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López to lead Royals in spring opener

Mondesi 'ready to go'; Skoglund vying for fifth spot in rotation
@FlannyMLB
February 18, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jorge López will get the start on Friday when the Royals open the Cactus League schedule against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium at 2:05 p.m. CT. López, who likely is ticketed for a long-relief role in the bullpen this season, will throw two innings or about

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jorge López will get the start on Friday when the Royals open the Cactus League schedule against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium at 2:05 p.m. CT.

López, who likely is ticketed for a long-relief role in the bullpen this season, will throw two innings or about 30-35 pitches, manager Mike Matheny said.

Right-hander Scott Blewett is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Tempe, Ariz., against the Angels.

Right-hander Brad Keller, who was last season’s Opening Day starter, will start on Sunday against the Indians at Surprise Stadium.

Royals discussing Opening Day starter options

Mondesi on schedule

Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, who had left shoulder surgery last fall, said he will meet with his surgeon this week in Arizona.

“But I’m ready to go,” Mondesi said. “Everything is going great. I’ll be good for Opening Day.”

Who had No. 35?

Right-hander Greg Holland, signed to a Minor League deal, wore No. 56 previously as a Royal. That number is now worn by staff ace Keller.

Holland wound up with No. 35, but that was not a tribute to former teammate Eric Hosmer, who wore that number with the Royals.

In fact, no disrespect intended, Holland said he didn’t even remember that Hosmer wore No. 35.

“I thought about asking for No. 99,” Holland said. “That would have been fun.”

Skoglund vies for No. 5 spot

Left-hander Eric Skoglund knows this is a very important camp for his career. He was suspended for 80 games last season for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

When Skoglund came back in the second half, he posted a 6.14 ERA at Triple-A Omaha and a 9.00 ERA in 21 innings at the big league level. More alarming, Skoglund struck out four batters in those 21 innings.

But Skoglund believes he has some swing-and-miss stuff in his arsenal this season, mainly because of an improved curveball and changeup.

“We worked a lot on the curveball in the offseason, using analytics to determine how to make it more effective,” Skoglund said. “I really like where it is at right now.

“And the changeup has come along really well, too.”

Skoglund hasn’t been told if he is in the competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

“I’ll just do whatever they ask me to do,” Skoglund said. “Whatever it takes.”

Batting order thoughts

It seems a given that the first four spots in the batting order this season will be Whit Merrifield, Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler.

Matheny and his staff are pondering the order after that.

“We have plenty of guys who can do some damage in the middle of that order,” Matheny said. “And we’ll end up with some guys in the bottom of the order who can do some damage, too.”

The No. 9 spot could go to second baseman Nicky Lopez, who has good plate awareness and can get on base, and has enough speed to preoccupy pitchers trying to get out Merrifield, Mondesi and Dozier.

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