KANSAS CITY -- Reducing the number of bases on balls doled out by the Royals' pitching staff was a priority last year for manager Ned Yost.
It succeeded to a certain extent. After leading the American League in walks with 557 in 2011, the Royals dropped to third-most with 542 last season.
Through Monday, however, the Royals had issued the third-fewest walks with 64 in 23 games (tied with the Rangers). In just 21 games last April, they gave up a whopping 87.
The big difference, according to Yost, is the new guys on the mound. The Royals have four pitchers who were not in their rotation last April.
"That's it. Guys that can command the baseball," Yost said.
In other words, guys that throw strikes.
"That's the secret," starter Ervin Santana said. "Try to get ahead and not try to do too much. When you get the hitter 3-2, you don't think, 'It's 3-2.' Just go at it."
Santana hasn't issued a walk in his last two starts, which cover 14 innings.
Relievers have done their part, too. Left-hander Tim Collins, who once had command issues, has walked just two in nine innings. He solved his problems with some alterations in his delivery.
"You've just got to find something that works for you and repeat it," Collins said. "Just being able to be consistent, that's all it is."
Johnson motivated in start against former team
KANSAS CITY -- Pitcher James Shields wasn't the only ex-Tampa Bay player to start against the Rays on Tuesday night.
Elliot Johnson, who joined the Royals in the same offseason trade, came off the bench to make his fifth start at second base.
Manager Ned Yost said his primary motivation was to get Johnson some at-bats and possibly improve his .118 batting average. But the fact that the Royals were playing the Rays figured into it as well.
"That's part of it, too," Yost said. "You know, when I got traded from Milwaukee to Texas, and we went in there the first game and I wasn't playing, I was mad. They want to play. And I'm trying to get Elliot going a little bit, too. He was a .270 hitter last year left-handed."
Johnson was pleased by the development.
"He saw me in the food room last night and let me know I was playing," Johnson said. "I appreciated the opportunity to try to get something going against these guys. You want to play every day, to be honest with you, but with them coming to town and Shields pitching, there's something to be said for that. I'm happy to get out there and play against these guys."
Mendoza patiently awaiting next start
KANSAS CITY -- Luis Mendoza won the Royals' No. 5 starting job in Spring Training, but 24 games into the season, he's made just two starts.
His third start is scheduled for Wednesday night against Tampa Bay. "Scheduled" because the weather forecast looks chancy.
"I hear tomorrow the weather is going to change a little bit. But I'll just be patient and wait for that start," Mendoza said on Tuesday afternoon when warm sunshine and dry weather prevailed.
His start at Detroit last week was eliminated by a rainout, although he did get in 2 1/3 innings of relief on Wednesday against the Tigers.
"The two innings of relief kind of gave me an idea of how to get to the mound again," Mendoza said, smiling. "I remembered what it was like."
This will be his second start against the Rays. He faced them last Aug. 22 at Tropicana Field and lost to current teammate James Shields, 5-3. He found the Trop's artificial turf didn't do his sinking fastball any favors.
"Ground balls on that turf are kind of hard," Mendoza said. "But I'm going to stay the same. Trust my sinker and try to get some ground balls early in the count."
Manager Ned Yost thinks that despite the inactivity, Mendoza will be fine.
"He's a guy that doesn't freak out too much and over-analyze the situation -- 'I haven't pitched in two weeks, am I going to be all right?' " Yost said. "He just goes out, grabs the ball and does what he does. It's a good mindset to have, a perfect mindset for a No. 5 starter."
School Day at the K postponed due to weather
KANSAS CITY -- How appropriate is this? Weather day is postponed because of a poor forecast.
Actually, the title is "School Day at The K," and it's an annual function that brings thousands of kids to Kauffman Stadium to learn about science and weather from Fox 4 television's meteorologist. The 15th School Day at the K was supposed to happen on Thursday before an afternoon game against Tampa Bay.
However, a forecast for cold and rain on Thursday prompted the postponement of School Day to Wednesday, June 12, before a 1:10 p.m. CT game against Detroit.
Thursday's game between the Rays and Royals, however, remains on schedule.
Rays' Price honored by Negro Leagues Museum
KANSAS CITY -- David Price received yet another honor when he was awarded the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's 2012 Wilbur "Bullet" Rogan Award as American League Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday. The museum is located in Kansas City.
Prior to Price receiving the award, he enjoyed a tour of the museum led by Bob Kendrick, the president of the museum.
Joining Price at the museum were pitching coach Jim Hickey, hitting coach Derek Shelton and outfield coach George Hendrick.
Price, who was unable to attend the museum's awards dinner in January, also presented the museum with a $5,000 donation from the Rays.