Mendoza makes news with Cactus start

Mendoza makes news with Cactus start

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Luis Mendoza didn't know he was the Royals' starting pitcher in next Sunday's Cactus League opener against the Rangers until a reporter asked him about it.

"That's good, man. I'm glad," Mendoza said with a huge smile. "It's a good feeling to know that."

Manager Ned Yost told reporters about it on Saturday, but not Mendoza.

"We haven't talked to him," Yost said. "I didn't know it was going be earth-shattering news and broadcast all over the BBC."

Well, the British likely weren't interested, but Mendoza certainly was, even though he'll probably pitch just an inning or two. It's an indication that the Royals are taking his bid for the starting rotation quite seriously.

Mendoza, who lives in Hermosillo, Mexico, pitched in winter ball after going 12-5 for Omaha and 2-0 for the Royals. For Yaquis de Obregon in Mexico he was 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 12 games.

Oddly enough, Mendoza said that his Mexican winter ball numbers had been pretty good in the past, but until this year he hadn't been able to follow through with similar success during summers in the United States.

"In winter ball I was smoother, I was throwing over the top and when I came here I just changed everything," he said. "Maybe it was the adrenaline because in winter ball, every game is like a championship, and you tried to throw hard and dominate all those guys."

Over the past two seasons, however, Omaha pitching coach Doug Henry pointed Mendoza in the right direction.

"One thing was to be more consistent in my delivery and to change my arm angle, just tried to be on the top," Mendoza said. "The other thing was to pitch inside more, no matter who I was facing. Like when I faced the Detroit Tigers, I pitched inside a lot and had success with my sinker. It was a good change for me."

Mendoza beat the Tigers, 10-2, last Sept. 20 for his first big league victory in more than three years before when he was with the Rangers. He also beat the Chicago White Sox, 2-1, and had a 1.23 ERA for his two big league games. Now he's got a shot at the Royals' rotation and that'll begin on Sunday.