When John Thomson got the call last week from his agent and was told that the Kansas City Royals wanted to sign him, it didn't dawn on him that his new manager was going to be his old one.
The reunion of Thomson and Buddy Bell went well. The right-hander won in his Royals debut, outpitching John Lackey in a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
"Coming back over here with Buddy, I had no problem with that," Thomson said. "I liked playing for Buddy in Colorado. We had a good rapport over there."
The Royals are Thomson's fifth team, including Texas, Atlanta and the New York Mets. The nine-year veteran pitched for Bell during 2001 and 2002 with the Rockies, going a combined 11-13 with a 4.52 ERA in 35 starts. Two years later, he won career-high 14 games with the Braves before a rash of injuries limited him to 32 big league starts during the last two seasons. He sat out most of the final half of last season because of a bad right shoulder.
"I'm just happy to see him here," Bell said. "It's always easier to bring somebody in when you have some history with him. I got to know him quite well in Colorado and went through some ups and downs with him, but he's a kid that has a big heart and he's got good stuff.
"I was real happy for him tonight, to have a start like this in his first time back in the big leagues for a while."
Thomson (1-0) allowed three runs -- two earned -- and six hits over seven innings, and did not walk or strike out anyone in his first regular season game of 2007. The 33-year-old spent the previous 2½ months in the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league system before he was given his unconditional release last Wednesday.
Thomson's start was his first since the day before last year's All-Star break. He threw 81 pitches, 54 for strikes.
"I wanted to establish first-pitch fastball strikes early in the game and get them to swing aggressively and then try to expand the zone on them a little bit. But I stayed with my sinker and my cutter pretty much the whole game," Thomson said, following his first victory since May 24, 2006, when he beat San Diego 10-6.
Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Octavio Dotel recorded three outs for his seventh save in nine chances, after blowing his previous two opportunities.
Lackey (10-5) allowed five runs -- three earned -- and seven hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking one. The right-hander, coming off his worst start of the season, was held back a day in the rotation after getting a cortisone shot last Tuesday because of some soreness in his shoulder.
The Angels narrowed the gap to 5-3 in the fifth with an RBI double by Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli's sacrifice fly. Left fielder Joey Gathright nearly collided with David DeJesus on the ball Morales' drove to the gap, causing DeJesus to peel off at the last instant. Morales continued to third as shortstop Tony Pena's relay throw got past catcher Jason LaRue for an error, causing Bell to shake his head in disgust on the bench once the dust had cleared.
"It was a bad play," Bell said. "David DeJesus calls for it, and Gathright's got to get out of the way. He just ran in front of him. I have no idea why, but Gathright's got to get out of the way."
LaRue's RBI single opened the scoring and triggered a four-run second inning for the Royals. Lackey grazed Gathright with a pitch, loading the bases with two out, and DeJesus hit a bases-loaded single that scored Ryan Shealy. Two more runs came in on the play, as LaRue slid into Napoli at the plate and knocked the ball out of his glove. On the play, Napoli took a one-hop throw from right fielder Vladimir Guerrero and tried to make a sweep tag.
"I didn't make that play at home plate and they got a couple of extra runs," Napoli said. "If I make that play, it might have been a different story because John had his good stuff tonight. He just had that one rough inning."
Guerrero doubled in the bottom half and scored on Howie Kendrick's sacrifice fly. But the Royals restored their four-run margin in the third when Lackey gave up a single to Billy Butler, plunked Alex Gordon and committed a balk before Butler scored on Shealy's groundout.