KC calls on Olivares: 'Bit of a catalyst'

June 1st, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- As produced highlight after highlight over the past month, the Royals couldn’t ignore what they were seeing and hearing about their young outfielder making a mockery of Triple-A. In 20 games with Omaha over the first month of the season, Olivares hit .395 (32-for-81) with a 1.127 OPS.

“Everything we're hearing from Triple-A staff was, ‘This guy’s just standing out right now,’” manager Mike Matheny said.

Olivares knew if he kept hitting the ball like he was with the Storm Chasers, he would get the call to join Kansas City, and that call came over the weekend. He was promoted on Sunday morning and contributed right away in a win over the Twins, with a leadoff single that catapulted the Royals’ offense to a four-run fifth inning.

“The team knows what I am able to do, and I can trust that process,” Olivares said through interpreter Luis Perez. “I understand that that good start really helped me get here. But I know who I am as a player, and I’m excited to contribute at this level.”

While right fielder/designated hitter heals from right groin discomfort experienced over the weekend -- he was out of the lineup again Monday but took some swings during pregame batting practice -- Olivares will continue to get a chance to show the Royals more of the kind of player he can be.

“He’s got the ability to be a little bit of a catalyst for us,” Matheny said. “Just kind of watching how he was doing each day, seems to have a great approach. … Wanted him to jump right in and, hopefully, keep doing it, and that's exactly what he did [Sunday]."

Matheny was impressed by the 25-year-old’s two-strike approach and ability to have longer plate appearances because of it. The Royals saw a little bit of that in 2020, when he was traded to Kansas City from the Padres and played in 18 games with the Royals, hitting .274. Throughout Spring Training and the beginning of the season this year, Olivares has tried not to veer from that style of offense.

“It’s about sticking with it,” Olivares said. “I know if I get away from who I am, I’m going to stop having results.”

On top of his offensive approach, Olivares’ defense was a major focus during Spring Training. Still new to the organization, he worked extensively with first-base coach Rusty Kuntz to learn the Royals’ outfield system and expectations, and he revamped his pregame work to better prepare for playing the outfield. Most of the work came with reacting to the ball off the bat. There were plenty of learning experiences in Arizona this spring, and the Royals are seeing improvement now in the regular season.

“You know he’s seeing the ball well, feeling good mechanically, and has that confidence,” Matheny said. “We always love to try to throw a guy in right in the mix when they’ve got those thought processes and the swing feel down right now. And he’s a talented player. Sneaky power. We really like what he’s done on both sides of the ball.”

Honoring heroes on Memorial Day
In honor of Memorial Day on Monday, Royals Charities hosted a Heroes Game on the left-field concourse of Kauffman Stadium. It was a Wiffle ball game between military veterans and Royals alumni, including Dennis Leonard, Willie Aikens, Al Fitzmorris, John Wathan and John Mayberry.

“Both grandfathers, two of my heroes, were in World War II, and I had an uncle who was in Vietnam, lost a leg, and you see some of the sacrifices that they made, hearing the stories,” Matheny said. “But it’s also was something they took great pride in.

“Every time the national anthem is played, I still remember my one grandfather tell me how important it was to take that time serious because there were a lot of his friends who gave their life for freedom that we have. And to just never take that time for granted. That’s always rung true with me. I have deep respect for and I’m so grateful for them and glad that our nation takes time to acknowledge it.”

Kauffman Stadium also returned to full capacity Monday night.