SURPRISE, Ariz. — Relief pitcher Greg Holland has plenty of spring training outings on his resume, but this one featured the added dynamic of the former Royals closer being a veteran on a minor-league deal who is competing for a roster spot.
Holland made his spring debut and got the win in the Royals' 8-5 victory over the San Diego Padres at Surprise Stadium Monday. Jorge Soler, Khalil Lee and MJ Melendez each hit home runs for the Royals. Star catcher Salvador Perez also played first base for the first time this spring.
"I feel good," Holland said. "It's a little different scenario trying to make a team as opposed to just trying to be ready for opening day. There's some adjustments there. I need to be a little more ahead of schedule than maybe I would in the past. I've still got to look at the big picture, make sure I'm saying stuff if I've got soreness and stuff and need to take a day or something.
"Right now, physically I feel really good, and I'm excited about how today went."
Holland, who anchored one of the best bullpens in baseball when the Royals made back-to-back trips to the World Series in 2014 and 2015, signed a minor-league deal with the Royals on Jan. 28.
He pitched a scoreless sixth inning Monday against the Padres. He got a fly-out to center field, a ground-out to second and a pop-out in foul territory on the first base side of the infield.
"Spring training is kind of one of those things where you want to go out there and compete, but there's also stuff that you need to improve on," Holland said. "For me it's throwing more strikes, quite honestly. How do you do that? You make your delivery repeatable. It's in a good spot right now."
Holland added that at times when working ahead in the count, he may throw pitches he feel he needs to work on even if it's not the "right sequence."
Right-hander Brad Keller, last year's opening day starter, allowed two runs on two hits in one inning in his first Cactus League appearance of the spring. He allowed a single to left-handed hitting Josh Naylor on a chopper toward the third base side against a defense shifted to the opposite side of the infield.
The next batter, Manny Machado, hit a 2-0 pitch from Keller to deep left field for a two-run home run.
"A 2-0 fastball that I wish I got a little more in, but it crossed the plate and he put a pretty good swing on it," Keller said. "Overall, I got groundballs when I needed to. I felt like command was there. I was down the whole time. Went up when I wanted to go up, so it was good."
Former Royals star first baseman Eric Hosmer started for the visiting Padres and batted cleanup against his former club. Hosmer went 0-for-2 before exiting the game.
Before the game, Hosmer and Royals catcher Salvador Perez posed for a picture together. Both were key members of the Royals' back-to-back pennant-winning teams in 2014-15 and the World Series championship club in 2015.
While Padres first-year manager Jayce Tingler doesn't have ties to the Royals, he is a native of Smithville, Missouri, and was drafted into professional baseball out of the University of Missouri.
The Royals will start Jorge Lopez in Tuesday's game against the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Trevor Rosenthal, Andres Machado, Aranaldo Hernandez, Yunior Marte, Chance Adams and Daniel Tillo are also scheduled to pitch. Braden Shipley was initially scheduled to pitch, but Royals manager Mike Matheny said he's been sick.
The starters for Wednesday's split-squad contests will be Foster Griffin at home against the Chicago White Sox and Brady Singer on the road against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa.