By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Yu Darvish struck out four in two innings of the spring opener for Texas, and Prince Fielder hit a towering solo homer as the Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 11-7 on Thursday.
Darvish, who led the majors with 277 strikeouts and was second in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season, threw 23 of 29 pitches for strikes. His first pitch to all eight batters faced was a strike.
“I think it worked out very well,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s pitchers meetings and I think (pitching coach Mike) Maddux is going to praise my performance. … There’s a lot of life to my fastball, a lot of movement on my slider.”
The Rangers struggled at times last year to score runs behind Darvish, who was the first pitcher since 1989 to have four 1-0 losses in the same season.
“Hopefully we can turn that around,” Fielder said.
Texas led 4-0 before Darvish’s final pitch in the Cactus League opener, and never trailed.
Fielder, acquired in a trade from Detroit for Ian Kinsler, had a weak grounder in the first inning. In the third, he pulled a homer over the Rangers bullpen, well beyond the 350-foot sign on the right field fence.
“Just got lucky. (He) threw it where my bat was going,” Fielder said. “Obviously they don’t count, but they’re definitely good for you mentally.”
BREWERS 11, A’S 3
PHOENIX — Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat back from suspension, Juan Francisco slugged two homers and the Milwaukee Brewers opened their spring training schedule with an 11-3 win Thursday over the Oakland Athletics.
Braun hit an 0-1 pitch from starter Tommy Milone high in the air and over the fence near the left-field corner. The 2011 NL MVP was greeted by mainly a hearty chorus of cheers, though there were some jeers before the at-bat.
It was Braun’s first time in the Brewers lineup since July 21, 2013. He was suspended the next day for violating Major League Baseball’s anti-drug agreement.
Milone was tagged for three runs in two innings, while Jed Lowrie had a two-run double in the first for Oakland.
D-BACKS (SS) 5, CUBS 2
MESA, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija pitched two shutout innings before an overflow crowd in the Chicago Cubs’ opener at their new stadium, a 5-2 loss to an Arizona Diamondbacks split-squad on Thursday.
The crowd of 14,486 at the new stadium at Riverview Park set a Cactus League record.
Samardzija, the Cubs’ No. 1 starter last season, allowed a walk and a single to start the game, but then got Paul Goldschmidt to fly out. He then struck out Aaron Hill and Eric Chavez to end the first inning.
Samardzija allowed a single to Miguel Montero in the second inning.
Martin Prado had two singles and a run-scoring double for Arizona. Eric Chavez followed Prado’s double with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Cubs reliever Jose Veras gave up two runs in the sixth.
MARINERS 7, PADRES 1
PEORIA, Ariz. — Robinson Cano didn’t want to wait. One pitch was good enough to get his Seattle Mariners career started.
“I don’t want to go out there and take a pitch. I want to see how I feel,” Cano said. “Maybe from now on I’ll take a pitch.”
Cano lined a single into center field on the first pitch he saw in a Seattle uniform, part of a two-run first inning that sent new manager Lloyd McClendon and the Mariners over the San Diego Padres 7-1 on Thursday in a Cactus League opener.
Cano drew the loudest ovation of the day when he was introduced, then got his hit against Eric Stults. The All-Star left the Yankees in the offseason and signed a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Mariners.
Cano played three innings. He walked on four pitches in the third before being lifted for a pinch runner. He had two assists playing at second base.
“It feels good and I know my swing is there. From now on I have to be patient,” Cano said.
Cano’s one-out single in the first put runners on the corners. Logan Morrison scored Kyle Seager with a sacrifice fly and Cano raced home when Justin Smoak doubled into the right-center field gap. Cano and Smoak spent time on a practice field earlier this week working on Smoak’s swing.
“That was a beautiful swing,” Cano said, adding that if the switch-hitting Smoak keeps his hand inside while batting right-hander, “you will see the difference this season.”
Seattle added another run in the second when Dustin Ackley led off with a ground-rule double and scored on Mike Zunino’s sacrifice fly. Seattle added three more runs in the sixth and another in the seventh, helped along by four San Diego errors.
“That was a tough inning for us there but overall we saw some good things,” San Diego manager Bud Black said.
