SURPRISE – Now the fun begins.
After 20 exhibition games between national teams and MLB clubs, World Baseball Classic competition for Team USA begins Saturday. The U.S. will face Great Britain at 7 p.m. at Chase Field in Pool C play, which includes Mexico, Canada and Colombia.
During those exhibition games, MLB clubs from the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues went 11-9 against the national teams.
Friday was the final day of practice for the national teams, but Thursday the Kansas City Royals had a unique opportunity to see Team’s USA’s Saturday opponent.
The Royals were the second team the British club faced after losing to the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday
Bats were hot early for the Royals, who hammered in five runs within the first two innings, including a Matt Beaty three-run home run in the bottom of the second to bring Jakson Reetz and Nick Loftin in to score.
Right-handed veteran and former Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke started the game for the Royals and was credited with the win for his three-inning, one-run earned outing. Thursday was Greinke’s third appearance of the spring.
Greinke was surprised to learn there was no pitch timer for Thursday’s game, claiming he didn’t know until he took the mound.
“I was planning on working with the pitch clock and then there was no pitch clock. … I figured that during a spring training game they’d have it,” Greinke said.
Despite the absence of a pitch clock, the game still had a comparable pace to other spring training games, with the full game taking just 2 hours, 32 minutes.
After allowing a single run in the top of the second, Royals pitchers took control, giving up only three hits and shutting out Great Britain for the remainder of the game, helping the Royals to their 8-1 win.
Thursday’s exhibition game reflected the dominance the Royals have shown during spring training, including their top-of-the-league batting and consistent pitching, a much needed change from 2022’s struggles.
For the next few weeks, players and coaches in the Royals locker room may find things a bit more spacious with several players away from the team to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
During the spring, the absence of these players can be a positive for some, with more at-bats, innings pitched and defensive substitutions to go around.
“It gives us the opportunity to move guys around,” manager Matt Quatraro said.
One of those players Quatraro mentioned is infielder Clay Dungan, who addressed the the positives the classic brings to the clubhouse.
“A lot of us will get more opportunities with the guys being gone, but it’s also cool to see them on TV playing for their countries,” Dungan said.