KANSAS CITY -- Amid the rubble of the Royals’ second straight blowout loss to the Indians -- this one 9-1 on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium -- was the mostly positive performances of four players who seemingly are part of the core of the team’s future: Center fielder Bubba Starling,
KANSAS CITY -- Amid the rubble of the Royals’ second straight blowout loss to the Indians -- this one 9-1 on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium -- was the mostly positive performances of four players who seemingly are part of the core of the team’s future: Center fielder Bubba Starling, right-handers Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont and left-hander Richard Lovelady.
Starling, who had a dazzling night defensively on Friday night with two four-star catches per Statcast and an outfield assist, extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a solid single to center in the fifth.
Starling also now has reached base in 12 straight games to begin his MLB career. That matches the franchise mark held by Johnny Damon in 1995.
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Zimmer was recalled prior to the game to take the roster spot vacated when the Royals traded left-hander Jake Diekman to the A’s. Zimmer was impressive, tossing a scoreless seventh inning and freezing Greg Allen with a 97-mph heater with a runner on second to end that inning.
Zimmer then threw a scoreless eighth, which included a 98-mph four-seamer that zipped past Indians rookie standout Oscar Mercado.
“I fell behind a couple of guys,” Zimmer said, “but I’ve been working hard to stay consistent with my mechanics. I was able to make one- or two-pitch adjustments rather than letting it linger on. Slider was good. I would have liked to get a few more curveballs in. It was a good day.”
Zimmer didn’t even arrive from Triple-A Omaha until the second inning.
“Didn’t have time to get nervous,” Zimmer said, smiling. “I got here, got my uniform on, and then I’m in the game. That’s good.”
Zimmer, who had been on the Opening Day roster before being optioned on April 8, regularly hit 97-98 mph as his outing progressed, a positive sign for the Royals’ first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
“I’ve been mostly 94-95-98 in most outings,” he said. “I think the warm weather helps.”
Lovelady was recalled on Friday to take the place of left-hander Brian Flynn, who was designated for assignment. Lovelady also had been with the club earlier, making his MLB debut on April 9 before being optioned in late May.
On Saturday, Lovelady gave up an RBI double to Mercado in the sixth. But Lovelady then struck out Mike Freeman with runners on second and third and one out. Lovelady then got Jason Kipnis, who hit a grand slam off starter Glenn Sparkman in the first inning, to ground out.
"It definitely felt good to get back out there,” Lovelady said. “A few pitches I wanted to be down and not up, and that kind of hurt me, especially the two-strike pitch to Mercado. It's the big leagues. You don't get the ball down, you're going to have a long day.
“It was a situation [striking out Freeman] where I needed to definitely bear down and get some really good pitches in there. I was able to get him to chase a fastball high, and I was able to get the next guy to hit a ground ball to first base, which was huge."
Staumont, who threw two scoreless innings in his MLB debut on Thursday night, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, hitting 96 mph with his fastball. And he got Jake Bauers swinging on a 3-2 curveball.
“Lovelady was OK,” manager Ned Yost said. “He was fine. I was happy with Zimmer. He came in and threw two good innings. He controlled it and got out some of their hottest hitters, which was good. And Staumont came in and had a good inning. I was happy, for the most part, with all three [pitchers].”
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.