Wednesday's 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers in the Cactus League opener for both teams wasn't exactly the kind of result most Royals fans were hoping for. In fact, Kansas City's offense looked an awful lot like last year's version -- little punch, and a lack of runs, which included stranding guys in scoring position.
But it might be exactly what Trey Hillman needed to help get across his message that the Royals need to work diligently on fundamentals in order to manufacture runs. And, before people start complaining about this or that, let's remind ourselves that this was the first game of Spring Training, for crying out loud. These games truly mean nothing, so here is a look at some of the bright spots.
Without a doubt, the most positive thing to come out of this game was the sparkling performance of right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar. The top overall pick in the 2006 draft, Hochevar is coming off a 2007 season in which his Minor League numbers weren't overly impressive. He was a combined 4-9 with a 4.86 ERA for Wichita and Omaha last year, but those results might be skewed because of the fact that he was working on strengthening his weaknesses.
Hochevar enters this spring with an outside chance at earning a spot in Kansas City's rotation, but is probably more likely to start the year as a starting pitcher in Omaha. He's also been talked about, though, as a possibility in the Royals' bullpen, where he could be eased into a rotation slot -- sort of like Kansas City did with Zack Greinke last year.
Against the Rangers, the 6-foot-5, 24-year old former University of Tennessee standout threw two perfect innings, facing six batters and not allowing a ball out of the infield, yielding four ground balls, one line-drive, and a pop-up.
It's far too early to be raving about anything, especially after the first Cactus League game of the year, but Royals fans have been hoping that Hochevar will start to display some of the dominance that led him to be drafted not once, but twice, by the Dodgers. He turned down both chances to sign with Los Angeles, before the Royals took him with their first selection in 2006.
Offensively, six Kansas City players had one hit apiece, including a promising ground-rule double for left fielder Justin Huber, and an RBI single for shortstop Tony Pena. Third baseman Alex Gordon and first baseman Billy Butler also collected singles.
Butler, who's attempting to earn the starting first base job, played flawless defense before being replaced in the lineup. Ryan Shealy, Butler's primary competition at first base, was 0-for-4 as the designated hitter.
So, it's one game down, and way too many to go. But seeing Hochevar throw the way he did makes this loss almost feel like a win.