RED SOX 5, NORTHEASTERN 2
RED SOX 5, BOSTON COLLEGE 2
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Outfielder Grady Sizemore returned to the field for the first time since 2011 as the World Series champion Boston Red Sox started off their spring schedule Thursday, beating Northeastern 5-2 and then defeating Boston College 5-2.
Both games were seven innings.
Manager John Farrell was satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I thought for the most part we threw strikes, we stayed in control of the count for the better part of the guys that walked to the mound, and it’s good to see guys in game situations to see their instincts,” Farrell said.
“I thought we ran the bases well,” he said. “I think just the fact that we got 14 innings in and get our pregame routine prior to a game adjusted. A good day.”
The 31-year-old Sizemore, who joined the Red Sox in January as a free agent, was once one of baseball’s most dynamic players, an All-Star with the Indians from 2006-2008 with two Gold Gloves, before being sidelined by injuries.
Since 2009, he has undergone seven surgeries, including procedures on his left elbow, both knees and a herniated disk in his lower back in 2012.
Sizemore went 0 for 2, playing three innings in left field in the first game of the doubleheader against Boston-based college teams.
“It was fun,” Sizemore said. “It was exciting. I was looking forward to it for a couple days now. But happy to get out there and get back into games.”
“I was anxious just to kind of get going. Honestly, I was just excited. I just kind of wanted to get going. I felt better than I anticipated, so I was just looking forward to getting out there and seeing how it would go.”
Northeastern sophomore James Mulry, from Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood and a graduate of Boston Latin School, nearly struck out the side in the third. After striking out Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, Mulry had Mike Napoli at 1-2 before giving up a single and walking Jonny Gomes. But he got Xander Bogaerts to groundout, ending the inning.
“It was a day I’ll never forget,” Mulry said. “I grew up watching these guys and getting the opportunity to pitch against them was an unbelievable experience, never mind striking them out. They are two of the best players from my generation and I am lucky to have had this chance to play them.”
Mulry impressed at least one of his victims.
“I was trying to see if I can get a strike to hit or whatever, but he ended up throwing me a nasty breaking ball,” Ortiz said. “He can party tonight.”
“He can have a drink tonight and say, ‘I struck out Papi.’”
Said Farrell of the back-to-back strikeouts: “Hopefully that’s the last time we see it.”
“But for all of our guys seeing live pitching for the first time in a game situation, it was a good day overall regardless of the result.”
Dodgers’ Greinke leaves
start with calf injury
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke left his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday after throwing just four pitches because of a mild right calf strain.
“I think it’s minor, but we’ll see,” Greinke said. “I don’t know exactly what it was, but it felt kind of like a cramp.”
Grienke was making his first spring start after saying he had “zero interest” making the trip for the Dodgers’ two regular-season games in Sydney, Australia, March 22-23 against Arizona.
But now Geinke says he’d like to start a game Sydney Cricket Ground.
“If we’re going to be there, which obviously we are, then, yes, I’d like to pitch over there,” he said. “I’m looking forward to flying over there.
“No one wants me to say it this way, but in my vote, if we could go over there, my vote was not to,” he said. “But more people wanted to go than not. So, now that we are going, I want to be there. I don’t want to not go and have the rest of the team go and have to play and me sit here watching. I also don’t want to go over there and watch. I want to go over there and play, since that’s what we’re doing.”
His initial comments, he said, were based on concerns that the trip would alter his spring training.
“It’s just the routine thing,” he said. “I want to pitch good. I want to win games. When you’re forced to do something you’re not used to doing, it’s harder to be able to do it at the best of your abilities. It’s still possible, but it makes it harder.
“I’ve never been real big on what people’s perceptions are of me,” Grienke added. “The only goal is to try to win as many games as possible.”
Greinke left the mound after throwing two pitches to the Diamondbacks second hitter, Cliff Pennington. He retired Tony Campana on two pitches. Following the second pitch to Pennington, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Stan Conte, chief of the club’s medical staff, rushed to the mound. Greinke threw a couple of warmup pitches and then headed for the clubhouse.
“I just was walking around the mound a little bit,” Greinke said. “I didn’t think I was going to need to come out this time, but after talking to them, that’s what they decided. I’d like to see how it feels later.”