Mondesi: It's good to be back with Royals

Shortstop provides spark with pair of doubles in his first game off the IL

May 26th, 2021

The Royals knew that when shortstop strained his right oblique in his final at-bat of Spring Training that it would be a solid chunk of time before they got him back on the field. Oblique strains require time to heal, and with Mondesi’s injury history, the club wasn’t going to push him until he showed that he was 100 percent healthy.

But after what Mondesi called a “long process,” he’s back. The Royals activated the 25-year-old ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He started at shortstop and hit seventh in the lineup against lefty Rich Hill.

“It feels good just being around these guys again,” said Mondesi, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the Royals' 2-1 win. “This team, we’ve been together through Spring Training and all of that, and I know it’s been a long time, but it’s just good to be back. And just ready to keep winning.”

“Good to write his name in there,” manager Mike Matheny said after the game. “And two doubles from either side of the plate as well. Just good to have him back. And we know what kind of dangerous player he is, as far as what he can do at the plate and what he can do on the bases, and then defensively, too. So it’s exciting to have him back. Very happy for him, very happy for us.”

The Royals won an important series against the Tigers with a walk-off win on Sunday, putting them a game below .500 (22-23) entering Tuesday after an 11-game losing streak pushed them down in the American League Central standings throughout the beginning of May. The win was momentum they needed heading into a three-game series with the red-hot Rays, who had won 11 straight coming into the opener.

Mondesi can be an even bigger boost for Kansas City. He’s a dynamic player both offensively and defensively when he’s healthy; in the final month of 2021, he slashed .356/.408/.667 across 100 plate appearances, with six home runs and 20 RBIs. He’s shown flashes of that kind of player throughout his five-year career, and he’s always been one of the fastest players in the sport.

The problem has been staying on the field. Mondesi has dealt with left and right shoulder injuries, groin strains, and now oblique strains. So it makes sense that when the Royals heard Mondesi woke up with a strained oblique the day after Spring Training ended, they knew from the jump that they were going to take it slow with his recovery. And so did Mondesi.

“I want to play,” Mondesi said. “When it first happened, I was a little bit frustrated. But I understand the process. So just tried to keep everything in order and try to be healthy first, and not try to rush.”

Even on Tuesday, the Royals were being cautious. When Matheny met with media, he wouldn’t say when Mondesi was set to return, emphasizing that the club would “take every minute we have” to make the decision on when Mondesi should be activated.

Forty-five minutes later, the club announced that Mondesi was reinstated and released their lineup with his name in it.

“I just need to go out and play,” Mondesi said. “Whatever happens, happens. I feel good with my body, I feel good mentally, and it’s baseball, so I just need to go out there and play my game.” 

Mondesi offers a boost to the lineup, but it also shifts things around defensively. Nicky Lopez has filled in at shortstop and showed improvement at the plate. Lopez, a left-handed hitter, didn’t start on Tuesday against Hill, but it’s likely the club will move Lopez back to second base, move Whit Merrifield to right field and have Jorge Soler go back to the designated hitter spot, while also taking advantage of that versatility to get players off-days or days as the DH.