GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A week ago when the Royals faced the White Sox, James Shields opted to skip that assignment and pitch in a Minor League game instead. He didn't want to face the same team that he'd oppose on April 1 on Opening Day at Chicago.
Fellow starter Jeremy Guthrie had the same decision to make on Sunday but opted to face the White Sox.
"Guthrie wants to pitch in a big league game," Royals manager Ned Yost explained. "He doesn't like pitching in a Minor League game. He feels he gets more accomplished in a big league game. He doesn't care if they see him or not. If he executes his pitches, he said, `I don't care.'"
So it was that Guthrie, who'll face the White Sox in the season's third game on April 4, pitched six innings against them at Camelback Ranch and bagged an 8-2 victory.
Guthrie was asked if he'd pitch the White Sox any differently in the real season.
"No, hopefully, I'll get 'em out both times," he replied. "That's the goal. I faced 'em four times in a month and a half last year, so if they don't know what I'm going to throw them by now ... "
So there was no trickery on his part, no subterfuge to confuse the White Sox, no tomfoolery?
"Oh, everything I threw today was the exact opposite of what I'll throw next game," he said, planting his tongue firmly in his cheek. "If I threw a changeup today, it'll be a fastball. If I threw a curveball, it'll be a fastball. If I threw a slider, it'll be a slow curveball. Every single one of the pitches I throw will be the exactly opposite of what I threw today."
"No, I just try to go out and work and make sure everything feels good and go out there and pitch," he said seriously.
Yost liked what he saw in Guthrie's fifth start, counting a rainout effort.
"He threw the ball great. I guess the best way I could describe it is he pitched," Yost said.
Guthrie insisted that he's very pleased about his training pace.
"I feel like the progression has been really good, both the way I feel as well as the number of pitches. The last two starts, the work in between has been really helpful in feeling comfortable and getting in the groove and throwing the pitches," he said. "So I've felt good about the last two starts and I've got one more and I'll continue to work in the side sessions to get crisper."
Crisper, like the veggies in a refrigerator drawer?
"No crisper like in an oven on broil," he said.
There's no beating him in a word game, either.
Gordon, Francoeur produce big hits
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Alex Gordon whacked his fifth home run, taking the Royals' team lead by one over Mike Moustakas, and Jeff Francoeur pounded two doubles, taking back control over his hitting fortunes in Sunday's 8-2 victory over the White Sox.
Gordon's two-run blast snapped a 1-1 fifth-inning tie and Francoeur launched a two-run double later in the inning.
While Gordon has hit consistently all spring (.407), Francoeur has been trying to yank himself out of the doldrums and he's finally succeeding. He has six hits in his last 12 at-bats and his overall average is up to .262.
"Frenchy's getting really close to being ready for the season," manager Ned Yost said. "The last week he's really started to get his timing, get his groove on if you will."
Club spring win mark within reach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Royals have won four straight games and stand 21-6-1 overall, one shy of their all-time victory mark for a Spring Training.
The most wins came in 1999, when they were based at Baseball City, Fla., and had a 22-9 record. They also reached the 20-win mark in 2011 (20-10-1) in Arizona.
They have six games remaining in the Cactus League, including a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday. There have been two rainouts this year.
The Royals will break camp after Friday afternoon's game and head for Chicago, where they'll open the season on April 1.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.