PHOENIX -- Let's just say it: Moose is really on the loose this spring.
Mike Moustakas was 3-for-3 and belted his fourth home run as the Royals squelched the A's, 3-1, on Wednesday. That raised his Cactus League average to .500 (13-for-26) with 13 RBIs, by far the most on the club.
The left-handed hitter's home run came on a 2-2 pitch against a left-hander, Sean Doolittle.
"His primary focus has been with two strikes," manager Ned Yost said. "In the cage, in the drills they do all the time, it's on a two-strike approach. That's been a big topic for Pedro [Grifol, hitting coach] and the hitters this year because 55 percent of the time, you're going to be in two-strike situations anyway. So it's an area going into the spring that we really wanted to concentrate on, focus on and try to get better at -- even though we struck out less than any team in the American League last year."
Moustakas' homer to right field followed Salvador Perez's two-run homer, a soaring smash to left. It came after Perez took a day off to rest his bruised left palm.
"I feel good with my hand, it was a little sore, but I think that's normal. I'll be OK," Perez said.
Perez has two home runs and is right behind Moustakas in average at .476 (10-for-21).
"Back-to-back homers. That's kind of cool, but I think we'll see that more this year, too," Yost said.
Ventura firing on all cylinders in start vs. A's
PHOENIX -- Right-hander Yordano Ventura strengthened his bid for the Royals' last rotation opening with a strikeout-studded performance in a 3-1 victory over the Athletics on Wednesday.
"He threw pretty darn good," manager Ned Yost said. "No walks and how many did he strike out? Six. Just pretty impressive stuff."
Ventura was charged with one run, which scored after he'd finished his 4 1/3-inning outing, and he gave up just two singles. His ERA is down to 2.89 as he duels with left-hander Danny Duffy for the starting job.
At 22, Ventura can throw 100 miles an hour or more, but is learning to scale back the speed in order to improve his command.
"I've been talking to [James] Shields and [Bruce] Chen about that to make sure I stay on point and not try to throw 100 miles an hour on every single pitch," Ventura said. "And I'm trying to work ahead in the count. That's what these guys are trying to teach me to do. But you know you have it [100 mph] when you need it."
Yost was impressed by another aspect of Ventura's performance.
"I liked his composure," Yost said. "The game doesn't speed up on him for a young player. He always seems to be in control of his emotions on the mound. [He has] the ability to make quality pitches time after time after time. He had a dynamite changeup today. His secondary stuff was really good. He was throwing it for strikes, his fastball was really jumping. He had a real good breaking ball, too."
The breaking ball, in Yost's view, doesn't need improvement.
"That's as good as it needs to be. It doesn't need to be any better than that," he said. "It has good, sharp, live depth to it. Where guys like him get in trouble is they try to make it better than that when it doesn't need to be."
Yost confident staff has things under control
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ned Yost was sitting in his office with three reporters when coach Rusty Kuntz poked his head in and wondered if the Royals' manager wanted to conduct his daily staff meeting.
"Just have the two-minute meeting without me," Yost said. "You don't need me in there anyway. ... You're in charge."
"See, you don't even have to be here," a reporter told Yost.
"You know what? To be honest with you, I really don't," Yost said. "This staff is phenomenal."
Yost then proceeded to sing the praises of his coaching staff which includes Don Wakamatsu, Pedro Grifol, David Eiland, Kuntz, Dale Sveum, Doug Henry and Mike Jirschele.
Now in his 11th season as manager and fifth with the Royals, Yost has learned a few things.
"I learned to delegate, I learned to sit back and let them do their jobs instead of sticking your nose into every dadgummed thing," he said. "I used to print every schedule, I used to do it all. I wouldn't let anybody touch the schedules, I wouldn't let anybody do anything. Except: 'Here's the schedules, you guys go out and implement them.' But when you've got good people, you trust them. Just oversee everything and make sure it's running the way you want it to run. And go."
Before long, Kuntz was back.
"Sixteen seconds, a new record," Kuntz reported. "Everything went well."
Yost just smiled.
"That's how long our staff meetings take, 16 seconds," he said, "because they're on it."
Chen figures to be fifth man in Royals' rotation
PHOENIX -- Suspicions confirmed: Bruce Chen figures to be the fifth man in the Royals' pitching rotation.
Manager Ned Yost indicated that would be the case when the season begins. Earlier, he'd said that James Shields would start on Opening Day March 31, that Jason Vargas would go in the second game at Detroit and that Jeremy Guthrie would start the home opener on April 4 against the White Sox. That's the fourth game of the season.
That left the third and fifth games open. But if Chen started the third game, he would follow Vargas and that would give the Tigers successive games against similar left-handers.
"I generally don't want two like pitchers pitching back-to-back so if you've got two guys that are command lefties, I don't really want to give you a good look at Vargas and a good look at Chen," Yost said.
So that means Chen probably will start the fifth game against the White Sox and either Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy, the remaining candidates for the remaining rotation spot, would go in the third game against the Tigers. Although Duffy is also a lefty, his velocity and style offers enough contrast with Vargas to start successive games. If Ventura wins the job, that would give the Royals a right-left-right-right-left sequence in the rotation.
Royals will receive extra pick in 2014 Draft
PHOENIX -- The Royals have netted what amounts to an additional first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft in June because the Braves signed free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana.
As it now stands, the Royals will receive the 28th pick which is like a first-round pick but, technically, is part of compensation round A. That's in addition to their normal first-round selection, which this year is No. 17.
A normal round consists of 30 picks, one for each Major League club. The Draft order could change if free agents Kendrys Morales or Stephen Drew sign somewhere.
The Royals got the extra pick as compensation because they had made a qualifying offer of $14.1 million for 2014 to Santana, which he declined. As it happened, the Braves signed him to the same deal, one year at $14.1 million, that the Royals had offered.
By signing Santana, the Braves lost their first-round pick, No. 26 overall.
After signing Jason Vargas, essentially to replace Santana in the rotation, the Royals repeatedly shrugged off speculation that they might try to re-sign Santana as his time wore on and his asking price diminished.
Manager Ned Yost, asked if he ever thought about the possibility of Santana coming back, said: "I don't think about that. I think about the players that I have and go from there."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.