Two veteran right-handers will go head-to-head when the Kansas City Royals host the Minnesota Twins in the second game of their three-game series on Saturday afternoon.
Jordan Lyles is set to start for Kansas City and Sonny Gray will take the ball for Minnesota after a day off on Friday.
Bothteams pitched well in Thursday's season opener, but the Twins were slightly better in the 2-0 victory. Pablo Lopez threw 5 1/3 shutout innings before four relievers combined to blank the Royals the rest of the way.
Gray went 8-5 last year in his first season with the Twins, posting a 3.08 ERA in 24 starts. The 33-year-old averaged just under 5.0 innings per start, however. That was slightly better than the team average of 4.8, which was second-lowest among starting pitching staffs in the American League.
Gray said that mindset needs to change.
"I don't think we're interested in going four innings and being happy," Gray said after his last spring training outing on Sunday. "I feel like we had a group last year that was pretty content with going four innings, and (where) going four innings and five innings is considered a good start, I disagreed with that then and I disagree with that now."
Gray said he senses a different attitude among his fellow starters this spring.
"I feel like the guys that we have aren't content with (short outings) either, which is what you want, especially as a rotation," Gray said. "You want to build off each other. You don't want to go out there and throw four innings and walk away happy about it."
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli likes to see Gray's competitiveness boil to the surface, but he won't alter the way he handles his pitching staff.
"It's my job to decide when they pitch, how long they pitch and how we win the games." Baldelli said. "Sonny is a tremendous competitor and I want our guys to always want to be out there and get the next out."
Gray has pitched well against the Royals in his career, owning a 7-2 record in 10 starts with a 1.66 ERA.
Lyles posted career highs in victories and starts last season, finishing 12-11 for the Baltimore Orioles with a 4.42 ERA in 32 starts. The 32-year-old led the Orioles in innings pitched (179), strikeouts (144) and victories.
Now on his eighth MLB team in 13 years, the Royals are counting on Lyles to go deep in games.
"(Lyles) has shown in the last two years that he can really handle a heavy workload," executive vice president/general manager J.J. Picollo said shortly after signing Lyles to a two-year deal in December.
Lyles said he feels fortunate to have remained relatively healthy throughout his career, allowing him to chew up innings along the way.
"That boils down to taking care of yourself in between starts," Lyles said. "Secondly, it's just never turning the mind off. Never closing the ears. Always asking questions. I ask young guys just as many questions as 10-year guys."
Lyles has made three starts against the Twins in his career with no decisions and a 3.57 ERA.
--Field Level Media