Mondi set back (right oblique), timetable TBD

August 16th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- suffered a setback in his recovery from an oblique injury last weekend, another detour on the path to his return to the Major League club this season.

The shortstop has been returned from his rehab assignment to be further evaluated after feeling tightness in his right oblique the past couple of days, manager Mike Matheny said Sunday. Mondesi has been on the 10-day injured list since June 21 with a left oblique strain, but he missed a month and a half to begin the regular season with a right oblique strain. The tightness comes from the scar tissue that formed around the strained oblique.

Mondesi arrived at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and ran the bases and participated in fielding drills Monday. The switch-hitter is also backing off swings from the left side to not aggravate the right oblique. The Royals’ medical team is evaluating him before determining the next steps.

“He wears everything close to the vest ... he’s the same guy all the time,” Matheny said. “But there’s doubt, deep inside, there’s some deep frustration. This guy wants to play. That’s the thing that gets lost in this, is how bad he wants to be out there. As bad as we want to see him in there, he wants to be out there more. And it seems like when he tries to take steps forward, it goes in the opposite direction. But he’s got to keep his head down and keep fighting.” 

Mondesi had been on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha since Aug. 3 and has played in just 10 games for the Royals in 2021. He began the season on the injured list with a right oblique strain, missed time with a hamstring injury and has no time frame for a return from his left oblique strain.

Mondesi had been playing every other day in Omaha but missed the last five games when he felt soreness that the Royals didn’t want him playing through. Given his injury history, the plan was to take his rehab progression slowly.

Now, the Royals will determine the plan for Mondesi after doctors and trainers in Kansas City evaluate him. When asked Sunday if there’s a possibility of shutting Mondesi down for the rest of the season, Matheny said it “hasn’t been talked about.”

“One of those where we’ve made so much progression, when you have a little bit of a setback, let’s not keep pushing where you have to go back to square one,” Matheny said. “Is there something we can do here, one for the peace of mind of the player and two for the peace of mind of the organization? Get a closer look… without having to go through other channels at the Triple-A level. Get him in here, get a look, make sure where we are and then put our game plan for moving forward.

“Nothing has been talked about any more than that.”

At the beginning of the month, Royals general manager Dayton Moore signaled his change in thinking about how he builds the roster for 2022 based on Mondesi’s injury history: The shortstop position will likely become more of a shared responsibility. Mondesi will factor into that mix, but he’ll be subject to regular days off and a load management plan considering he has not been able to stay on the field for a full, 162-game season in his career. The closest he came to being on the field every day was playing 59 games in last year’s 60-game, pandemic-shortened season, and his career high in games played was 102 in 2019. Moore said bluntly on KSCP radio at the beginning of August that the Royals “can’t obviously count on him as an everyday player.”

The Royals have been adamant that they are not going to trade Mondesi, release him or abandon him, and this recent setback doesn’t change that. He still can be a dynamic player, defensively and offensively, when he’s healthy. In 10 games this season, Mondesi has slashed .361/.378/.833 with four home runs, nine RBIs, five doubles and six runs scored. In the days leading up to his latest IL stint, he had homered in three consecutive games.

But the club is going to have to build a roster with depth at the shortstop position -- relying on Nicky Lopez and top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. -- in the future while working with Mondesi to help him stay on the field as much as possible.

Royals rumblings
• There was a scoring change to Saturday night’s game. In the top of the fifth inning, Edmundo Sosa reached on what was originally ruled an infield hit, but that has been changed to an error on Lopez because the ball went under his glove. It makes two of the four runs charged to Brad Keller on Saturday unearned, and it snapped Lopez’s franchise record of consecutive games at shortstop without committing an error at 72. The previous mark was 60 games, shared by Rey Sanchez (2000) and Mondesi (2020-21), whose streak is still active.

• With his stolen base on Saturday, Witt Jr. became the first Minor League player in the Royals’ organization to record 20 steals and 20 homers since Alex Gordon did so in 2006. Witt Jr.’s 24 home runs entering Sunday are tied for third most in Minor League Baseball.