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Royals wrap up spring training with another win

March 30, 2013

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— The Kansas City Royals wrapped up their most successful spring training in team history with one final win.

Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, Elliot Johnson and Roman Hernandez homered as the Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 Friday.

The Royals finished 25-7-2, the best exhibition record in the majors.

“There’s a lot to like about this team,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I think we’ve got a great defense. I think our starting pitching is going to be a focal point and a strong asset to our club. Our relief pitching has always been dynamite in my mind.”

“I think where we’re at offensively now is more the team I envisioned it to be. A team that can score runs, that can drive the gaps and can hit the ball over the fence. I love the chemistry. I love the makeup. I love the enthusiasm that we have in our clubhouse,” he said.

The Royals finished with a Cactus League-leading .335 batting average and 230 runs.

“For me, this could be the very first time I’m leaving spring training or had a team where I feel really, really good about every aspect of it. It’s a nice feeling,” Yost said.

The Royals also left Arizona with no serious injuries. This was in contrast to last March when closer Joakim Soria needed season-ending Tommy John surgery and starting catcher Salvador Perez required knee surgery that sidelined him until late June.

Jeremy Guthrie, who will be the Royals’ No. 3 starter, allowed one run and six hits in four innings. He pitched out of trouble in the second and third innings by inducing Jason Kipnis and Lou Marson to ground into double plays.

“I thought Jeremy was ready to open the season,” Yost said. “I thought he was very sharp with all of his pitches and he made big pitches when he got guys on to turn double plays. The defense did a great job behind him. He’s ready to go. We’re ready to go. Everybody on the club is ready to go.”

Ubaldo Jimenez, who had not allowed a home run in his first 25 1-3 innings this spring, yielded a home run to Gordon on his second pitch. It was Gordon’s team-leading eighth home run and he finished with a .438 batting average.

Francoeur and Johnson homered in the fifth.

“I only gave up three hits — three home runs,” Jimenez said. “Two of them they were bad pitches, but the ball flies here. If I let it a little bit up, then it’s a home run here.”

Jimenez won 19 games in 2010 and 15 in 2009 for the Colorado Rockies, but has a 13-21 record with a 5.32 ERA in 42 starts with the Indians.

The Indians acquired Jimenez in a trade on July 31, 2011, and he acknowledged it has been a frustrating two seasons.

“I’m a human being,” Jimenez said. “Especially coming to a team that traded for you because and they wanted you to help them. I’m not able to do anything for them. It definitely gets to your mind. When is this going to end? When am I going to start doing what I’m supposed to do?”

Jimenez, who went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA last season, said he is confident he will have a much better 2013.

“Definitely I am, no doubt,” he said.

Notes: Yost said before the game INF Miguel Tejada made the club as a utility player. Tejada, 38, was the 2002 AL MVP, but did not play in the majors last year. He hit .239 in 91 games with San Francisco in 2011, the last time he was in the big leagues. He came to camp as a non-roster invitee with a minor league contract. ... George Kottaras won the Royals’ backup catching job over Brett Hayes, who accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Omaha after clearing waivers.

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