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Rocky first outing for White Sox lefty Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel, who exited in the first inning, then re-entered in the second, allowed five runs against the Royals in the White Sox’ victory.

White Sox lefty Dallas Keuchel. (John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel got pulled in the first inning against the Royals on Thursday, and he wasn’t happy about it.

“Heated” is how he described his feelings when manager Tony La Russa took the ball from him.

Turns out, his day wasn’t done. After Danny Dopico from the minor-league minicamp recorded the third out of Keuchel’s messy first inning — his first Cactus League action of 2021 — Keuchel re-entered the game. He wasn’t aware he could do that.

“[Pitching coach] Ethan [Katz] came up to me pretty quickly and said, ‘Hey, relax, you’re going back out there,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ ” Keuchel said.

La Russa didn’t want Keuchel to labor through a long inning, but Keuchel — the 2015 American League Cy Young winner who’s lined up to follow Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito — labored some more. He needed 54 pitches (33 strikes) to get through 2 ⅓ innings and allowed five earned runs, five hits and two walks. He hit one batter and struck out one.

“I really don’t take much out of this, other than I got some work in,” said Keuchel, who pitched only in live batting practice and side sessions before Thursday. “I am pretty tired right now, and I basically barely got through three.”

Keuchel made some good pitches but couldn’t string them together.

“We’ll just keep going,” he said.

Grandal back on the job

Catcher Yasmani Grandal, who twisted his right knee in drills three weeks ago, started for the first time behind the plate, catching three innings.

Grandal still considers himself day-to-day but said he is pain-free.

“I hope we can get on track [for Opening Day],” he said. “It’s going to be how much workload can we get in and seeing how the knee reacts. So far it’s been good, but we’re definitely not going to be pushing it too hard, just in case.”

Limited to designated hitter before Thursday, Grandal batted second, with Yoan Moncada continuing to bat fourth in La Russa’s lineups.

“I like somebody who is effective in that second spot,” La Russa said. “And you can have a different profile. My favorite is the damage — the guy who can get an extra-base hit; with a guy like [Jose] Abreu behind him, pitcher’s in a dilemma. Probably the thing against [Grandal] would be speed. He’s an OK runner, but he’s not as quick as some of the guys we might consider there.”

The backup competition

Veteran Jonathan Lucroy has been viewed as the favorite to win the No. 2 catcher job, but Zack Collins entered Thursday’s game with a team-best 1.110 OPS over 26 plate appearances with only one strikeout and has shown signs of improvement defensively.

“He’s done a good job,” La Russa said of the Sox’ 2016 first-round draft choice. “Raises the competition because he’s playing so well.”

Collins, who bats left-handed, has a .167/.286/.314 hitting line over 120 plate appearances, so considering him for regular DH duty would probably be a stretch.

“Think about it a little bit, but not a lot,” La Russa said.

Sox 9, Royals 7

Flashing power

After Dallas Keuchel’s rocky Cactus League debut in which he allowed five runs over 2 ¹³ innings, the Sox (5-9-4) threw three of their young, big arms at the Royals. Michael Kopech (two strikeouts, two walks) worked multiple innings for the first time and allowed his first run in three outings. Garrett Crochet pitched a perfect inning, and Codi Heuer (0.00 ERA) pitched a perfect eighth and ninth with three strikeouts.

Engel’s near-cycle

Adam Engel hit his second homer of the spring and was a single shy of the cycle. Andrew Vaughn also hit his second homer, a 429-foot shot against Ervin Santana. And in a “B” game against the Padres, Cuban prospect Yoelqui Cespedes hit a three-run homer and drove in a fourth run with a double.

Clean it up

Shortstop Tim Anderson committed his fourth error on a routine ground ball, throwing well over first baseman Jose Abreu’s head. Left fielder Eloy Jimenez overran a soft single by Chris Taylor, who was awarded a generous double. Danny Mendick, playing shortstop, committed his first error while seeing his average dip to .103 on an 0-for-2 day.

Billy ball

Recent acquisition Billy Hamilton, getting at-bats as the designated hitter, walked and slashed a two-run double to right field and was a nuisance on the bases, drawing a throw to second by Salvador Perez on a dropped third strike, darting to third and safely avoiding a tag. He then slid home safely on a passed ball.

On deck

Sox at Mariners, 8:40 p.m. Friday, Peoria, Lance Lynn vs. Marco Gonzales.

—Daryl Van Schouwen