Massey 'excited' for return, everyday second baseman opportunity

April 20th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals got their everyday second baseman back on the field and in the lineup to kick off a tough stretch of the schedule.

, who has been sidelined since the final week of Spring Training with a lower back strain, was reinstated from the 10-day injured list on Friday ahead of the Royals’ 9-4 series-opener victory against the Orioles at Kauffman Stadium. Massey had two hits and drove in two runs in his season debut.

In a corresponding move, the Royals optioned infielder to Triple-A Omaha.

Friday’s matchup kicks off a slate of 19 games in 20 days, with 16 of those games coming against playoff teams from last year (Baltimore, Toronto twice, Texas and Milwaukee) and the other three against the Tigers, who are right below the Royals in the American League Central standings, next weekend.

“I’m excited,” Massey said. “Nothing worse than watching the guys on TV. I’m happy they got off to a really good start, and I’m just happy to be here and help in any way I can.”

Massey first experienced tightness in his back on March 19, and it became clear over the next few days that he wasn’t going to be ready for Opening Day. The Royals placed him on the IL on March 28, and he began a rehab assignment with Double-A Northwest Arkansas on April 5 before being transferred to Triple-A Omaha on April 9.

Massey had to be patient with his recovery, knowing if he pushed it and came back early, the lower back problems -- which he’s dealt with before in his career -- might return. When he felt soreness on April 5 at Northwest Arkansas, he took a few days off before joining Omaha to let the discomfort subside.

“Timing of it was certainly not great, but I’ve dealt with it before,” Massey said. “Trainers did a great job -- feel like everyone knew exactly what it was, and just had to stick with the process of it, be patient. I feel like I’m 100% -- ready to go.”

In eight rehab games (seven with Omaha), Massey hit .382 with seven extra-base hits (two homers), 10 RBIs and a 1.123 OPS. The Royals believe his bat could provide a spark at the bottom of their lineup. But he’s also still a young player who is looking to make improvements in his second full season in the Majors.

In 2023, Massey slashed .229/.274/.381 with 15 home runs. He struck out at a 21.5% clip but posted just a 5.2% walk rate. At second base, Massey registered +3 Outs Above Average, -9 defensive runs saved and a 1.7 ultimate zone rating. He and shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. developed a good rapport up the middle playing next to each other every day.

“We know [Massey’s] still one of those players who’s in a developmental phase in the Major Leagues, but we believe in his bat,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “He can provide spark, he’s got some power. He does a good job defensively as well. … We just want him to be himself. We liked what he did last year. When we made some of the acquisitions we did in the offseason, it was with the understanding that Michael is still going to be in the lineup quite often.”

What that means is , the veteran second baseman/outfielder the Royals signed this winter, will get in the lineup at more positions, including third base at times and in the outfield. As more of a bench player, Frazier will be a lefty pinch-hit option, too.

That was the plan before Massey got hurt, and when the Royals want to stack their lineup with lefties, both Massey and Frazier can be in the lineup.

“This goes back to the talks we had with Frazier prior to signing him and understanding that his at-bats were going to come moving around the field,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “Second, third, outfield, pinch-hit, defensive replacement. You know how we like to use guys. We have multiple options.”