Royals manager Mike Matheny watched video on Thursday that was a welcome sight: Adalberto Mondesi taking part in batting practice back in Kansas City recently.
The shortstop has been on the injured list with a right oblique strain for the entire first month of the season, but taking regular batting practice on the field is a positive step toward his return to the lineup.
“His BP looked good,” Matheny said. “I had some reports, got to talk with [Royals physical therapist] Jeff Blum, and he gave me kind of an update on what [Mondesi] has been doing, how he’s been responding, how eager he is to take that next step to start playing some games. All those pointing in a very positive direction.”
Matheny said the switch-hitting Mondesi has been focused more on his right-handed swing to help protect the injured oblique. Mondesi has also been doing some light infield work this past week. A timeline for his return to the Royals is still not known, but batting practice is a significant step toward it. With how much time he’s missed, a rehab stint is likely.
“The right side is what I saw video of, and it looked very good,” Matheny said.
Bubic’s adjustments, readying for Omaha
When the Royals optioned Kris Bubic during Spring Training, they tasked him first with making adjustments in the mental side of pitching -- like aggressiveness -- and later with his delivery to get back to the efficient pitcher he was in the Minors since the club selected him No. 40 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Bubic debuted and made 10 starts in 2020, but he struggled with control this spring. Working with Triple-A pitching coach Dane Johnson at the alternate training site allowed Bubic to identify mechanical adjustments in his delivery that could have led to some of the command issues.
According to officials, he’s made significant strides. The lefty will start the Minor League season on Tuesday in the Triple-A Omaha rotation and join the group of young arms eager to help out the Royals when the time comes.
“Initially, we weren’t really trying to focus on the delivery, we were trying to talk more about the mental side of pitching and what changes he needed to make,” assistant general manager/player development J.J. Picollo said on Thursday. “And they started looking at video, and some of it was front-side related, his glove side. He’s always had a unique delivery that maybe became a little less unique that probably took away some deception.
“Trying to go back to what he was doing has allowed him to improve his command on his fastball. I think he’s moving in the right direction.”
Friday night's series opener against the Twins kicked off a 17-game stretch against division opponents for the American League Central-leading Royals. They entered Friday with a 1 1/2-game lead over the White Sox, and although the focus is always on the current day and game at hand, they can’t help but notice the opportunity they have in the division to begin May.
“This early in the year, I think you can look at these games and say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter that much because there’s so many games left,’” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said. “But every game counts, every game matters, so this is an important stretch. Hopefully we continue to play good baseball.”
Following the three-game set at Target Field, the Royals return to Kansas City to face the Indians (Monday through Thursday) and the White Sox (next weekend). Their next road trip will be to Detroit (May 11-13) and Chicago (May 14-16).
At 15-8, the Royals held the best record in the Majors for a fourth consecutive day. This marked their longest run atop the standings in more than 40 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since they led the Majors for 33 consecutive days from Aug. 8-Sept. 9, 1980, on their way to winning the AL pennant.
“We have a long way to go,” Matheny said. “We’ve got a lot of teams that are wanting a piece of us, for sure. And likewise. That’s what we do, we look forward to each new challenge, and definitely a challenge as we head into this series with the Twins. We don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.
"We know there’s some good opportunities ahead, but just trying to always pump the brakes and say, ‘Hey, do not get past today. Today’s the day that we got to do something special. The only one we really can control right now, so let’s get prepared.’"