Notes: Tapia impressing out of bullpen

Royals send 3 to represent Kansas City at Olympics

July 29th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- When Royals reliever came in to relieve starter in the seventh inning on Wednesday night, it was a big situation and another test to see how the Royals can use the hard-throwing right-hander out of their bullpen.

By all accounts, Tapia seemed to have passed.

Tapia put together his second scoreless inning since joining the Royals' bullpen last week and, with his 98-100 mph fastball and biting slider, continues to give Kansas City another big arm it could use in high-leverage situations.

With the Royals down, 2-0, Bubic had walked Yoán Moncada to start the seventh inning Wednesday night against the White Sox, causing manager Mike Matheny to signal for Tapia and end Bubic’s night. Tapia struck out Andrew Vaughn on a filthy slider and then did the same to Leury García while getting help from catcher , who caught Moncada stealing second to end the frame.

It’s a small sample size, but Tapia has impressed in two scoreless innings with the Royals, allowing one hit and striking out three.

“So far, he’s done a nice job of being in the strike zone,” Matheny said Thursday morning. “You can tell the right-handers don’t feel very comfortable against him. And we’re working on manipulate his repertoire to have some more effectiveness against the lefties as well. You’re talking that kind of movement with that kind of velocity, and he’s done a nice job of being in the strike zone, so he’s made some nice steps forward.

"We’re going to continue to give him some chances, see how he can help us out in some of those leverage spots like he was at [Wednesday].”

Kansas City acquired Tapia from Seattle in May, and he was optioned to Triple-A Omaha so the coaching staff could learn more about him and help him stabilize his secondary pitches. Tapia leaned on his electric fastball a lot to get Triple-A hitters out, but he made significant strides with his slider to have another offering before being promoted to the Royals' bullpen.

If Tapia can continue his success and keep improving with his slider, he could give Kansas City another back-end arm to help take the load off of , , and , especially when the Royals find themselves in close games.

“Yesterday, [Tapia] was getting some awkward swings on his slider, and it had some good depth to it,” Matheny said. “There’s times where he gets on the side of the ball, and that allows the arm-side run to really take off, which makes it very difficult for right-handed hitters. But that’s also the same position that can get him in a place where that slider really flattens out, and that’s where he’s been getting a little bit of trouble.

When he stays on top of it, he has great depth. We watched guys swing at the ball in the dirt [Wednesday], some pretty good offspeed hitters have trouble. When you have that elevated velocity, guys have to make their decision quicker. The break’s been good so far. Hopefully, he can keep doing that.”

Royals in the Olympics
The 2021 Summer Olympics are in full swing in Tokyo, and Kansas City is well represented with baseball’s return to the Games. Team USA will take the field early Friday morning in an Olympic event for the first time since 2008, and Royals’ Minor League outfielder Bubba Starling is one of 24 players on the roster. He and Team USA are scheduled to play Israel at 5 a.m. CT on Friday, followed by a Saturday matchup against South Korea at 5 a.m. CT.

Managed by Mike Scioscia, the United States is seeking its first gold medal since the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

The Royals are also represented by Minor Leaguers Jeison Guzmán and Erick Mejia, playing for their native Dominican Republic, making Kansas City one of three organizations to have at least three players in the Olympics. Seattle also has three, and Boston has six.

Worth noting
• One year and one day after Foster Griffin exited his Major League debut with an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery, the left-hander was reinstated from the injured list and transferred to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to begin his way back. Griffin was the Royals’ first-round Draft pick in 2014 out of Orlando, Fla., but he did not make his debut until 2020. The 26-year-old made the Royals’ Opening Day bullpen and earned the win on July 27 after 1 2/3 scoreless innings, but he exited with an injury that shut him down for a year.