If winning exhibition games means anything, Ervin Santana and the Kansas City Royals are ready for big things this season.
Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez hit home runs off Matt Latos in Kansas City's five-run third inning, and the Royals beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 on Thursday. It was the Royals major league-best 24th spring victory.
Santana pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the second by getting Joey Votto to bounce to the mound to start a 1-2-3 double play. The right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits with a walk in four innings.
"We are ready to rumble. I just have to wait for my turn," Santana said. "I am really excited about my performance. I have to keep throwing strikes and working hard. Everyone is very excited. There is no pressure at all."
Santana, came over from the Angels to become part of the Royals' revamped starting rotation. Santana joins Wade Davis and James Shields as the newcomers. Holdovers Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza round out the starting five.
The Royals are excited with the spring and its prospects for the season.
"It's been a great spring," said centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, who chipped in with a run scoring triple. "I don't think there could be anything better than the spring we had. We have to get it done when the season starts but it builds our confidence knowing that we can play with everyone."
Gordon's homer was his seventh of the spring, and Perez — who also doubled — hit his second, a three-run shot.
Votto and Royals first baseman Billy Butler collided as Votto rounded first after hitting a ball off Ervin Santana into the left-field corner to drive in a run in the first inning. Votto was awarded second base as both men fell to the ground.
"There has to be a stopping point. I'm basically letting him go by so I can trail him," Butler said. "I'm not trying, nor do I ever try to get in his way. It is always the defender that gets the obstruction. The rule says the baserunner creates his own base path but it's got to stop somewhere."
Latos finished the third then left the game, allowing five runs and nine hits with five strikeouts. The Reds right-hander was hit on the foot in his last start. His foot was fine but he was not feeling well.
"Latos was fine," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Before the game he was coughing. He had to get his work in. He didn't throw the ball bad."
Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips singled off Santana to start the game in front of Votto's tangled-up double.
Ryan Hanigan doubled and scored on a single by Latos. The Reds loaded the bases but Santana got Votto to hit a one-hop ground ball to the mound that resulted in a 1-2-3 double play.
The Reds squandered other chances and didn't score until minor leaguer Bryson Smith homered off Dan Wheeler in the ninth.
"We should have had eight runs," Baker said. "We left second and third twice, bases loaded. We had a lot of opportunities to break that game open. It's got to get better picking up those runs. It's frustrating sometimes."
NOTES: The Royals optioned RHP Louis Coleman to Triple-A Omaha. ... The Royals reassigned RHP Wheeler and INF/C Max Ramirez to the minor-league camp. ... The Royals began the game hitting .336 as a team this spring. It is tops in the big league, 27 points higher than the next-closest team. ... LHP Manny Parra, who signed as a free agent with the Reds in January, is trying to make the team as its third left-hander. Parra allowed three runs on five hits in two innings. He has a 5.28 ERA for the spring. ... RHP J.J. Hoover has 18 strikeouts in nine innings, while walking two. ... Minor league RHP Loek Van Mil appeared in the game for the Reds. The 28-year old native of the Netherlands is 7-foot-1 and is the tallest player in professional baseball. ... INF Cesar Izturis, trying to win a spot as a reserve with the Reds, singled in two trips. The veteran is hitting .340 for the spring. ... C Miguel Olivo was released from his minor-league contract by the Reds and he subsequently agreed to terms with Miami.