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Day 1: Witt Jr. impresses Matheny with spunk

Dozier's parents recover from COVID-19 scare; Royals go hard in first workouts
@FlannyMLB
July 3, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Like most managers, Royals skipper Mike Matheny isn’t one to single out great performances during Spring Training, or in this case, Summer Camp. But there was one moment that Matheny couldn’t resist discussing after the Royals’ first day of Summer Camp on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.

KANSAS CITY -- Like most managers, Royals skipper Mike Matheny isn’t one to single out great performances during Spring Training, or in this case, Summer Camp.

But there was one moment that Matheny couldn’t resist discussing after the Royals’ first day of Summer Camp on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.

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“I watched Bobby Witt Jr. take his first Major League camp live at-bat today,” Matheny said. “And it was a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with a one-hopper off the right-field wall. That just made me giggle a little.”

And who was pitching to the Royals' top overall prospect?

“That’s not relevant,” Matheny said, laughing at the question. “That’s not most important.”

Witt, a shortstop who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, was not invited to Spring Training back in February. He was added to the 60-man player pool on Sunday, mostly for developmental purposes.

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“You watch young guys come here like him, and he has just so much excitement and such a bounce in his step,” Matheny said. “You can’t step into a cage against a Major League pitcher and put together a solid at-bat like that without doing a ton of work leading up to it.”

Dozier’s parents recover from COVID-19

Royals right fielder Hunter Dozier is from Denton, Texas, a state that now is seeing unsettling spikes in positive COVID-19 tests.

“Texas is slowly starting to shut down,” Dozier said. “It’s unfortunate.”

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Both of Dozier’s parents had COVID-19 and recovered.

“Both of my parents actually had it early on, but they’re good now,” Dozier said. “My dad is a pilot for American [Airlines]. He got it and passed it in two days. He had symptoms for one day and then he was fine, but he had to get tested [because of work]. He felt fine after two days. He had to take a couple of weeks off, though.

“My mom, it took longer, probably about 2 1/2 weeks where she had symptoms every day and wasn’t feeling very good, so it kind of got scary for her. Luckily, my sister was at home and she is a nurse, so she was able to take care of her. But my mom finally passed it and she and my dad are doing great right now.”

Dozier has not experienced any symptoms, and took batting practice during the session open to the media on Friday.

“My wife and kids are out here with me, and they’re good,” Dozier said. “We’re all just trying to stay safe.”

Royals amp up on first day

Matheny promised earlier in the week that the Royals would hit the ground running in terms of camp by going straight to live batting practices the first day.

He wasn’t kidding.

Closer Ian Kennedy pitched live to hitters including Whit Merrifield. Other pitchers such as Jorge López, Brad Keller and Greg Holland also threw to hitters such as Jorge Soler and Ryan O'Hearn during the part of the day open to the media.

“You have to get right back into it really quick,” Kennedy said. “We knew that was coming as soon as possible. That was my third live in six days. We’re trying to get in game shape as soon as possible for the [intrasquad] games that we’ll have next week.

“It was just nice to be able to throw off a Major League mound again and have hitters swing against you. We have to get ready fast. These three weeks [of Summer Camp] are going to go really fast.”

Matheny liked everything he saw on the day.

“We were able to get right after it,” Matheny said. “We saw guys not feel for their pitches, guys not feel for their swings. Good stuff all across the board. Couldn’t be more encouraged by what I saw today.”

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.