GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Shortstop Alcides Escobar was out of the Royals' lineup with back stiffness for the third straight game on Thursday and will probably miss Friday's split-squad day-night doubleheader as well.
"We'll see about Saturday," manager Ned Yost said. "It's a little bit stiff. It's getting better and better every day, but there's no need to rush this."
Utility man Elliot Johnson again started at shortstop.
Despite outing, Guthrie says he's 'barely' in gear
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie claims he feels like he's barely getting into gear. Manager Ned Yost sees him as close to ready for the season.
Whatever the case really may be, Guthrie made his third appearance in Thursday's 5-3 victory over the Indians and gave up two runs on five hits in four innings. He threw 69 pitches.
"I felt like I really haven't pitched in spring, it's kind of a weird feeling, but I'm at March 14 and I felt like this could've been my first outing," Guthrie said. "I'm still trying to find a rhythm. I think it's because the outings have been so spread out and the rainout made it feel like a not-a-game, so I honestly feel like this is my first time pitching in seven months."
In his last game, he worked three innings, giving up three runs to the Rockies before the rain arrived.
Against the Indians, Guthrie saw pluses and minuses, including a home run by Lonnie Chisenhall. With the Indians being a division opponent, Guthrie paid special attention because he's likely to see a lot of them this year.
"I try to experiment. See what works, see what doesn't. I think we found out a few things that don't and a few things that did," he said. "You try it all."
After many cool days in camp, the game-time temperature was 88 degrees, but Guthrie saw no particular benefit.
"The hottest of the spring," Guthrie said. "Unless the hot air gets me a strikeout or an automatic out, it has yet to help me."
Yost tried to put Guthrie's performance in perspective.
"You see what he does so well? Number one, he's professional. He uses this time to polish his mechanics, work on his delivery, get his tempo, really focuses on commanding his pitches," Yost said. "I thought his last two innings were better than his first two innings, and his first two weren't too bad. I thought he threw the ball well today. He's getting really close."
Veteran Wheeler competing for job in bullpen
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Right-hander Dan Wheeler, the second-most experienced pitcher in Royals' camp, is making an old-fashioned good impression so far.
Wheeler hasn't been charged with a run in six games and six innings of relief in the Cactus League. He has given up six hits and one walk and, most significantly, he's struck out 11 of the 25 batters he's faced.
He's 35 and his nine years and 90 days of service time on big league rosters is second among pitchers only to Bruce Chen's nine years, 171 days. As a career reliever, Wheeler's 589 appearances are far more than Chen's 351.
With the Royals, he's a non-roster player with a Minor League contract.
"I came in, and I feel good. The only thing I can do is take advantage of every opportunity I get, so that's all I'm doing right now, just going in and trying to make some pitches," Wheeler said.
Last year, he struggled with Cleveland and went to Triple-A Columbus, where he changed his delivery a bit and found success.
"Just a little mechanical adjustment, just kind of getting my hips turned a little bit more. It helps me load a little bit better and lets my hands catch up with the rest of my body," Wheeler said. "I put myself in a better position to deliver a pitch."
Even after all that experience, Wheeler found a change that helped.
"Absolutely. You're an idiot if you don't think you can learn something every day," he said. "I still come in every day trying to get better at 35, so it's something that never stops."
Wheeler is among several veteran pitchers the Royals brought in on Minor League deals this year to build pitching depth; others include George Sherrill, Blaine Boyer and Brian Sanches. But Wheeler isn't thinking about the Minors.
"Every day I come in to compete for a Major League job," he said.
Even Royals coaches can't spell 'Francoeur'
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This is the Royals' Thursday batting order as written on the lineup card posted in the clubhouse by coach Eddie Rodriguez: Godon, Johnsan, Butlet, Moustakois, Peraz, Francoir, Caind, More, Giavotillis.
Filling out the lineup card is Rodriguez's daily duty and you'll notice he was 9-for-9 in misspelled names. Let manager Ned Yost explain:
"That was in tribute to Jeff Francoeur, because Eddie spelled his name wrong twice and Frenchy got all over him, so he spelled every name wrong today so Frenchy wouldn't feel so alone," Yost said.
It seems that Rodriguez was putting the o-e-u in Francoeur's name in an incorrect order.
"'Bout time he gets it right," Francoeur said.
Or, in Thursday's case, every name wrong.
Yost sees several bullpen options for retiring lefties
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- How important would it be for the Royals to have a situational left-hander in the bullpen?
"It's important but it's a little less important for us, because we've got [Kelvin] Herrera and [Aaron] Crow that can get lefties out," manager Ned Yost said. "It's still a luxury, but it's a really nice luxury to have."
He listed Everett Teaford, Atahualpa Severino, Francisley Bueno and Donnie Joseph as lefties in camp that might fit the bill as a left-handed specialist.
The only southpaw locked into a bullpen role is Tim Collins, and Yost doesn't view him as a pitcher to use against lefties only.
"I like to use Timmy in spots in the lineup where there are lefties and switch-hitters, but if there's righties mixed in there, I don't worry about it, because Timmy gets righties out good, too," Yost said. "These other guys would be more apt to come in and face Prince Fielder in a tight situation or Ryan Howard when we play Philadelphia, Chase Utley, [Joe] Mauer, [Jason] Morneau -- to get you out of an inning."
So far, Yost hasn't had much of a chance to see Teaford, who missed time with a sore shoulder, or Severino, who left to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
After two perfect innings on Thursday, Bueno has pitched in six games, giving up three runs and eight hits in 8 1/3 innings. Last season he appeared in 18 games with a 1.56 ERA and he held left-handed batters to a .263 mark but was even better against righties, at .222.
"Bueno did a nice job of coming in last year and getting righties and lefties out. He wasn't just a situation guy," Yost said.
Joseph has been in six Cactus League games, surrendering just one run with 11 strikeouts in six innings. He's given up two hits and no walks.
"The word on Donnie is that at times he could pitch himself into trouble but always pitched himself out. He hasn't shown that here," Yost said. "He's shown he can pitch himself out, but he hasn't shown he can pitch himself in. He hasn't pitched himself into trouble yet."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.