BALTIMORE -- Hanser Alberto has adapted to a different role with the Royals this season.
Monday marked the third baseman’s first game back at Camden Yards since the Orioles non-tendered him during the offseason. Since then, Alberto was signed to a Minor League deal by the Royals. Then, he made the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training.
The move has paid off for Kansas City.
“We have absolutely loved having this guy on our club,” manager Mike Matheny said prior to the Royals’ series-opening 4-3 win on Labor Day. “This guy loves the game, comes in and handles whatever role it is. … He’s had a different role since he’s been here, and he’s embraced it. He’s embraced his teammates and [is] trying to make people better. Those are the guys that stand out to me, are the guys who are making an impact not just on the field -- doing your job when you get the chance. And he’s always ready, he’s always prepared."
Part of being prepared is knowing how to perform as a utility player. Alberto may start some games or he may enter as a pinch-hitter. He's also able to come in as one of the many defensive positions to which he provides depth. But Alberto is paying attention constantly to ensure he’s as useful to his teammates as possible.
“While I’m sitting on the bench, I try to watch at-bats, watching the plays, just to let them know what they should do,” Alberto said prior to Tuesday’s game at Camden Yards. “If I see something wrong, I’ll try to call them and let them know. And I think that’s part of my job; we’ve got a lot of young guys here and they don’t have a lot of experience at this level. … I’ve got more experience and talk to them, and I think that will help.”
So while he isn’t playing every game, Alberto’s success against left-handed pitchers makes him a prime target for use in matchup situations -- either late in games as a pinch-hitter or in the starting lineup, like on Monday.
Alberto hit his second home run of the season -- his first since before the All-Star break -- leading off n the fifth inning. He roped an 89.2 mph fastball from Orioles starter Zac Lowther, sending it a Statcast-projected 426 feet into the O’s bullpen in left-center field. Alberto was facing Lowther for the first time this season (the start marked Lowther’s first outing back from an extended span in the Minors).
Obviously, that makes it a small sample size -- but knowing how Alberto has performed against pitchers with similar velocity and movement as Lowther is one way to predict a solid matchup.
According to Statcast, Dillon Peters, Cole Irvin, Andrew Heaney, Matt Moore and Keegan Akin are amongst the Major League pitchers with similar stuff to Lowther.
Against Akin, one of the O’s other starters, Alberto has gone 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles this season. He’s 2-for-3 (another pair of doubles) against Heaney and 0-for-2 against Irvin. Alberto has not faced Peters or Moore in the past three seasons.
On July 2, Alberto notched his first homer of the season against J.A. Happ. The main connection between the two homers? Happ is a southpaw, too.
Batting cages 2, Whit 0
Whit Merrifield hit himself with a ball during batting practice on Tuesday. The ball ricocheted off the top of the cage and nailed him in the ribs under his right arm.
“It was the second time this year that happened,” Merrifield said. “The other time I got hit in the [right] eye at the All-Star Game, hit one off the screen.”
So to make up for his ribs (and that black eye from a few months ago), Merrifield continued his personal vendetta against batting cages and whacked the rim with his bat.
“Me and screens haven’t gotten along this year,” he said. “So I wanted to let it know.”