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Ethier, Blake each homer as Dodgers top Royals 6-4

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Russ Ortiz is battling tall odds to earn a rotation slot, but if he continues to pitch as well as he did for Los Angeles on Thursday it will be difficult for the Dodgers not to keep him.

Ortiz gave up two singles, one not leaving the infield, and struck out three in three scoreless innings as the Dodgers defeated the Kansas City Royals 6-4.

Ortiz, who won 21 games in 2003 with the Atlanta Braves and from 1999-2004 won at least 14 games every season, is in camp on a minor league contract.

"At one time in my career, I felt like I was on top of the world," Ortiz said Thursday. "The next thing you know I could barely find a job. It goes by quick and it's very humbling."

Ortiz, a 35-year-old right-hander, began last season with Houston, but the Astros released him on July 31 with a 3-6 record and a 5.57 ERA. He also pitched in the minors in 2009 with the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies Triple-A clubs.

"Of course, I want to make it a good competition," Ortiz said. "I know what I need to do. I know how well I can throw. I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel like I could throw the ball well and be a big asset. Otherwise, I would be at home if I didn't think I could do that. I'm not trying to hold onto the game.

"It's been a humbling experience to come into a camp and have to make a team, but I think it also helps mature me. I have to come into spring training ready from day one."

Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer in the third off Royals starter Gil Meche and Casey Blake hit a two-run homer off rookie left-hander Edgar Osuna in the fifth.

Meche, who is penciled in as the Royals' No. 2 starter behind 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, was roughed up for four runs on seven hits and a walk in two-plus innings. Meche, who was limited to 23 starts last season because of back problems, threw 46 pitches, 28 for strikes.

"Health wise, I was good," Meche said. "I'm able to go out there and throw pitches without any discomfort, but obviously the results were terrible. I'm really inconsistent from pitch to pitch and from different pitches. I'm not real consistent in the strike zone. I felt fine, but I wasn't real comfortable with my delivery.

"I'm not a guy to sit here and say its spring training and I got my work in. I hate hearing that when other guys say it, but I hate going out and giving up runs. I hate getting hit no matter where I'm pitching. It's just a matter of me getting more consistent."

Scott Podsednik had two of the Royals six hits, including a two-run homer in third off Dodgers right-hander James McDonald.

Royals non-roster catcher Edwin Bellorin strained his right quadriceps while running to first in the eighth inning and was replaced by Vance Wilson.