Mesa, Ariz. Bruce Chen is happy Melky Cabrera is getting big hits for his team these days instead of against him.
Cabrera had a bases-loaded triple in a five-run first inning to back Chen as the Kansas City Royals coasted to a 13-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
“He is looking really good,” Chen said of Cabrera. “It was good that we were able to get him.”
Cabrera signed with the Royals as a free agent on Dec. 16 and is hitting .500 (10 for 20) with six RBIs this spring. He also had a double to lead off the fifth and scored on a double by Alex Gordon, who had three hits.
Chen recalled the day a few years ago when he was with the Baltimore Orioles and faced Cabrera, then with the New York Yankees.
“I threw a 0-2 curveball, and he hit it for a single,” Chen said. “I said, ‘From now on, no more 0-2 curveballs.”’
It’s a valuable lesson opposing pitchers will have to learn when facing Cabrera and the Royals, who jumped on Matt Garza, making his second start and third spring appearance after being acquired from Tampa Bay on Jan. 8.
Garza gave up six runs and four hits, walked four and struck out four in 22⁄3 innings.
“He didn’t have his command early, but what I saw of him, the last 10 hitters (after Cabrera’s triple), that’s what I expect of him when we open the season,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “I thought he threw extremely well after that.”
Meanwhile, Chen gave up two runs and three hits, walked three and struck out four in four innings for Kansas City. Chen thought he was going to pitch only three innings, but was given an extra inning by manager Ned Yost because of a low pitch count.
After missing the entire 2008 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Chen split time between Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City in 2009 and began last season in Omaha. He joined the Royals’ rotation on May 30 and went on to lead the team in victories, going 12-7 in 23 starts.
He was re-signed as a major-league free agent on Jan. 19 and came into camp raring to go. The 33-year-old left-hander made his second start of the spring and third appearance overall.
“I’m happy the way things are going for me this spring,” Chen said. “I’m competitive, and I know that nothing will be given to me.”
Two of the hits off Chen were by Marlon Byrd, including a solo home run in the third inning.
Byrd continued his solid spring with his sixth multihit effort in eight games. He is now 13 for 20.
“I was able to throw all of my pitches and tried to work out of some jams,” Chen said. “I came out of the (pregame) bullpen and I felt weird. I was flying open. I tried to make some adjustments and by the third inning, I felt I was throwing better.”
Notes: Alex Gordon had three hits, two RBIs and a stolen base for the Royals. ... Brett Carroll scored three runs, but had no official at-bats. The first run was as a pinch-runner, the second two after he remained in the game as a DH and was hit by pitches twice.