'I'm trying to strike guys out': Lynch amped for healthy '24

Plus, Jake Brentz's return to the mound and prospects showing out in live BP sessions

February 18th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Small tweaks accompany each pitcher to Spring Training, and Daniel Lynch IV is no different, as he’s moved slightly on the rubber toward the first base side. It’s allowed him to create a different angle with his pitches -- to “maximize my arsenal,” he said -- and he’s liked the results so far, especially the effectiveness against lefties.

But for the most part, the 27-year-old isn’t focused on many adjustments this spring. When he steps on the mound for live batting practice, and soon Cactus League games, he’s simply trying to get outs and show what he’s capable of doing for the Royals this year.

“I’m trying to strike guys out,” Lynch said. “Get guys out. I’m trying to go out there and show what I can do. That’s all you can do.”

Lynch is building up as a starter this spring and competing for a spot in the rotation. It’s far from guaranteed after the Royals signed Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha this offseason, and have Cole Ragans, Brady Singer and Jordan Lyles as starters as well. But there’s a lot that can still happen in Spring Training, and the team is fostering competition by keeping rotation spots open -- it’s likely that fifth spot comes down to performance and health among Lyles, Lynch, Alec Marsh and others.

“We’re not going to name five starters right out of the gate,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “There’s a lot of options for us, guys that can pitch out of the bullpen or start. So we’ve got to build up nine or 10 guys.”

Lynch was held to just 52 1/3 innings last season with a left shoulder injury that first popped up in Spring Training and again in July, ending his season. He was able to return on a rehab assignment at the end of the year, then made one start in the Arizona Fall League before spending a month in the Dominican Winter League.

“It’s probably the best I’ve felt in two years,” Lynch said. “Last year going into camp, there were some underlying things that turned into bigger things. … Things that I thought were normal and going, ‘Well, I’m just building up, it’ll go away.’ This year, I don’t feel any of those things. I feel like I’m strong.”

Entering spring with no limitations, Lynch pitched two innings of live BP on Sunday afternoon. He executed most of his pitches -- a slider smoked by Freddy Fermin didn’t sit well with Lynch afterward -- and was around the strike zone. His velocity is still climbing back to what it was before he was injured.

Lynch said he put on 25 pounds as part of his rehab process, with a focus on strengthening his shoulders to limit future injuries.

“I feel a little more resilient, that my body isn’t taking such a beating,” Lynch said.

Brentz happy to be back
It’s been nearly two years since last took the mound at Kauffman Stadium in April 2022. It’s been a year-and-a-half since he underwent Tommy John surgery in July ‘22. When he was coming back from that surgery late last year, he suffered a lat strain that ended his ‘23 season.

This Spring Training, finally, he’s more than eager to show he’s fully healthy and can be a valuable piece of the Royals’ bullpen in 2024.

“I’m just happy to be competing again,” Brentz said. “Being around the guys and being a player again. It feels great.”

Brentz threw his first live BP in camp on Saturday and sat around 95-96 mph with his fastball, while throwing tons of strikes with the pitch. He flashed his slider and new split-changeup, which is different from the changeup he had during his rookie season in 2021. The split is a different grip and sits 90-92 mph.

“Analytically, the splitter is a really good pitch,” Brentz said. “I’ll continue to throw it and see how it looks. I think it’ll be a good pitch for me against righties. Also, this camp, I’m really working on throwing it to lefties as well. Just another pitch in the arsenal.”

Brentz is competing for a spot in the Royals’ bullpen, and would offer a high-powered lefty arm for earlier in the game while lefty closer Will Smith handles the ninth.

“He looks great physically and is in tremendous shape,” Quatraro said. “... He’s come in here with a great attitude. His body looks great, his arm’s working really well. We’re really excited to see him.”

Other notes
No. 7 prospect Carter Jensen was part of the hitting group in live BPs on Sunday and made an impression with a mammoth homer to right field against No. 25 prospect Will Klein.

Newest Royals reliever John Schreiber is flying from Florida to Arizona on Monday and will likely be in camp on Tuesday.

• The Royals and corner infielder Josh Lester agreed to a Minor League deal on Sunday, a source told MLB.com. The club has not announced the move. He doesn't get an invite to Major League camp, but he does provide more first base depth for Kansas City this year. Lester, a former University of Missouri player, hit .257/.307/.475 with 23 home runs in 110 games at the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate last year, and has limited big league experience (13 games).