Top P prospect Lynch optioned to Triple-A

May 14th, 2021

The Royals knew when they promoted on May 3 that he might go through the ups and downs of adjusting to Major League talent, but their top pitching prospect’s first stint in the Majors illuminated a list of things that he needs to work on. He’ll do that in Triple-A Omaha for now, as the club optioned Lynch before Friday’s doubleheader against the White Sox amid a flurry of roster moves.

“There’s always going to be things that everybody has to work on, and there are sometimes easier places to work on those than at the Major League level,” manager Mike Matheny said. “This is a special pitcher.

“Everything he does, how he prepares, how he thinks, how he competes, the improvements we’ve watched with him over the last year -- he takes challenges and is very intentional and very efficient in figuring out how to get done what he needs to get done.”

In three starts, Lynch -- ranked as the Royals' No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- allowed 14 earned runs in eight innings, with seven strikeouts and five walks. Last week against the White Sox, he allowed eight runs in two-thirds of an inning. On Thursday, the Tigers jumped on him for three earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Part of the problem was pitch location and other issues that a young pitcher typically has to work through, but there were also indications that Lynch was unwittingly tipping pitches, especially against the White Sox.

Matheny did not say it directly, but it will be a part of what Lynch works on in Omaha.

“We’re always watching, and that’s something with everyone,” Matheny said. “I’ve had some really good pitchers, guys who have had Hall of Fame-style careers, paranoid about it because they know how much effort has been put into it. So we’re always keeping an eye on it.”

Matheny sat with Lynch on the dugout bench for a moment on Thursday afternoon to encourage the young pitcher after another rough outing.

“He just said to trust my stuff,” Lynch said after Thursday’s game. “There’s some things that we’re going to work on and get better, but he just said, ‘Please don’t stop trusting your stuff because you did a lot of good things,’ and it was very encouraging.”

Matheny was honest with Lynch about what he saw, but he also emphasized that Lynch has the talent and the mindset to help the Royals for a long time. The 6-foot-6 hurler has an upper 90s fastball, a wipeout breaking ball and a complementing changeup. He’s impressed and improved at all levels, including Major League Spring Training, and Kansas City sees him as a key piece to its rotation in the future.

“What we do know is this guy has plus stuff, he’s got plus makeup, [and] he’s highly intelligent. All those point to a great direction,” Matheny said. “He’s going to be around this game a long time. He just needs to know we believe in him. This isn’t just something we tell everybody as we’re patting them on the back as they go out the door. This guy’s got a chance to be special here for a long time.

“So, start with that. Now, here’s some things that we need to work on. Let’s get after it. Get back here. We want you here. You’re going to be able to help us, I believe, for a long time.”

What this means for the Royals’ fifth rotation spot is unknown at this point. Kansas City has two scheduled off-days next week it could take advantage of. Right-hander Jakob Junis, who was moved to the bullpen when Lynch was promoted, has a chance to reclaim the spot if his Game 2 start on Friday goes well. Lefty Kris Bubic has shown significant improvement in long relief so far this season and could also get a shot.

Here are the other roster moves made Friday:
• Reliever Jake Newberry recalled from Triple-A

• Catcher Cam Gallagher reinstated from the seven-day concussion injured list

• Catcher Sebastian Rivero optioned to Triple-A

• Right-hander Ronald Bolaños called up as the 27th man for the doubleheader