Witt 'moving forward' from hamstring injury
NEW YORK -- After missing five consecutive games because of right hamstring tightness, Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. was back in Saturday’s lineup as the designated hitter in an 8-2 loss to the Yankees.
While it was encouraging for Kansas City to see him return at Yankee Stadium, Witt had a game to forget, striking out in all four of his at-bats. Three of those strikeouts came against left-handed starter Nestor Cortes, who allowed two runs on five hits in five innings. It was obvious that the 22-year-old Witt still needs to get back up to game speed.
“I’m just happy that he’s healthy and he feels good,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We didn’t see him get on the bases and do anything else, [but] I know he is moving forward in a good direction health-wise.”
Witt said he was thinking too much at the plate against Cortes.
“I had a couple of games to prepare for it,” Witt said. “I think I was just overanalyzing it. I just wasn’t going out there having fun and being myself. I was not at my best.”
But the results weren’t as important for the Royals as having Witt back on the field for the first time in nearly a week. He had been out since exiting last Sunday’s series finale against the Rays with a tight hamstring after only one inning.
Witt said he had never dealt with a hamstring injury before, so he was somewhat surprised that the issue lingered as long as it did. Though he was able to avoid a stint on the injured list, he was still receiving treatment after Saturday’s game.
“Everyone was cautious with it, so we had to wait and see until the time was right,” Witt said.
The Royals will take a similar approach with Witt as they did with catcher Salvador Perez, who came off the IL on Friday as the designated hitter before moving behind the dish Saturday.
“We’ll start [Witt] by DHing and still try to control some of the effort. Hopefully, that will translate into some time on the field at shortstop soon,” Matheny said.
Added Witt: “Hopefully as soon as I can. Kind of whenever. It’s wait and see. It’s [the team’s] choice.”
Witt, who was tabbed as MLB’s No. 1 overall prospect entering the season, is in his first full year in the big leagues and is living up to expectations. He’s already Kansas City’s top run producer, leading the team in homers, RBIs and stolen bases. And his skipper believes the rookie will only get better.
“The more opportunity he gets out here, the more he is going to have consistency. That’s typically what we talk about with our young players. We see flashes of brilliance all the time,” Matheny said. “There’s definitely steps for him to take forward, because he has shown a lot of what he can do, but there is more in there. It’s hard to put a limit on what he can do. So we just keep teaching him and keep giving him opportunities to grow and get better.”
For now, Witt said he is just trying to keep things simple as he makes his way back to the diamond.
“The games are hard enough. I just go out there and be myself,” Witt said.