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KC Royals’ Cole Ragans is working on new stuff: How he looked in 1st spring start

Cole Ragans begins every morning with a cup of his favorite Nespresso coffee. The Kansas City Royals ace starts each day with a jolt of Melozio Boost flavor.

“It’s got like 20% more caffeine,” Ragans said. “Start the day off and get a little bit of caffeine boost to get going.”

Melozio Boost features a honeyed sweetness and Latin American Arabicas coffee beans. It’s said to taste smooth and balanced, but it also packs a punch: 200 mg of caffeine per cup on average, according to the Nespresso website.

On the mound, of course, Ragans packs a punch of his own.

He made his first spring start against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. He pitched two innings and struck out five. He allowed three hits against a lineup that included such major-league veterans as Aaron Hicks, Mike Trout and newcomer Anthony Rendon.

“A lot of nerves prior, but I got out there and felt great,” Ragans said.

Ragans said he was able to sleep in before Sunday’s start. He usually awakens around 5 a.m. but was able to get in a few extra hours of rest. He said his day began around 7 a.m.; he enjoyed his coffee and relaxed in the hot tub.

From there, Ragans assumed his regular routine. And when he finally stepped onto the mound, it didn’t take long for him to gather his command.

Ragans hammered the strike zone with first-pitch strikes. He got Hicks and Rendon swinging in the first inning. He worked around two base runners in the second inning. He finished the second frame with consecutive strikeouts.

“I thought the first-pitch strikes today were pretty good,” Ragans said. “That’s big — 0-1 is a lot better than 1-0.”

Ragans also succeeded in inducing a lot of soft contact. Two of the three hits he allowed were bloop singles. Angels first baseman Nolan Schanuel hit a line drive in the first inning.

It was a relatively clean outing for Ragans. The lone oddity occurred before he threw a pitch. In the first inning, he was assessed an automatic ball violation. Ragans didn’t realize what was happening until after he worked a full count against Hicks.

“I thought it was 2-2,” Ragans said of the count. “On the 3-1, he started to walk to first and (the umpire) called it a strike. And I was like, ‘That’s weird.’

“Then, I turned around to the board and it said 3-2. And then I saw the umpire hold up 3-2. I had no idea until I got into the dugout. I guess I threw a pitch after the 30-second mark (between batters) that I was unaware of.”

That glitch aside, Royals manager Matt Quatraro was pleased with Ragans’ overall results.

“He looked good,” Quatraro said. “He is such a perfectionist. He was worried about the finishes on some of his pitches but was there. He got a lot of swing-and-miss. It was really encouraging.”

Ragans continued his training with Tread Athletics this offseason. He formed a solid foundation for himself as a pitcher last year and built upon it the last few months. Ragans refined his slider and tinkered with a two-seam fastball.

Ragans utilized the slider during Sunday’s spring training start. He admitted its movement needs work after allowing a few hits in the second inning.

As for the two-seamer, he said he’s looking to develop a feel for it this spring.

“Still trying to get comfortable with that,” Ragans said. “It’s obviously a really new pitch.”

Ragans posted a 2.64 ERA in 12 starts with the Royals last season. He was acquired from the Texas Rangers and was named American League Pitcher of the Month in August.

He believes the Royals are ready to take the next step as a team.

“Just consistency day in and day out,” he said. “Every time I step on the mound, just the consistency of all my stuff and my outings.”

Spring training score: Royals 1, Angels 0

The Royals defeated the Angels 1-0 in Sunday’s spring training game.

The Royals scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning. The KC bullpen then held on late. KC minor-league outfielder Javier Vaz hauled in a diving catch to end the game.

The Royals will be back in action Monday afternoon, playing host to the Chicago Cubs at Surprise Stadium. First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. Central Time.