Rivera makes debut: 'It's a childhood dream'
Emmanuel Rivera had been waiting for Monday night for a long time, ever since the Royals drafted the third baseman in 2015 and even before that, too, when he would play with his dad in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
So when Rivera got the opportunity to swing at the first pitch he saw in his first Major League at-bat, he didn’t miss.
A day before he turned 25, Rivera went 2-for-4 in his big league debut, with a single up the middle off Garrett Richards’ fastball in the first inning of Monday's 6-5 loss to Boston. Rivera followed it up by lining an inside breaking ball into right-center field in the third inning.
“I thought about it for awhile, so the first pitch I get, if it’s a strike, I was going to swing,” Rivera said Monday. “It’s a childhood dream. I’m extremely happy to be able to be up here and play at this level. It’s something that I wished for a really long time. Really happy.”
On Tuesday night, Rivera was back in the starting lineup and at third base -- and would have had a home run if not for the Green Monster -- but exited the game in the third inning with left wrist pain, per the club.
Rivera became the fourth Royals player to record a hit in each of his first two plate appearances of his Major League debut, joining Irvin Falu on May 6, 2012, against the Yankees, Don Slaught on July 6, 1982, against the Red Sox and Fred Rico on Sept. 1, 1969, (Game 1) against Detroit. And Rivera is now one of seven players in the Majors this season to record a multi-hit game in his big league debut -- joining Kyle Isbel, who had three hits for the Royals on Opening Day. Isbel was sent down a month later for more consistent playing time in Omaha.
Rivera’s mom, dad, brother and girlfriend had great seats to watch Rivera’s debut, and the day was just as special for them as it was for the player. Rivera also got the talk to fellow Puerto Rican and Red Sox utility player Kiké Hernández on the field before the game.
“Extremely important moment for me and my family,” Rivera said. “My dad never got the chance to play professionally and it was a dream came true for my dad as well. They’re proud, and it’s a really good opportunity.”
Rivera made significant strides in the eyes of the big league staff from Spring Training in 2020 and this year’s camp. Not only was he hitting the ball consistently harder, but manager Mike Matheny raved about his intentionality, work ethic, discipline and preparation. They sent him to Triple-A Omaha hoping all of that would translate into production.
He hit .282 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in 44 games with the Storm Chasers. And when he was promoted Monday, he gave an immediate spark to a lineup looking for a boost. Now, the Royals hope Rivera can continue that consistent play he showed in Omaha at the big league level and see if that helps the offense find its stride as June comes to a close.
“Special day for him,” Matheny said. “Emmanuel being ready on that first one, getting that out of the way and then staying back on a breaking ball and using the middle of the field, he looked good. All the way around, looked the part. It’s good to have him get some of those things out of the way and then just go play.”
Royals' vaccination push
As part of MLB’s “Vaccinate at the Plate” initiative, the Royals are teaming up with Price Chopper and Blue KC to offer fans COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday at local Price Chopper pharmacies during business hours or at the Blue KC Gate at Kauffman Stadium between 3-8 p.m. CT.
Anyone receiving their vaccinations Wednesday at those sites will receive two vouchers for tickets to select 2021 regular-season Royals games, plus the opportunity to purchase up to eight additional tickets at 50 percent off.
Fans can pre-register for appointments at royals.com/vaccinate, and walk-up appointments will be offered depending on availability.