Rotation still a work in progress for Royals

July 21st, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Mike Matheny is looking for potential starters, whether in a stretched-out role or as openers.

Matheny’s quest continues after disappointing outings from right-hander and on Tuesday in a 15-6 exhibition loss to the Astros at Kauffman Stadium.

Sparkman and López were both starters last season, but they were converted to bullpen roles in Spring Training. Yet as the Royals’ rotation -- missing Brad Keller and Jakob Junis -- keeps getting thinner, Sparkman and López may be called upon to log starts early this season.

Neither launched themselves into first conversations about the rotation on Tuesday. Sparkman went 1 2/3 innings and struggled with command. He walked three and gave up two hits and three runs (two earned).

López replaced Sparkman with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning. López promptly hit the next two batters he faced, forcing in two runs. He also walked a hitter in the third.

“One of those days for both of them,” Matheny said. “It was a step back after so many positives this camp. For López, he hit a couple of guys, but we put him in a bad spot. He started making some good pitches after that.”

Matheny was not particularly pleased with his entire staff Tuesday. The Royals walked seven and hit three batters.

“We learned that if you throw 50 percent strikes on the first ball,” Matheny said, “you’re constantly flipping the count against you. And you throw 200-plus pitches. It doesn’t look good. That’s what we learned. You walk seven guys and hit three guys, that’s not how you want to look.

“Bad counts put Houston on the aggressive all day. We have to fix that.”

The highlight offensively for the Royals was super-utility man and switch-hitter Erick Mejia, a non-roster invitee who continued his strong bid to make the 30-man roster.

Mejia has impressed Matheny all camp, and he did so again Tuesday, smacking a two-run single.

Bobby Witt Jr., the Royals’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, had two more hits, including an RBI double, and a stellar defensive play in the eighth, closing up a sizzling Kansas City portion of Summer Camp.

Up next
Right-hander Jesse Hahn will get the start for the Royals in their final exhibition game at St. Louis on Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. CT, live on MLB.TV. Hahn, who missed all of 2018 because of arm issues, appeared in six games for Kansas City last September and had a 13.50 ERA. In five Spring Training games, Hahn had a 12.60 ERA. With Keller and Junis unavailable for the rotation when the regular season starts, Hahn -- who is out of options -- may be a candidate to fill in.