there today, and then to see that kind of stuff we saw today, I thought was even that much better.”

Barlow 'absolutely' ready to be a workhorse
Reliever , who pitched a scoreless sixth inning with one strikeout on Sunday, focused on getting stronger this offseason to be ready whenever he’s needed out of the bullpen this year. And that figures to be quite a few times, considering he led the Majors in appearances (32) last season.

The right-hander is more than ready for that task.

“Oh, absolutely,” Barlow said. “Going into the offseason, that was my goal, just repeat. Do that again. And working out with my trainer back home, that’s what I was telling him. I just want to pitch in as many games as possible. And he’s like, ‘OK, we’re going to put in some work.’ So he beat me up for sure this offseason.

“That was my goal: to get my mind in the best shape as possible, that way I can get the ball whenever Skip asks.”

Around the horn
• The Royals stayed on the field after their first game ended for a few simulated games. Right-hander got two innings in before he was hit in the backside with a comebacker off first-base prospect Nick Pratto’s bat. Keller waved off trainer Nick Kenny, but the Royals ended his outing there.

“He got it in a good spot, but we aren’t going to let him keep pitching when he’s already got his work done,” Matheny said. “Didn’t want to push him on a cooler day, and he looked good.”

, appearing as the designated hitter on Sunday, hit the Royals' first home run of the spring, and he left no doubt. With a loud knock, the infielder/outfielder vying for a bench spot crushed a fastball off Vincent that cleared the right-field bullpen at Surprise Stadium.

• The Royals agreed to terms with their final four pre-arbitration players on Sunday, signing right-handers Ronald Bolaños and Kyle Zimmer and catchers Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria to contracts for the 2021 season.