How good is lefty Roenis Elias' curveball?
Practically unhittable, unless you're fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes.
The A's slugging outfielder bashed a hanging breaking ball off Elias earlier this week, a sixth-inning solo shot that barely flew over O.co Coliseum's left field wall but pulled Oakland to within a run in Seattle's eventual 8-3 win.
It was one of just two instances this season where an opponent has actually recorded a hit against Elias' best pitch. According to Fangraphs.com, entering Sunday's series finale against the Royals at Safeco Field, hitters are just 2-for-42 (.048 batting average) with 23 strikeouts against Elias' curveball. He's thrown it 160 times.
"It's something that I've always utilized," the 25-year-old said Saturday through a translator. "I've always been told that I have a good curveball so I've made sure to work that in."
That he has, to the tune of a 3-2 record and 3.27 ERA in seven starts after spending all of 2013 pitching for the Double-A Jackson Generals of the Southern League.
This season, he's yet to give up more than four earned runs in a game. Elias became the first rookie in 45 years to strike out 10 or more in his Yankee Stadium debut.
"It meant a lot going up against great players like [Derek] Jeter, [Carlos] Beltran and [Alfonso] Soriano," Elias said. "It was a beautiful thing."
Elias has been arguably the biggest surprise on the Mariners roster, securing a rotation spot with a stellar Spring Training, then continuing to display a quiet confidence through the first month of the regular season.
On Sunday, he'll oppose Royals veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. In his previous start, Guthrie (2-2, 3.91 ERA) scattered four hits and allowed one run over eight innings, but settled for a no-decision in Kansas City's 3-1 extra-innings win over the Padres. He threw 107 pitches, struck out two and walked one but didn't sound especially floored afterward.
"My pitching benefited [from] some great defense and some thick marine air that kept some balls that were really hit hard in the park, and I thought the field and the conditions played to my advantage today," Guthrie told reporters. "Frankly, I think if I'd been pitching somewhere else, it could've been very different."
Mariners: Jones next up at leadoff
Rookie center fielder James Jones got his first chance to bat leadoff in the Major Leagues in Saturday night's 3-1 win over the Royals. He finished 1-for-2 with a single and two walks.
Before the game, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon made no promises that the 25-year-old will assume the role.
"He's a prototypical leadoff guy," McClendon said. "We'll give him his chance and see what he can do."
In 20 games with Triple-A Tacoma before the Mariners called him up Monday, Jones posted a .313 batting average and scored 15 runs. In the week since, he's caught the eye of McClendon.
"I like what I've seen. I don't think he's overmatched at the plate," he said. "He has the ability to put the bat on the ball and gets great jumps in the outfield. I've been impressed."
Royals: Guthrie ready for Mother's Day
Pitcher Jeremy Guthrie huddled over a pink pair of spikes with Royals equipment manager Jeff Davenport. Nice dye job, they decided.
They were part of a large assortment of pink equipment that Kansas City and Seattle will be using in their Mother's Day game Sunday. As players throughout Major League Baseball pay homage to the women who have made sacrifices and been influential in their lives, they'll use pink to raise awareness of the battle against breast cancer.
Davenport said the Royals players have at their disposal pink bats, batting gloves, shoes and shoelaces, wristbands and sunglasses. The coaches will have pink turf shoes. Each uniform will have a pink ribbon.
Stay tuned to see if Guthrie wears his pink spikes.
"I haven't decided. I have them available," he said.
Either way, the shoes will be auctioned off later to raise funds to combat breast cancer.It's very important," he said.
Something else that will be important to Guthrie will be ending his run of five consecutive losses against Seattle. He's 2-7 with a 4.90 ERA vs. the Mariners in 12 games and hasn't beat them since 2008.
• Although he's reportedly feeling better, Royals second baseman Omar Infante is expected to miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday because of back inflammation. Johnny Giavotella has played second the previous two games.
• Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager missed his second game in a row Saturday while dealing with flu-like symptoms.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.