Mondesi reinstated, Bolaños placed on IL

June 16th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Mike Matheny noted Tuesday that when he was watching shortstop do his pregame work on Monday afternoon, it was the first day since a left hamstring strain sidelined Mondesi for two weeks that he “looked like Mondi” again.

The recovery from that pregame work went well enough that the club reinstated Mondesi from the 10-day injured list ahead of Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. Mondesi wasn't in the lineup, but he was in the on-deck circle ready to pinch-hit with two outs and none on in the ninth before Michael A. Taylor struck out to end the game.

“Yesterday was the first day I saw him really move where it looked like Mondi,” Matheny said before the roster move. “That’s exciting news for us. Quick first steps watching him run where he didn’t look like it was favoring at all.”

In a corresponding move, the Royals placed reliever Ronald Bolaños on the 10-day injured list with a right flexor strain. The right-hander had come up big for the team's bullpen in the past week covering innings after short starts, and Kansas City could have seen him move up in leverage situations eventually.

Matheny said after Tuesday’s game that Mondesi was originally on track to be activated on Wednesday. Once the team learned that Bolaños would need to go on the IL, that opened a spot for Mondesi to come back a day early and be available for a pinch-hit situation.

Mondesi had been on the IL since June 4 after he sustained the injury during a defensive play on May 31 against the Pirates. The 25-year-old has only played seven games this season following an oblique injury that lasted from the day before Opening Day to May 25. In those seven games, he hit .360 (9-for-25) with three doubles and two home runs.

Since the hamstring injury, Mondesi had been taking batting practice and participating in infield drills every day with the Royals, but he couldn’t return until he felt 100 percent running.

Now that box is checked.

Foreign substance guidelines

Now that Major League Baseball has sent an official memo to teams that enforcement on applying foreign substances to baseballs will begin on Monday, the Royals are making sure their players know the effect that breaking the rules will have not just on the individual but on the team.

Under the new guidelines announced on Tuesday, any pitcher who possesses or applies foreign substances in violation of the rules will be ejected from the game and automatically suspended in accordance with the rules and past precedent. Suspensions under Rule 3.01 are 10 games. One of the many details of the enhanced enforcement protocols outlined is that clubs may not replace a player on the roster who is suspended for any on-field violation.

“We’ve talked a couple times,” Matheny said about the conversations with his pitchers on the rules. “But this is a different message. We all felt this was the direction it could go at some point. I truly did feel that we would have some alternative, like here’s our consistent stuff, whatever it is, that will be available on the mound. Anybody not using that will be fined, suspended, whatever. I didn’t think it would go from zero to 100.”

Matheny expressed concern that there is no alternative substance yet that MLB has approved besides rosin that pitchers can use to get a grip on the ball after many around MLB have used different substances (e.g. sunscreen) as a means of reducing the slickness of the ball and improving control of pitches. Pitchers have been advised not to apply sunscreen during night games after the sun has gone down or when playing in stadiums with closed roofs.

“I just wish we had some better options. Something that would be an ‘and’ proposition,” Matheny said. “We’re understanding that guys have trouble gripping the ball, and that’s advantageous for throwing strikes, which is advantageous for pace of play, while also trying to limit where guys have gone too far with it. It just seems like we need to find that happy medium.”

He was also surprised at the penalty affecting the whole roster of not being able to replace players who are suspended, although it’s unclear yet how teams can manipulate rosters when short a pitcher.

“Depending on how aggressive the umpires are going to be -- potentially, we’ll start talking about risking more injury because you’re going to have teams start getting players suspended, you’re light in the bullpen, how are you going to cover innings, you’re going to over-work guys, who knows how all this is going to play out?” Matheny said.

Despite the questions popping up on enforcement and how it will affect teams next week, Matheny put his trust in MLB.

“I’ll trust what the league is coming up with,” Matheny said. “Telling us that being able to take some of the spin away may help with what we’re looking at the deficiencies on the offensive side. I think the weather heating up is also going help, we’re going to naturally see that trend maybe pick up a little bit. But there are smart people that are working on this, and they’ve got the best in mind for the game.”