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Will hot spring carry Royals to rare April success?

The SportsXchange

Will March mean anything in April? That's the huge question for the Royals, who had their best spring training in club history but have normally struggled in the first month of the season.

The Royals finished spring training with a major-league-best 25-7-2 record. They hit .335, with three regulars topping .400 -- Lorenzo Cain (.450), Chris Getz (.450) and Alex Gordon (.438) -- with eight home runs.

Last year the Royals beat San Diego in their final exhibition game for a 16-16 record and then endured a 12-game losing streak in April, including a franchise-worst 10 consecutive home losses.

The Royals have won at least 20 games in spring training twice: They were 22-9 in 1999 and 20-10 in 2011. When the season started, they became doormats. They finished last in 1999 with a 64-97 record, 32 1/2 games out of first. In 2011, they went 71-91 and were 24 games in arrears.

With Arizona in their rearview mirror, the Royals will open the season on Monday at Chicago with James Shields, the ace they acquired from the Rays in the seven-player December blockbuster trade, starting against the White Sox.

"I'm looking forward to Monday," Shields said. "I'm excited. It's the first day of baseball. I think all the fans are excited. We're excited here, especially being as long as spring training has been. I think our team is ready to go. One of the things I'm most proud of is how we handled ourselves in the clubhouse and translated our attitude in the clubhouse out on the field. I think that's one of the reasons we won so many games this spring training. Hopefully, we can translate that in the season.

"This team is really good. They are fundamentally sound. For me, we're ready to go. We've worked really hard in spring training to get to where we're at. These guys are banging the ball around almost every single night and we're playing really good defense. As long as we can pitch and give us a chance to win every five days, I think we're good.

"We don't really put too much emphasis on winning in spring training. I mean obviously it's good. We don't want to lose every game. That's for sure. But it definitely gives us confidence going into the season. I think we understand what kind of team we are from the way we played in spring training. Obviously, we hit home runs and scored a lot of runs this spring. It's how we scored the runs. Gordo is leading off most of the games getting a hit, we're moving guys over, bunting guys over and we're executing and we're playing baseball. That's what we've got to do to win."

Miguel Tejada, who earned a roster spot as a utility player at the age of 38 after not playing in the majors last year, likes what he saw of his new club.

"This team can be real good," Tejada said. "I think what's happened in spring training it is going to take this team to another level. I think everybody here has in the mind that they can be anybody during the season because they already do it in spring training. I think that's going to be one of the reasons why everybody here is going to come into the season and right away play good baseball, because we already played good baseball in spring training."

Spring training records are washed away like sandcastles on the beach by the night waves. Nobody will remember in May what the Royals did in March. And April has been the cruelest month for the Royals. They have a franchise 406-496 record in April with only three winning Aprils in the past 23 years.
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