The Royals pitcher that the White Sox faced on Saturday night in Chicago was the same one they had tagged for five runs in five innings less than a week ago in Kansas City. But something was different.
Mike Minor was clean shaven, pitching with no facial hair for the first time this season after shaving his goatee. He also shoved; Minor allowed one run on two hits in seven innings, with seven strikeouts and two walks.
“I don’t know. I feel like I needed to change it up, though,” Minor said with a grin Saturday. “We’ve been trying some different things. It worked out tonight. Maybe I keep it. I don’t know.”
Potential superstitions aside, Minor did look different on the mound Saturday in the Royals' 5-1 win than in previous starts this season. Armed with what manager Mike Matheny called Minor’s “best fastball,” the veteran lefty relied on his changeup more than he had last week against the White Sox, and that combination kept a dominant lineup off-balance while Minor mixed in his breaking balls as needed.
“You could tell [Saturday] by the way the fastball was coming out that he felt good,” Matheny said. “Just got into a rhythm. He had so many different weapons working. … He had so much confidence in his secondary pitches to keep the guys off balance, and they weren’t really seeing the same sequence twice.
“That’s also a guy who has faced teams back-to-back before, taking real close notice of what he did last time and trying to figure out what he did differently. It was a great display of veteran pitching.”
Last week, Minor’s most-used pitch behind his fastball was his slider, which he threw 21 percent of the time while throwing his four-seam fastball 43 percent of the time in 91 pitches. On Saturday, Minor turned to his changeup more often, throwing 26 of them, along with 38 fastballs, among his 100 pitches. He still used his breaking balls plenty, and the curveball especially looked deadly; hitters couldn’t do much with the pitch when it dropped off like it did.
“We switched it up on them to where they couldn’t get into [the] rhythm of what I threw them last time with us going back-to-back against them,” Minor said. “You feel like you know them, but they also know you, too. You can’t keep throwing the same pitches, the same spots, the same counts. They’re going to figure it out. They’re big-league hitters, they can make adjustments, so once we see the way they swing or what they’re looking for or how they take, then that’s how we approach the next pitch. … Try to just keep them off balance. Just kind of the cat and mouse game of baseball.”
Zimmer’s rehab going well
Reliever Kyle Zimmer, who has been on the injured list since the beginning of May with a left trapezius strain, made his second rehab appearance with Triple-A Omaha on Saturday night and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings.
If he recovers well Sunday, the right-hander could be on his way to rejoining the Royals some time this week.
“We’re just happy with what he was able to do, getting up twice, and looked like the stuff was great,” Matheny said. “So things are pointing in the right direction of him being able to come back and help us out here soon. But we always want to wait to see how they respond the next day, see how they feel, how they’re recuperating. That usually gives us a better answer.”
Zimmer threw 24 pitches (16 strikes) and allowed one hit in the Storm Chasers’ win, which started with No. 4 prospect Jackson Kowar striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings. Kowar retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced and allowed three hits.
• Matheny said the Royals aren’t ready to announce their rotation plans for this week yet. The two off-days -- Monday and Thursday -- allow the Royals to give some starters more rest. If the Royals stay on turn, Tuesday’s start would fall to Danny Duffy, and then Kansas City has the fifth-starter spot to fill after they optioned Daniel Lynch to Triple-A.
“Which guys to potentially give regular rest to, how many guys to include -- when you have that many off-days, you’re talking about potentially too many days of rest in between starts,” Matheny said. “Still want to get through today and then hopefully give a better idea of what that rotation is going to look like.”