Mondesi (oblique) begins rehab assignment

May 15th, 2021

could hardly contain his smile when talking about how much he wanted to get back to Kansas City and rejoin his team on the active roster.

He took another step toward doing so Thursday night.

The Royals shortstop, who’s been on the injured list with a right oblique strain since the day before the regular season began, appeared in his first rehab assignment Thursday with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He played seven innings at shortstop and went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game action since March 29, the last day of Spring Training. The switch-hitter had two plate appearances each from the right and left sides of the plate.

“I didn’t know it was going to be that bad,” Mondesi said when he learned of his injury. “But we’re back.”

Mondesi has been marred by injuries before and admitted he felt bad when he found out he would be missing significant time with this new injury.

“The only thing I can do is try to work back and try to be ready as soon as possible,” Mondesi said. “I felt bad for a little bit because it was the last game of Spring Training. I felt it when I woke up, felt tight and knew I wasn’t going to start playing. But other than that, just start working and try to be ready as soon as possible.”

The Royals aren’t announcing any expected timeline for Mondesi’s rehab assignment, not wanting to push him too soon. And although he’s been thinking about getting back up with his teammates “every day,” he doesn’t want to push it, either. Mondesi feels good in the field and swinging from the right side, but it’s the left side where he still wants a few more at-bats. He’ll continue to get his timing down as the Royals medical team assesses how he recovers after each game.

But it’s clear Mondesi can’t wait to join the Royals, who are on an 11-game losing streak and could use a spark.

“Right now, I just want to take a couple more at-bats from the left side and see that I’m 100 percent healthy,” Mondesi said. “Just can’t wait to be up there with the guys. Keep playing every day, win some games.”

Reliever Jesse Hahn (right shoulder impingement) began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Thursday, too, and the Royals expect him to make multiple appearances there because he’s missed almost a month of the season. He faced five batters and threw 23 pitches (11 strikes) in the fifth, loading the bases on a single and two hit batsmen before exiting with two outs.

Reliever Kyle Zimmer, who was placed on the injured list with a left trap strain at the beginning of May, made his first appearance with Omaha on Wednesday night and earned the win with a scoreless eighth inning. He allowed one hit -- a single to his younger brother, Triple-A Columbus (Indians) outfielder Bradley Zimmer -- struck out two and allowed two walks. He’ll likely get one more outing before being ready to rejoin the Royals, manager Mike Matheny said.

Keller, Junis slated for Friday’s twin bill
Right-hander Brad Keller will start Game 1 of the Royals’ doubleheader against the White Sox on Friday in Chicago, and righty Jakob Junis will start Game 2, Kansas City announced after Thursday’s loss to the Tigers.

The Royals had to wait to see how Thursday’s game played out with the bullpen before announcing Friday’s probable starters; lefty Kris Bubic was in the conversation to start one of the games, but he was needed in long relief -- five scoreless innings -- on Thursday.

It will be Junis’ fifth start of the season and first since April 27, when he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Pirates. A few days later, Junis was moved to the bullpen to make room for top pitching prospect Daniel Lynch in the rotation. Junis’ ERA ballooned from 3.47 to 5.14 over four relief appearances in May. Wednesday’s scoreless inning was Junis’ first since moving back to the bullpen.

Minor League roundup
The focus was on Bobby Witt Jr.’s first home run in Double-A on Wednesday night, as the Royals’ top prospect finished the night 3-for-5, scoring two runs while also driving in his first run of the season. But there were some other top performers for the Naturals on Wednesday.

Outfielder Brewer Hicklen (No. 25 on the Royals’ Top 30 list) went 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and two walks. First baseman Nick Pratto (No. 9) plated another run with an RBI triple, snapping an 0-for-16 stretch. And Clay Dungan, who isn’t ranked but still turned heads this spring and this season for his defensive versatility, homered in the first inning.

No. 8 prospect Jonathan Bowlan was electric through six innings, striking out six without walking a batter. He gave up two runs on four singles in the second but then retired the last 13 batters he faced. Those have been the only two runs the 24-year-old has allowed in two starts this season, with 16 strikeouts in 11 innings.

In Triple-A, outfielder Edward Olivares launched a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give Omaha the win. He finished Wednesday’s game 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to eight games to open the season.