Singer's focus on improving changeup on display in spring debut

March 22nd, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Every Royals pitcher had something different to work on this offseason based on their exit interviews following the 2021 season with the coaching staff and research and development department. From mechanics to their arsenal, pitchers were tasked with one or two things to work on during the winter months.

For , his task was furthering the development of his changeup. And that’s what he did, throwing the pitch every day he played catch while working in the Tampa area.

Singer debuted that changeup in his first spring appearance Monday during the Royals' 8-5 win over the Angels at Tempe-Diablo Stadium, when the right-hander threw two innings, gave up one unearned run, struck out two and walked two. He was admittedly amped up during the first inning, leading to the two walks, a wild pitch and a throwing error. But Singer settled down in the second for a clean inning, and threw several changeups to left-handed batter Tyler Wade before striking him out swinging.

“I think I got the feel for it,” Singer said. “The grip is right. It feels really good. The other day, we were just working on taking some of the velocity off. Hopefully it showed today. I couldn’t really tell where I was at today, but it seemed slower. I was really happy with it today.”

Singer has tried to incorporate the pitch into his two-pitch repertoire in the past, but that’s difficult to do during the season when results matter and feel for the pitch is lacking.

“I just haven’t thrown it a lot,” Singer said. “But this year, trying to throw it a lot more. I got the grip I’m comfortable with, that everyone agrees on, and I can command it better than I ever have.”

Singer will have to throw it more in big league games when the season starts -- as well as command his fastball -- but Monday was a solid first step in having a three-pitch mix for 2022. Singer knows that’s the key to taking the next step in his career.

“It was a good speed, and he threw it for strikes, too,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s not going to take long before that gets around: ‘Hey, this guy’s got a pitch that he’s not afraid to throw in tough counts, he can throw for strikes.’ Then it’s going to be a swing pitch instead of something that they know is there. It’s going to be effective. I thought it was a good use of his today.”

Young hitters showing off
With their first road game of the Spring Training schedule, the Royals’ regulars got a day off Monday afternoon against the Angels, allowing some of the young position players to take over -- and show their skills in front of the coaching staff and fans.

Outfielder Seuly Matias, one of the most powerful bats in the Royals’ system, hit a pinch-hit home run to the opposite field, crushing a ball over the right-field fence in the fifth inning. First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino hammered a home run to the batter’s eye in center field in the sixth inning. Outfielder Edward Olivares, fresh off his walk-off hit Sunday, singled in the first inning and hit an RBI single in the third off reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani as part of Olivares’ 3-for-3 day. Ryan O’Hearn was 3-for-5, and Maikel Garcia -- one of the best defensive shortstops in the Royals’ system and one of the players added to the 40-man roster this offseason -- went 2-for-4.

“They’re exciting,” Matheny said. “They’re good ballplayers, too. …What I’ve said about a lot of these young players, they just play a winning-style of game. … You just don’t come into a Major League spring game and take a pinch-hit at-bat and do what Seuly did or what Vinnie did or any of them. It’s really impressive to watch. And it’s exciting.”

Pasquantino might even have set a new home run trot record when he sped around the bases because the umpire didn’t signal a home run as the ball bounced off the wall and back into center field. Pasquantino did the right thing in running and not jogging home, but it did give the Royals' dugout a good laugh.

“When you get the safe call from the umpire, and you don’t have a yellow line above the pad, we don’t necessarily go over ground rules before the game -- I would much rather set a world record on a home run time around the bases than get thrown out walking into third base,” Matheny said. “He did the right thing, and it gave us a little room to give him some grief.”

Mondesi avoids arbitration
The Royals and Adalberto Mondesi settled on the infielder’s salary for the 2022 season, avoiding arbitration a day before figures are to be exchanged between players and clubs.

Mondesi will make $3 million this season, a source told, a raise from his $2.5 million salary last year. The club confirmed the deal Monday night.

This is Mondesi’s second year of arbitration, and he is set to become a free agent in 2024. After three years of service time, players go through three years of arbitration before hitting free agency. Typically, the deadline to agree on a salary is in December with hearings -- if the two sides don’t come to an agreement -- happening in January. The lockout pushed that day back to Tuesday.

The Royals have seven arbitration-eligible players this year, including Mondesi. Outfielder Andrew Benintendi is in his third year and is projected to make $8.9 million this season, per Cots Contracts. Right-hander Brad Keller (second year) is projected to make $5.2 million, reliever Scott Barlow (first year) is projected to make $3.2 million, infielder Nicky Lopez (first year) is projected to make $3.2 million, backup catcher Cam Gallagher (first year) is projected to make $1.25 million and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn (first year) is projected to make $900,000.