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Outlook: Count on double-digit wins for Guthrie

KANSAS CITY -- Jake Odorizzi will start for the Rays on Wednesday afternoon against the Royals, the team that traded him to the Rays.

The right-hander recorded his first big league win in his first start of the 2014 season on Friday night at Tropicana Field when he strung together six scoreless innings against the Rangers in an 8-1 Rays win.

"It was kind of like killing two birds at once right there," Odorizzi said of getting his first win in his first start. "Getting off to a good start. Got the win, got the first one. In general we played great that day. Hopefully everybody can duplicate that tomorrow."

Twenty-two of Odorizzi's 95 pitches were changeups. Of those changeups, 14 were thrown for strikes. He used the pitch to get three of his four strikeouts, including two-on jams to end the second and fourth innings.

During Spring Training, Alex Cobb helped Odorizzi refine the split-change that Cobb also uses. The pair calls the pitch "The Thing." Odorizzi fought to win the fifth spot in the rotation throughout Spring Training, and surviving that struggle has made the regular season more enjoyable.

"Once the word came down that I was going to be [on the team], I just kind of got relaxed and just kind of got to exhale a little bit," Odorizzi said.

"Now it's just baseball," he added. "Getting guys out any way you can. You don't have to worry about a spot. You're here. You have to get outs and you have to keep your team in the game regardless of what kind of stuff you've got. It's a different kind of pressure compared to Spring Training. I just feel like I've been throwing the ball really well. I feel great with how my stuff is. The confidence level's really high right now."

Odorizzi and the Rays will be opposed by Jeremy Guthrie, who will be working where he often prospers -- Kauffman Stadium. Guthrie is 14-7 with a 3.73 ERA on his home ground since joining Kansas City in mid-2012.

The .667 winning percentage is the best among the 40 pitchers in franchise history with at least 25 home starts. Immediately behind him are Royals Hall of Famers Larry Gura, .651, and Dennis Leonard, .648. Current rotation mate Bruce Chen is next at .641.

Guthrie, who turned 35 on Monday, is making his second start this season -- both at home. He picked up a win at the home opener last Friday, going 5 2/3 innings of the 7-5 victory against the White Sox, 7-5.

Facing the Rays was old stuff for him in his years with Baltimore. Overall, he is 8-11 in 23 games against them with a 4.11 ERA.

Royals: Salvy savoring walks
Salvador Perez, the Royals' big catcher, drew only 19 unintentional bases on balls last season in 526 plate appearances. Already this season he has drawn six unintentional walks in 28 trips to the plate.

"It's an example of his hard work and effort on the two-strike approach," manager Ned Yost said. "That's exactly what it is. Salvy could have had a lot of walks last year, but he swung at ball four a lot of times. He's making a concerted effort, as a lot of our guys are, to narrow down his pitch selection with two strikes."

Hitting coach Pedro Grifol is working to get the Royals more walks this year. Early returns are positive. Through six games, the Royals had received 22 walks to rank sixth in the American League. Last year they finished 13th among the 15 clubs with 422.

Rays: Dodging the shutout
On Monday night, the Rays narrowly avoided being shut out for the second straight game for the seventh time in club history -- and for the third time in eight games this season.

Trailing, 4-0, Ben Zobrist led off the ninth inning with a home run off Jason Vargas, and Matt Joyce later delivered a pinch-hit RBI single.

Zobrist's homer ended a streak of scoreless innings for the Rays' offense at 17. Joyce's single ended a team 0-for-17 streak with runners in scoring position. The Rays went on to win Tuesday's game, 1-0, on a ninth-inning single by James Loney

Worth noting
• When Yost notched his 287th victory with the Royals on Monday night, he passed Hal McRae's managerial win total and tied John Wathan for fourth on the team list. Next ahead of Yost is Tony Muser with 317 victories.

• Jeremy Hellickson turned 27 on Tuesday. The right-hander is on the disabled list following January surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow, but he is traveling with the team on the nine-game road stretch.

• Heath Bell worked the final 2 2/3 innings for the Rays on Monday night, his longest outing since tossing 2 2/3 for the Padres on Oct. 1, 2007, at Colorado -- the Game 163 tiebreaker that the Rockies won, 9-8, in 13 innings. That day Bell did not allow a hit or run in relief of Jake Peavy, allowing San Diego to tie the game in the eighth. Comments