MLB

Wood to start as Royals seek series win over Twins

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When Travis Wood signed a two-year, $12 million contract on Feb. 15, it was with the caveat that he would be given an opportunity to compete for a Kansas City Royals starting job.

NateKarns won the three-man spring training competition for the final rotation slot over Wood and Chris Young, who was released in June. Karns is on the 60-day disabled list with a forearm injury.

Wood will make his first Royals start Sunday for the series finale against the Minnesota Twins.

"When we signed Travis Wood, this was the scenario; he competed for a starting spot out of spring training," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It wasn't that Karns outright won the job. We just liked Nate's stuff. Travis had a good spring."

Wood started the season horribly. He had an 18.56 ERA in nine April bullpen outings. He did not get his ERA into single digits until May 21, when he lowered it to 9.77.

Lately Wood has been lights-outs. In his last seven appearances, he did not allow a run over 9 1/3 innings. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out six in that span, holding hitters to a .156 average, lowering his ERA to 6.25.

Wood, however, has not thrown more than 49 pitches in a game this season and likely be on a 65-pitch limit Sunday in his first start since Sept. 19, 2015, while with the Chicago Cubs.

"He's been right back to throwing strikes," Yost said. "He's been very efficient, been very effective. Let's give it a shot and see what we got."

The Royals and Twins split a doubleheader Saturday. The Twins won the finale 10-5, while the Royals used four home runs to power their way to an 11-6 victory in the opener.

"We just came out of Boston and we saw a team that really fights with two strikes and makes you throw a lot of pitches," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Kansas City, through their World Series runs, were the same. They really pride themselves on trying to put the ball in play and making guys work.

"It works to their advantage, not only when you do put it in play, but making pitchers throw extra pitches. The Royals have done a nice job."

The Royals are at .500, 40-40, after losing 20 of their first 30 games. The Twins are just in front of the Royals with a 41-39 record in the American League Central.

"They got off to a little bit of a rough start and they've found their way back and they're playing good baseball," Molitor said. "I think they're getting healthy, for the most part. But, offensively, they do present challenges because these guys really do know how to grind out at-bats."

The Twins will start left-hander Hector Santiago in the finale of this four-game series. He has a 9.51 ERA in his last six starts, losing five of them.

He is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts against Kansas City this season. He last faced them May 19, allowing three runs over five innings. He is 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 17 career games, 11 of them starts, in his career against the Royals.

Santiago is 2-1 with a 3.73 ERA in eight career appearances (five starts) at Kauffman Stadium.