2-27-08 -- Josh Hamilton hit a two-run double in the fifth inning Wednesday and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 6-1 in their spring training opener.
Hamilton was the first player chosen in the 1999 draft, but played only 15 professional games from 2003-06 after being suspended for violating baseball’s drug policy. The Rangers acquired him in a December trade with Cincinnati.
“That guy just keeps his hands inside the baseball and he’s strong,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “He generated bat speed. It was great. He just missed one in the first inning.”
Royals outfielder Justin Huber almost caught Hamilton’s double off the left-field fence, which scored Julio Borbon and Ryan Roberts.
“It hung up there long enough to catch,” Huber said. “I got a good read on it. I just misjudged it at the end. It ricocheted off my glove. You don’t see those plays very often, but you want to catch them when they come your way. That changed the game, that play.”
Right-hander Luke Hochevar, first overall pick in the 2006 draft, pitched two perfect innings for the Royals. Hochevar, vying for a spot in the Royals’ rotation or as a reliever, did not allow the ball out of the infield.
“He was outstanding,” Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. “I learned a little bit more about him, not only with what he did with his pitches. He was sick in the dugout after he pitched and didn’t say anything to me or the pitching coach. That tells me what kind of guy he is on the inside. That’s the kind of guy we want toeing the rubber. That was an added bonus, as far as I’m concerned.”
Taylor Teagarden, a non-roster Rangers invite as a catcher, homered off left-hander Ron Mahay to lead off the seventh. David Murphy doubled in the second to score Marlon Byrd, who also doubled, in the second for the first Texas run.
Japanese reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta, who was making his Royals debut, gave up two runs and three hits in the eighth.
Tony Pena Jr.’s RBI single in the fifth produced the only Kansas City run.
The Royals signed OF Shane Costa, INF Alberto Callaspo and INF Angel Sanchez to 2008 contracts, leaving only five unsigned players. … The Northern Illinois baseball team, which is participating in a college tournament that begins Thursday at Surprise Stadium, was honored in pregame ceremonies. Northern Illinois originally was scheduled to play last week at Texas Tech, but the series was canceled for the team to attend a campus memorial after a gunman killed five people and shot himself on Feb. 14 at the Dekalb, Ill., university.