Anaheim – Although it ended in a 5-0 loss to the Angels on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, the Royals’ nine-game tour of the West Coast was largely successful. Kansas City went 5-4 in San Francisco, Oakland and Anaheim on its first road trip of the year.
“This is probably the best stretch we’ve had all year,” said Wednesday’s Daniel Lynch. “I can’t help but feel we’re moving away and looking at this in a positive light.”
Here are three notes from the time of the California royal family:
1. Young arms do a strong job
Members of the royal family have seen encouraging signs from the quartet of 25 and under novices, including from Lynch. Lynch didn’t get as deep on Wednesday as he would have liked, working through 30 pitches first and coming off with two teams in fifth. He battled his leadership a bit, and walked into a five-stroke high. But he was flagged for one winning round and hit five while allowing three hits. This was the start of his first career with 10 strokes.
“I guess I’d say the only negative thing is that I’ve had a lot of guys that just came back in the count, and I threw some pitches that I probably didn’t need to throw,” Lynch said. “But you’ll enjoy those days when it’s kind of tough, and we had a good chance of winning that game when I left.”
Manager Mike Matheny referred to the “healthy competition” between young freshmen, similar to the way the Braves’ Hall of Fame trio Tom Glavin, John Smoltz and Greg Maddox forced each other to ramp up their games.
“I think we have the qualifications for that here as well,” Matini said. “I think they pull for each other, because we all wear the same colours. But deep down, they’re figuring out that they can make each other better by pushing each other.”
With Zack Greinke set to return on Friday, there’s a chance one of these young royals’ upstarts will have to sacrifice his rotating spot, although he’s yet to be seen – and there’s a lot more that will have to make that decision.
“At some point, we’ll have conversations about how we can prepare them for a longer season than some of them already have?” Mathney said. “[How do we] Give them time when they need it, how do we do it and still get them while they throw well, and keep them throw well? It’s very complex, but we know we want Zack in a combination of that to lead the staff.”
Salvador Perez was left out of the squad on Wednesday after a worsening injury to his left thumb in a swing the previous day. He underwent an MRI and is considered day in and day out as the club works out what the next steps should be.
Rookie MJ Melendez will take over as the royal family’s primary leader in case Perez needs to waste more time, with Cam Gallagher, recalled, on Monday, for backup duties. Matini added that Carlos Santana is available as a “temporary hiatus,” although he has not been arrested since 2014.
Regardless of his health, Perez will continue to play the valuable role of veteran club captain for the young Royals.
“When they come back here… while the club music pumps in, [the] Matheny said after the Royals won the extra innings on Tuesday. “Such a unique style of leadership, how much he cares about these guys, how much he wants to win.”
While the Royals were shut down on Wednesday by the force of nature that is Shohei Ohtani, the previous two matches offered a glimpse of what a long ball attack might look like. On Monday, Andrew Benentende, Perez and Hunter Dozier went for yards, while, on Tuesday, Bobby Witt Jr. fought his first game in his multi-entry career, and Carlos Santana also knocked out one game.
This is not the norm for the royal family, for whom strength has not been a major offensive element for some time. Their 53 eyebrows this year tied Cleveland for 27th in the Majors. They haven’t ranked above 20 in that category in over a decade. That includes in 2019, when Perez led the MLB with 48 Homers.
But Witt is already showing his potential as a threat to authority. Then there’s Melendez, who made 41 home runs last season. First base prospects Nick Prato and Vinny Pasquantino—both of whom are in the MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 and expected to be MLB-ready this year—have their own decent strength swings.
However, it may take some time before running at home becomes the driving force of the offensive game in Kansas City. Perhaps, though, a properly executed small ball can create more potential for energy production.
“Keep pushing, stealing the bases, trying to get more things in the heads of bowlers to see if she buys a cookie in the middle or something,” Benintende said on Monday. “So you just do the little things and usually when you do a bunch of those things, it’s all going to come together.”