Coach's 'good energy' helps bring donuts, punchies

February 27th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anne Rogers' Royals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In 2017, the pitching staff for what was then the Royals’ Single-A affiliate in Lexington had a motto: donuts and punchies.

Donuts = Zeros on the scoreboard. Punchies = Strikeouts.

Fast forward to last week in Surprise, and Royals reliever , who pitched in Lexington after he was drafted in 2017, is pulling up a text he received over the offseason.

“Can’t wait for donuts and punchies in the big leagues,” the text read.

It was from his former pitching coach in Lexington, Mitch Stetter, who is now Snider’s bullpen coach in Kansas City. Stetter sent the text shortly after Snider congratulated him on the new job.

“Full circle,” Snider said.

Stetter is a former big league reliever who once set a Brewers record, when he recorded 15 consecutive outs on strikeouts in 2009. That mark was broken by Josh Hader in 2018, when Stetter was in Lexington encouraging his own pitchers to rack up the strikeouts.

“After our game, I went in to check my phone to see the box, and I was like, ‘OK, as long as he doesn’t have one inning, three strikeouts we’re good,’” Stetter said. “Well, one inning and three strikeouts later, I’m no longer a record-holder.”

Stetter joined the Royals in 2014 as a player/bullpen coach for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, then he served as a pitching coach in Rookie ball and Lexington. For the past three seasons, he has been the Royals’ manager of pitching performance -- tasked with bridging the gap between Royals Minor League pitchers and the research and development department.

He has worked with nearly every homegrown pitcher in the Royals' clubhouse this spring.

“He’s one of my favorite pitching coaches I’ve ever had,” starter said. “He’s such a relaxed presence, really chill. And really smart.”

The Royals informed Stetter this offseason that he was an internal candidate for the big league staff. After hiring Brian Sweeney as the pitching coach and Zach Bove as the assistant pitching coach, the Royals conducted several outside interviews for bullpen coach before landing on Stetter -- the candidate Sweeney, Bove and manager Matt Quatraro pushed for because of his familiarity with Royals pitchers.

“To me, it was huge. I’m really glad we landed with Mitch as the bullpen coach because of that,” Quatraro said. “And the respect that he's earned from these players over the years. And kudos to him that we ended up landing him, because we interviewed outside people, and it kept coming back to, ‘OK, well, Mitch seems really fit for this.’ It wasn’t just handed to him; he earned it through the interview process.”

Hurlers who have worked with him in the past have raved about Stetter’s knowledge of pitching and analytics, giving him credit for big parts of their development.

They gravitate toward his low-key personality.

“I’m excited to have him in the bullpen,” Snider said. “He gets you going, gets you the information you need, but it’s not going to be a high-strung environment. It’s already stressful enough, so to have someone that’s going to give good energy is going to be really nice.”