Mondesi sees action with pregame workouts

Royals eyeing starting rotation plan; Childhood Cancer Awareness Day on tap

September 1st, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Royals shortstop worked out with the team on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, a signal that he’s close to being activated from his rehab assignment as soon as Wednesday, when rosters expand from 26 to 28 players.

Mondesi has played just 10 games this season because of two lengthy stints on the injured list with oblique strains, as well as a hamstring injury that sidelined him in May.

“He’s back and working with us today,” manager Mike Matheny said prior to the series opener against Cleveland. “So you’ll see him out on the field. Really kind of kicked it in these last couple days [at Triple-A] and looked really good. Hopeful that today goes well.”

Mondesi was 7-for-17 over his last four games with Triple-A Omaha, logging two home runs, five runs scored and three stolen bases after not registering a hit in his first seven games in August -- which included a brief pause from Aug. 10-19 as Mondesi dealt with some tightness he was feeling with scar tissue in his right oblique. He has been on the injured list since June 21 with a left oblique strain.

In Mondesi’s absence, Nicky Lopez has thrived as the Royals' everyday shortstop -- establishing himself in the American League Gold Glove Award conversation and being a productive bat -- while All-Star Whit Merrifield has been one of the better second basemen in the AL, especially in the second half.

Mondesi’s return will raise questions about how much and where he’ll play.

Matheny deflected questions about potential positional moves by either Lopez or Merrifield, both of whom are versatile defensively. Lopez was an AL Gold Glove Award finalist at second base last year, and Merrifield has played right field.

“I wish I could track the number of hours thought about that,” Matheny said on how Mondesi will be integrated into the lineup and infield. “It’s a legit conversation. We’ve had a lot of legit conversations. We’re not ready to make any kind of public statement on it, but it has been a major topic for a while.

“Internally, we feel good about where we are. But we want to make sure the timing and delivery comes from the right mouth, and is orated properly.”

Mondesi was noticeably taking grounders at third base, with Lopez at shortstop and Merrifield at second base during Tuesday's pregame workouts. And Mondesi participated in early work under the instruction of infield coaches Vance Wilson and Tony Peña Jr.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has been public about how the organization’s 2022 roster won’t be shaped around Mondesi being the everyday shortstop because of his inability to stay on the field.

Lopez has proven he can play an elite shortstop or second base, and with shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, continuing to shine in Triple-A, it’s possible the club could view Mondesi as a versatile player who doesn’t play every day. This is especially pertinent when talking about shortstops, as clubs typically like to have one player to be able to man the premium position almost every day throughout a season.

Six-man rotation still viable

The other familiar face the Royals saw on Tuesday was No. 5 prospect Jackson Kowar, who was spotted on the field before the game despite not being on the active roster. His presence made more sense after a 7-2 loss to Cleveland, when the club announced he was starting Wednesday’s game as rosters expand from 26 to 28 players on Sept. 1.

With Jakob Junis being activated for Tuesday’s start, the Royals will reset their rotation for the final month of the season. They could still opt for a six-man rotation, which they had been rolling with for a few weeks until Brad Keller hit the injured list with a right lat strain.

Kowar allowed two runs in five innings in his last Minor League outing on Aug. 27, lining him up to start Wednesday’s game on full rest. He struggled in his brief first taste of the big leagues (three starts) earlier this season, but he has been a steady presence in the Triple-A rotation since, logging a 3.46 ERA over 17 outings (16 starts).

Kansas City hasn't announced the rest of its starters for the week beyond Kowar. In addition to Junis, the Royals have seven potential starters, along with Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, Mike Minor and Carlos Hernández. One of those pitchers could be moved to the bullpen.

“Couple things up in the air, trying to kind of sift our way through,” Matheny said. “I would think in a perfect world, if we could continue to do the six, we will. Because the guys have been responding well, not just with how they’re pitching, but how well their bodies are responding, and how it aligns with what we believe our overall cumulative workload should look like.”

Childhood Cancer Awareness Day

The Royals and other MLB teams are raising awareness for childhood cancer on Wednesday on a special league-wide day. All on-field personnel, including players, managers, coaches and umpires, will wear gold ribbon decals and wristbands during games.

On Thursday, Kansas City will host “Royals For A Cause” to bring awareness. Local nonprofits will be available prior to the game to talk to fans about what they can do to support the cause. This homestand’s 50/50 raffle will benefit three local childhood cancer nonprofits, with additional proceeds of ticket and hat sales also supporting the organizations.