KANSAS CITY -- For the third time this season, Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi has been placed on the 10-day injured list. The 25-year-old has a left oblique strain that took him out of Sunday’s series finale against the Red Sox, and it was severe enough that Kansas City made the roster move on Monday’s off-day, calling up infielder/outfielder Ryan O'Hearn to fortify its bench.
The move is devastating to Mondesi and to the Royals, who are 6-4 with Mondesi in the lineup and 26-34 without him entering Tuesday. It’s a small sample size, considering Mondesi has only played in 10 games in 2021, but it’s clear the Royals are better with Mondesi in the lineup and on the field given his skill set.
“I’m not going to deny that our team has looked different every time he’s been on the field,” manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday. “It’s fact. Anybody who has followed our team closely would attest to that. We acknowledge that this is a guy we’d like to have with us, we acknowledge that there isn’t anybody more affected and disappointed than Mondi. Nobody.
“You could just see how dejected he was right before I took him out of the game. We hurt for the player and everything he’s gone through this year.”
In 10 games, Mondesi has hit .361 with four home runs. He began the season on the IL with a right oblique strain, missing a month and a half after sustaining the injury in his final at-bat of Spring Training. After seven games in the Royals' lineup at the end of May, Mondesi again hit the IL with a left hamstring strain. He came back last week and crushed a homer in his first at-bat back in the lineup, signaling his return and what a force he can be when he’s playing.
Over the weekend against the Red Sox, he launched a 464-foot home run on Friday, went 2-for-4 with two runs scored on Sunday and flashed his defensive skills at his premium position when he fielded a slow short-hopper in the middle of the infield and fired it to first base for the out.
But he was removed with left side discomfort in the seventh inning, and after evaluations on Sunday night and Monday morning, the Royals determined that Mondesi would once again need to miss time with a new injury.
The 25-year-old has had a history full of injuries, but none like what he’s seen in 2021. In the past he’s had right shoulder impingement syndrome ('18), a groin strain ('19) and a left shoulder subluxation (’19) that led to surgery. He was healthy for the pandemic-shortened season in ’20 and went into the offseason healthy, but he had a slight delay to Spring Training when he was hit on a foot during live batting practice right before reporting to camp, but he recovered quickly and looked like a game-changing player with every swing throughout spring. Then the injuries began to hit when the regular season began.
“I just feel for Mondi more than anybody,” Matheny said. “You look at this stuff, and it’s legit injuries. It’s not stuff he’s conjuring up. ... You’re talking about such a fit athlete. It’s just -- frustration doesn’t even begin to sum up where he is.”
As much as the Royals have been cautious with Mondesi throughout his injury history, he continues to have setbacks. It brings up questions about his future position, but the club has emphasized its support, both medically and emotionally, as he’s gone through this.
“Injuries happen,” Matheny said. “It’s part of our game. What you do is you continue to encourage him as they make their way back and encourage them to make the necessary adjustments to hopefully limit the same injuries from happening in the future.
“We’ve got a lot of science to help us and how we train and continue to evolve as a player to make the adjustments to try to stay on the field. ... So hopefully that’ll be one of the takeaways here when all this is said and done, that Mondi continues to figure out ways to help himself.”
Mondesi has no timeline for return yet, and in the meantime, the Royals will look to Nicky Lopez to continue to fill in at shortstop. And O’Hearn was mashing at Triple-A Omaha, hitting .375 with a 1.382 OPS in 19 games. He’s hit 12 home runs and driven in 25 with 15 strikeouts in 72 at-bats. O’Hearn has shown this power before, but he has struggled to see it translate to the big leagues.
“It’s something I’ve been wrestling with too, every time I pull up the box scores and see that he’s just mashing,” Matheny said. “I know it’ll work here. We’ll continue to just try and make any kind of adjustments we need to make. See how it goes. But we’re going to get him opportunity. That should tell him everything he needs to know from our perspective.”