Once Jason Hammel actually got back on the mound, he did just fine.
Coming off a 15-win season for the World Series champion Cubs, Hammel didn’t have a set job until signing with the Kansas City Royals on Feb. 8, only a week before spring training started.
Then Hammel had to wait until the Royals’ eighth spring training game before making an appearance. He threw two scoreless innings, allowing two singles, as a Kansas City split squad beat the San Francisco Giants 2-0 Saturday.
“It took me a little while to get out there, but it felt good,” Hammel said. “I got a good welcome from the crowd. And I felt good out there. Spring training butterflies, for sure.”
It was by design to hold the 34-year-old right-hander out of the early games. Hammel told pitching coach Dave Eiland that he needs five or six starts to be ready for the season.
“I’ve thrown a lot of ‘pens and I’ve had my live BPs (batting practice), but it’s always different the first one in a game setting, fans involved, being on the game mound, a lot of factors you’ve got to factor in. But overall, I was throwing strikes and that’s all I want to do.”
Hammel, who threw 17 strikes in 31 pitches, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning by retiring Orlando Calixte on a flyball to center.
“Pretty much what to expect from your first outing out,” Hammel said. “Not very crisp, my arm felt good and I got my work in and a couple of goose eggs, pretty much all I could ask for,” he said.
“It’s get the work-in type moment, but honestly I think I threw everything I had in the ‘pen. I warmed up (and) I was great. For the first outing, for my routine it’s definitely the most I threw in one day. I probably gassed myself a little bit. My misses were down, safe for the two hits.”
Hammel threw mostly fastballs and mixed in a few sliders. He said he threw only one curve and one changeup.
“Routinely, I’m fastball heavy like I was today,” Hammel said. “For me my success starts with the fastball. I’ve got to make sure that’s there before I start spinning anything. I wasn’t really trying to trick anybody.”
Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert speared Nick Hundley’s line drive to lead off the second inning.
“Outstanding play by Cheslor,” Hammel said. “I didn’t even see it happen. The ball was hit so hard. I turned around and there was already applause.”
“That was pretty much pitched to me when I came over is a solid defense and a great offense, so all I’ve got to do is use them. The fact of the matter is I trust this defense behind me. I’m going to be getting ground balls, that’s my MO,” he said.
Hammel prefers having four-time Gold Glove winner Salvador Perez catching him than having to face him with a bat in his hand.
“For a big guy he moves really well behind there, strong hands, makes pitches look a lot better than they are,” Hammel said. “Obviously, he’s outstanding behind the dish.”
In 2014, Hammel was with Oakland and yielded Perez’s RBI single in the 12th inning that ended the American League wild-card game with the Royals pulling out a 9-8 victory.
“I’ll never be able to let that one go, I guess,” Hammel said.