Royals notes: Who will start Opening Day?

Mondesi showing strong; Matias wows in live BP

July 5th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Back in March, the Royals and manager Mike Matheny were trending toward using right-hander as the Opening Day starter against the White Sox in Chicago.

That would have set up left-hander to likely start the home opener the following week.

Of course, now with the MLB pause that was created by the pandemic, things have changed. But will Keller still be in line to be the Opening Day starter later this month? Matheny indicated he hasn’t decided yet between Keller or Duffy.

But it seems clear Matheny wants one of the two to simply take ownership role of the staff’s No. 1 guy.

“I want our guys to take a lot of pride in being that guy,” Matheny said. “We know Brad Keller has been that guy. I’m wanting to push Danny Duffy to believe there’s no reason to believe he shouldn’t be that guy. I want Jakob Junis to believe ... and then to understand there’ll only be one guy who is the Opening Day starter.

“Especially with our team, we need veteran leadership, and I want Danny Duffy to think, ‘This is the staff I should be leading. I want to be that guy [who is the Opening Day starter].’ I think that is the right way of thinking.

“Brad Keller should be thinking that way, too. [Mike Montgomery] should be thinking that way. That’s how you get healthy competition. That’s how you get the best staffs in history. They all respect each other but they’re pushing each other. They’re helping but also competing.”

The strategy of starting a certain pitcher on the road vs. home, or the honor of starting the home opener in front of a packed house has vanished. There will be no fans to start.

“It’s not something we take for granted from a fan perspective, choosing a starter for the home opener,” Matheny said of the previous strategy. “That [original] Opening Day, we were tracking toward Brad throwing that first game of the season [in Chicago] and then Danny throwing the first one at home. But there’s nothing but TV games for now, so it changes. We’ll see how it progresses.

“Camp dictates that, too; if guys get sore, or whatever.”

Mondesi looks strong

Shortstop is now seemingly fully recovered from his left shoulder surgery in the fall.

“He looks fantastic,” Matheny said. “He’s strong, moving well. He took a live [batting practice] yesterday and took a couple pitches inside, and they were good pitches, and turned them around. Timing looks good.

“He sent videos to us [during the pause] of him working out, and he took some grounders, with the worst hops you can imagine, and I’m thinking he’s going to lose some teeth. Next thing you know, he’s coming up with the ball. It was the kind of [field] those guys grew up on.”

Matias impresses

Power-hitting prospect Seuly Matias, the team’s No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline, wowed Matheny with a live batting practice Saturday.

“I’m not sure I’ve seen a young player step on the field and put on a display like he did,” Matheny said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

“I remember Geoff Jenkins [in Milwaukee] -- you know, when they bring in the No. 1 pick and he gets in the cage, and he’s popping them up one after another because they’re swinging too hard. Geoff Jenkins was the first player I ever saw that young where he put on a display and the Major League guys on the field were going, ‘Hey, that guy can hit.’

“First of all, you can hardly tell the difference between Matias and [Jorge] Soler. The physique, like Greek Gods. And so [Matias] was hitting the ball around the field and we were like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was different. It was fun to watch.”