KC 'being smart' with Mondesi's hamstring

Matheny mindful of Merrifield's health during his consecutive-games streak

June 1st, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals received good news on Tuesday morning regarding 's left hamstring: The shortstop woke up feeling better than when he went to bed Monday night after tweaking his hamstring in the team's win over the Pirates.

Mondesi exited Monday’s game as a precaution, and the hopes are it’s nothing serious. While Tuesday’s report wasn’t much of an update, it was an encouraging sign. Mondesi wasn’t in the starting lineup for Tuesday night's series finale against the Pirates at Kauffman Stadium, and the Royals will evaluate after the club's off-day on Wednesday.

“They’re very encouraged, as he is too, that it didn’t worsen overnight,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Seems to be getting better already. … Great bit of news to get first thing in the morning. Typically, you would expect that [injury] to be worse. For him to feel better today, medical people are feeling optimistic that this is something that he’s going to be able to get ahead of.”

Mondesi has played in seven games since being reinstated off the injured list after a right oblique strain delayed the start to his season. He returned last Tuesday against the Rays, and he is 9-for-25 (.360) with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs -- picking right up where he left off with his swing last season and during Spring Training.

“Obviously for Mondi, he’s still learning himself and how to stay on the field,” Matheny said. “He comes in, and that’s his goal every year: How do I stay on the field? And something like that happened yesterday, and you can just see like, ‘You got to be kidding me.’ Worked so hard through everything, just like through spring, so you hurt for him in that regard.

“From the outside, I’m sure there’s a lot of, ‘What’s going on here?’ We get it. But there’s not one person out there that wants to see Mondi on that field more than Mondi. This guy is motivated, and frustrated, but this I think is really good news when he’s got medical people telling him, ‘You’re going to be OK, let’s just be smart here.’”

In other injury news, designated hitter Jorge Soler was available off the bench on Tuesday night after dealing with right groin discomfort since Saturday.

Iron Man Merrifield

The Royals are off on Wednesday, Major League Baseball’s inaugural Lou Gerhig Day, so second baseman Whit Merrifield won’t play when teams honor the original Iron Horse. But Merrifield could classify as his team's Iron Man, relatively speaking, considering he owned the longest active streak of consecutive games played in the Majors entering Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Merrifield played in his 360th consecutive game on Tuesday night, a streak that began on June 25, 2018. That streak is 61 games shy of the Royals’ record of 421 games set by Alcides Escobar from Sept. 26, 2015 to July 7, 2018.

“I think there’s something to certain people’s bodies being able to recuperate and rejuvenate differently than others,” Matheny said. “I don’t have great science to throw at you to validate that, but just watching the ‘want to’ of some guys, it’s there, but their bodies just don’t cooperate. And there’s other guys that they’ve got like dinosaur bones, where they get hit and you think, ‘Oh no, there’s something broken for sure.’ And they’re a little sore the next day, but they’re right back at it.”

Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games before he pulled himself out of the Yankees' lineup on May 1, 1939, due to uncharacteristic poor play and mysterious fatigue. On June 19, 1939, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that ended his life and informally bears his name. Now, every June 2 -- the day that Gehrig began his streak and the day that he died at age 37 -- teams celebrate the legacy of the Hall of Fame first baseman and raise awareness for ALS. The Royals will honor Lou Gehrig Day on Thursday when they open a four-game series against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium.

Cal Ripken Jr. eclipsed Gehrig’s record in 1995 and made it to 2,632 consecutive games before taking himself out of the Orioles' lineup on Sept. 20, 1998. To put Merrifield’s streak in perspective, he’s 2,272 games shy of Ripken’s Major League record, and to catch it, Merrifield would have to play another 14-plus full seasons without missing a game.

Merrifield’s versatility in the field and consistent play at the plate helps move his streak along. Matheny is aware of the context of Merrifield’s streak and works with him to ensure his health every day.

“I’ve been in direct conversations with Whit, ‘Hey, I know you’re in the middle of something, but let’s be smart,’” Matheny said. “Let’s be in conversation about when you might need one of those days -- could end up being a DH day. Fortunately, in our league, that still counts. … It’s fun trying to understand the different psychology of the grind of this game. Around here, with the unique nature that we have, it’s something that deserves a lot of attention and respect in my mind.”