KC@CWS: Shields notches his first Royals strikeout

CHICAGO -- Royals right-hander James Shields had a bat in his hand on Thursday morning and was headed for the batting cage at U.S. Cellular Field. Someone asked him if he was feeling "hitterish."

Shields just smiled.

"I'm feeling hitterish right now, because I'm going to the batting cage," Shields said. "I don't know if in the game I'm going to be feeling so hitterish."

Shields is one of three starting pitchers who'll be batting this weekend at Philadelphia, where the Royals' first Interleague series of the season will be played. With the new schedule prompted by Houston's move to the American League, the AL visits to National League parks are occurring throughout the season rather than in a midyear clump.

The other Royals' series at NL parks: April 16-17 at Atlanta; May 29-30 at St. Louis, and Aug. 2-3-4 at the New York Mets. In anticipation, manager Ned Yost had his pitchers, primarily the starters and long relievers, begin batting and bunting practice early in Spring Training.

"They'll be prepared, but it's not like being a National League pitcher where you're hitting every five days," Yost said. "So Shields might hit in three games of 162. So, benefits? I don't know. ... We've always been prepared -- it's not that we weren't prepared, but we started Interleague Play in June and six weeks out, we started batting practice. So this year we started maybe eight weeks out, so we're no more prepared than we've ever been in the past."

Wade Davis, who'll start on Friday in Philly's home opener, will get the first hacks.

"It's going to be cold, it's probably going to rain and I'll probably be in the back corner of the box, trying to work a five-pitch at-bat without swinging," Davis said with slight grin. "Hopefully, avoid swinging at all."

Davis, though, has a different take on the benefits of pitchers' batting practice: "It helps us become a more complete player and understanding the game. I've always enjoyed hitting, not necessarily because I enjoyed swinging the bat, but understanding why my hands couldn't hit certain pitches and stuff like that helps you understand your opponents' swings -- why they work one way and why they can't hit certain pitches."

Luis Mendoza will start Saturday night and had the benefit of a couple of at-bats in a Cactus League game.

"It's been better than last year. I've been more confident at the plate," Mendoza said. "The two at-bats I had when we faced Milwaukee gave me kind of an idea how it's going to feel. Last year, I got two at-bats and felt like I hadn't hit in 10 years so it was weird. But now we start early in the spring practicing hitting and that gives you more confidence."

Shields has the prospect of facing Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels on Sunday and remembered, correctly, that he's 1-for-2 against him. That came on June 16, 2006, at Philly, when Shields not only pitched Tampa Bay to a 10-4 win, but went 2-for-3 at the plate.

"That was when I was 24 years old and young," Shields said.

In his career at the plate, Shields is 7-for-37 (.189). We'll see how "hitterish" he is on Sunday.

Dyson first lineup change of season for KC

Outlook: Dyson will be fourth outfielder in 2013

CHICAGO -- The Royals' first starting lineup change came on Thursday when Jarrod Dyson replaced Lorenzo Cain as the center fielder and was the eighth-place batter against the White Sox.

"My plan going in was to play Cain about five days a week, keep his legs underneath him and keep Dyson involved," manager Ned Yost said.

He noted that Dyson, a left-handed batter, entered Thursday's game 3-for-7 with a walk against White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd, so it was a logical time to put him in place of the right-handed Cain.

"I've got a pretty versatile bench and I want to try to keep them all involved," Yost said. "I don't want them sitting for long periods of time without playing."

In the first two games at Chicago, only Miguel Tejada came off the bench. He pinch-hit (and walked) for Chris Getz and played two innings at second base.

Royals have contingent of foreign-born players

CHICAGO -- Ten of the 27 Royals on their Major League roster are foreign-born.

That's 37 percent or higher than the overall pool of Major Leaguers which, on Opening Day, was at 28.2 percent foreign-born or 241 of 856 players (750 active and 106 disabled or restricted).

The Royals are Miguel Tejada, Kelvin Herrera, Ervin Santana and disabled Felipe Paulino from the Dominican Republic; Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez and J.C. Gutierrez from Venezuela; George Kottaras from Canada; Luis Mendoza from Mexico, and Bruce Chen from Panama.

Overall in the Majors, the Dominican ranks first with 89 players and Venezuela second with 63.