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Royals trio makes an impression in winter play

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KANSAS CITY -- Look at the Winter League statistics for Royals players and not much jumps out, but there were some notable accomplishments.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas played for Venezuela's Cardenales de Lara, managed by the Royals' hitting coach, Pedro Grifol. Moustakas batted .288 with three homers, six doubles and 17 RBIs in 17 games.

Moustakas, a left-handed batter, got some needed time against left-handed pitchers, who held him to a .196 average last season.

"I think the biggest positive that came out of it was on a nightly basis, he was facing left-handed pitching," said assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. "Every time the lineup turns over in the back third of a winter ballgame, it's usually matchups, so he was getting the chance to face a lot of left-handers. Certainly, if there were guys on base, they were bringing in left-handers to face him, and I think that certainly helped him."

Moustakas got in a lot of extra cage time with Grifol as well.

"I think Moose is going to be prepared for this year, and he's already down in Arizona and is starting his workouts with Pedro and the staff that's down there now," Picollo said.

Catcher Salvador Perez was also active in Venezuela, playing in about half of Tiburones de la Guaira's games, but he didn't do much catching. He manned first base in 22 games.

"Salvy's going to catch the bulk of the games here, and it was more for the at-bats than anything," Picollo said. "It's something that Salvy takes a lot of pride in, and he wanted to help his team and play down there, so it was a way to get him at-bats and not have him get beat up behind the plate."

Perez had a .298 average in 31 games, with 10 extra-base hits and 17 RBIs.

On the pitching side, three of Kelvin Herrera's five appearances in the Dominican Republic were starts, but that's not his future; he'll stay in the bullpen. He pitched just 9 1/3 innings for Leones del Escogido and had a 1.93 ERA, with 14 strikeouts.

"The mind-set there is just to continue to develop his pitches and continue to build confidence in his breaking ball and, throwing multiple innings in each outing as opposed to one inning, it lends itself better to do that," Picollo said.

Another reliever, Francisley Bueno, made five starts for Tigres del Licey to get his work in and posted a 2.25 ERA.

Stealing the thunder among the winter pitchers, though, was Minor League right-hander Spencer Patton. Playing in Mexico, in 20 relief outings (25 innings), Patton had a 0.72 ERA, 10 saves, a 2-1 record and 32 strikeouts against six walks.

Patton's team, Caneros de los Mochis, begged him to stay when he left before Christmas. But after a busy summer of pitching for Wilmington, Northwest Arkansas and Omaha (in the playoffs), he'd thrown enough.

"He's kind of a sleeper in our system. He's been under the radar, but he's had solid years," Picollo said.

Especially this year when, between Class A and Double-A, he went 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old will be a candidate for the Triple-A bullpen this year.

"He's got deception. His fastball is above average, and he's got a little slider to go with it and, at a higher level, his numbers have actually gotten better. I think he's just gaining confidence," Picollo said.

For all of the Royals' winter league statistics, click here .

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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