KANSAS CITY -- The day finally came when Royals manager Mike Matheny felt it was necessary to not start struggling shortstop Adalberto Mondesi.
That came Tuesday, when Mondesi was held out against Cleveland and replaced by Nicky Lopez, who normally plays second base.
Mondesi, 25, clearly is one of the most athletically gifted players in the Royals' organization, displaying elite speed, power and superior defense. In 2019, Mondesi hit 20 doubles, nine homers, tied for the MLB lead with 10 triples and stole 43 bases -- in just 102 games.
But 2020 has been a nightmare for Mondesi, who is hitting just .186/.211/.240. He had started all 35 games leading up to Tuesday.
Mondesi also is just 8-for-his-last-68 (.118) with no extra-base hits, one RBI and 24 strikeouts.
Matheny has kept Mondesi in the game primarily because of his elite defense.
“You just think that one hit is coming,” Matheny said. “... It's something we all keep our eyes on: ‘When is it time?’ You’re listening to multiple voices, and ultimately, today was the day.
“And up until that point, I’m not going to flinch. He’s my guy. We’re going to roll. You never know when that night comes and everything just clicks. And when they’re in there, I have all the faith in the world in them.
“When there is a common belief that a day is needed, we’ll do it, but not until then.”
Matheny said he didn’t see anything significant on Monday night, a 2-1 Royals win, that led to Tuesday's decision to sit Mondesi.
Mondesi went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, including one where Mondesi attempted three times to bunt with a runner on first base with two strikes before taking a called third strike.
“You keep trying different things and give him incremental building blocks,” Matheny said. “And as long as you keep seeing forward, progressing steps, even though they don’t come out in results, you just remember that. ‘He did this or he just accomplished that.’ Those aren’t the days you pull the rug out from under him.
“There are so many steps behind any growth behind any young player. When the whole world would see it differently, [we stay the course]. But through conversations, through improvements, through all the variables, we then decide he might need a break, well, he needs a break.”
The Royals also decided to give red-hot Ryan McBroom a start in left field, and Bubba Starling a start in center on Tuesday. Starling hit the go-ahead RBI single in Monday’s win.
McBroom already has set a franchise record with three pinch-hit home runs this season, and has a .982 OPS overall.
“You love rewarding guys,” Matheny said. “With Bubba, you do what he did last night, you get him back in there. And we have 17 days in a row [of games]. Guys are going to need days eventually.”