KANSAS CITY -- As the Royals try to fight out of a slump that saw them go 7-20 in June and enter Friday's series opener against the Twins riding a nine-game losing streak, general manager Dayton Moore expressed his confidence in the coaching staff to help the club break out of that slump.
“You’ve got to do a lot of things right to win a Major League Baseball game,” Moore said on Friday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. “When you have breakdowns in several areas, it makes it darn near impossible to win. But you can’t make excuses with injuries, and at the end of the day, you’ve got to look in the mirror as a general manager and evaluate your processes. But I’m going to believe in our players, in [manager] Mike Matheny, in the coaching staff.
“All our guys really, really care. They want to do better. They’re hurting. The effort level, when you watch our team play, has been really good. You don’t have guys peeling off on the bases, don’t have drama in the clubhouse. No finger pointing. We may not be winning games, but they’re preparing and acting like winners. That’s a testament to who they are as players, and that’s a testament to Mike and the coaching staff.”
Moore said he “understood” the angst he’s heard about pitching coach Cal Eldred and hitting coach Terry Bradshaw with the team largely underperforming from the expectations in the offseason and coming out of Spring Training. The Royals added experience to their roster during the offseason and believed they had an offense that could hold up in the American League Central.
But with key pieces Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler struggling -- hitting .166 and .183 entering Friday -- and Andrew Benintendi (right rib fracture) and Adalberto Mondesi (right oblique strain) on the injured list, much of the production has fallen to Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana and All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, without much lineup depth -- aside from Nicky Lopez -- following those top three. Perez, who announced earlier on Friday that he will participate in the Home Run Derby, belted his 20th homer in the second inning against the Twins.
The Royals' rotation entering Friday ranked 29th in the Majors with a 5.47 ERA, and the bullpen 21st with a 4.56 ERA. Danny Duffy dealt with an injury that doesn’t have him fully back in the rotation yet, while young pitchers like Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have struggled despite promising 2020 seasons.
“I believe in Cal Eldred and Terry Bradshaw, and our players, that we’re going to continue to get better,” Moore said. “Focusing on the things that we need to do better. We have a lot of baseball left. And we expect to get better.”
Matheny expressed his confidence, too, in his coaching staff, saying the preparation from the staff and players isn’t any different than what it was in April, when the Royals were 16-9 and one of the best teams in baseball. Now, Kansas City sat at the bottom of the AL Central -- 15 games out of first place -- entering Friday.
“I will tell you right now, hands down, this is the most prepared coaching staff I’ve ever been around,” Matheny said. “This is the hardest working staff I’ve ever been around. Most detail oriented, probably the most caring for the right purposes coaching staff I’ve ever been. And that’s per man.
“When you go through these times, there’s going to be whatever said is said. If something needs to be adjusted, it’ll be adjusted. But to give this too much of our time, I think is wrong. Keep doing your job, keep caring. Keep going about it the right way. And we believe in the end, it’ll translate to the right outcomes.”
With the calendar flipping to July and the Trade Deadline rapidly approaching on July 30, Moore said the club is “examining” moves they could make, but isn’t in a hurry to sell key pieces for prospects, believing the time for the team to contend is still near despite this season's struggles.
“We’re not in a hurry to break anything up,” Moore said. “We still feel like we can get better. There are young players that have to develop, and to do that, you need a strong supporting cast. And we also feel like we can be better next year, in 2022, we can be better with this same group. We’ll evaluate things.”
Starling headed to Tokyo
Royals outfielder Bubba Starling, currently playing with Triple-A Omaha, was selected to be on the United States Olympic Team roster to play in Tokyo this summer, USA Baseball announced on Friday morning. Starling is one of 24 players selected to compete for Team USA, which will open the tournament on July 30 against Israel.
Starling, a native of Gardner, Kan., was the Royals’ first-round Draft pick (No. 5 overall) in 2011 and made his MLB debut in 2019. He’s played in 24 games with Omaha this season, slashing .271/.323/.612 (23-for-85) with six doubles, a triple, seven homers and 17 RBIs.