DETROIT -- Whether driving in runs or sparking rallies in some other way, Michael Massey has found himself in the middle of a lot of good things lately. Now more than a month into his first full-time big league stint and 31 games into his MLB career, the Royals rookie continues to heat up as the season winds down.
For Massey, each game brings with it a new level of comfortability as he continues to soak up the experience, from exploring new cities every few days to settling into the daily routines that pregame brings.
“I think there's this false narrative out there in the world where you're supposed to have confidence before you do something,” Massey said. “And I think that that's a really interesting thing that the world has put out there because I believe, honestly, the more experience I get, the more confidence I have at it, and so they kind of come together.”
If Massey had jitters early on he hid them well, batting .400 (6-for-15) across his first five MLB games and striking out just twice during that stretch. He’s shown both aptitude and steady growth since then, rounding out this week with a .375 average in his past five games, including a crucial early at-bat during Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Three days after he collected a career-best three hits against the White Sox, Massey went hitless against the Tigers, but he was still in the thick of things. The Royals’ second baseman was hit by two pitches in the win, the first of which landed squarely on his right forearm in the fourth inning but allowed him to score the game-tying run not long later when fellow rookie MJ Melendez drew a bases-loaded walk.
Massey demonstrated a similar whatever-I-can-do mantra when he saw the Tigers’ defense shift dramatically in front of him during the second inning of Friday night’s opener. Detroit starter Drew Hutchison had retired five Royals in a row, and Massey saw his chance.
“Anytime as a hitter, you look at the field and just kind of evaluate your options,” Massey said. “I looked at [Hutchison] and up to that point, he'd been very good. I don't know if he'd given up a hit yet. Obviously, he had good stuff. So, if you're in a hitter's count and they're going to give you something like that. ...”
The element of surprise would only work once, though, so even though Hutchison’s 2-1 offering came in head-high, Massey stuck with the plan, squared late and batted down the head-high fastball for a picture-perfect bunt against the shift.
The two-out knock gave the Royals life. Hunter Dozier followed suit with a single before Kyle Isbel plated them both with a double to center field.
“[Massey’s decision] ended up being the impetus to where he gets on base, then a couple of other hits and big things happen,” manager Mike Matheny said. “So, it's smart. It was good to watch him do that."
Massey’s baseball IQ and willingness to take measured risks might be advanced for his experience level, but the 24-year-old is quick to point out that his surroundings have a lot to do to with him feeling confident and capable. While there are a good number of veteran Royals to provide leadership and guidance, Massey said one of the biggest boosts was joining a team that was full of talent he rose through the Minor Leagues alongside.
Seven of Kansas City’s 14 position players on the active roster are rookies, and all are contributing in big ways. Who better for Massey to model his growth track after than Bobby Witt Jr. -- who delivered the go-ahead hit on Sunday and tallied just the fifth 20-20 season by a first-year player in MLB history with home run No. 20 on Saturday night -- or Kyle Isbel, who hit a grand slam in the same game.
Or Nick Pratto or Melendez, who also went deep that night, or Adam Eaton, who didn’t homer but had a career-high four hits in the 12-2 win that saw the five starting rookies account for eight runs scored, 10 of 15 hits, all four homers and all 12 RBIs.
While he might have to work a little harder to stand out against so much young talent in Kansas City, Massey has already learned in his short time that there’s always something he can contribute, so long as he’s focused enough to see it.
“I'm more confident today than I was yesterday,” Massey said. “And, you know, hopefully, I'll be more confident tomorrow than I was today and just kind of keep growing.”