Brentz will 'never forget' memorable debut 

Royals lefty logs 1st MLB strikeout vs. Rangers; Whit happy to be back at 2B

April 4th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- When heard his name called in the Royals’ bullpen on Saturday afternoon, it didn’t hit him that he was warming up to go into his first Major League game. As he stretched out and threw a few pitches, it still didn’t quite hit him.

But when the left-hander stepped out of the gate to run out toward the mound at Kauffman Stadium, and he heard his name announced over the PA system, that’s when Brentz realized the significance of the moment.

“It was just something I’ll never forget,” Brentz said after the Royals’ 11-4 win over the Rangers on Saturday. “I knew I wanted to go out there and attack, and I wanted to get in the dugout as quick as I could. Keep us in the ballgame. When [manager] Mike [Matheny] came out and grabbed the ball from me, it was a pretty special moment.”

Brentz, who made the Opening Day roster as a non-roster invite to Spring Training, allowed one hit and walked one in two-thirds of an inning in his debut facing the top of the Rangers’ lineup, and he struck out left-handed-hitting Nate Lowe swinging on a 98-mph fastball before Matheny went to right-hander Jesse Hahn to finish off the eighth inning.

Brentz showed his high-velocity fastball, a sharp slider and a changeup that he’s been able to mix into his arsenal over the past year at the Royals’ alternate training site and during Spring Training.

“Getting Jake Brentz out on the field is something I know everybody was looking forward to,” Matheny said. “Whenever you have a young player watching their debut -- I think we were probably more nervous than he was. Just excited for him and wanting to see him do well. And Jesse to be able to come in and bail him out, and then hand it over.”

Brentz has traveled a long road to the big leagues since being selected by the Blue Jays in the 2013 MLB Draft out of the St. Louis area. Kansas City is his fourth organization after signing with the Royals in ’19, and he’s catapulted to the big leagues by unleashing his fastball. Brentz’s family, his girlfriend’s family and his friends from St. Louis were in the stands to see him make his debut.

“From when I signed in 2013, it’s been a long road,” Brentz said. “But everything I’ve gone through in the Minor Leagues and stuff prepared me for this. When I got the call [Saturday], it was a pretty surreal moment. But obviously there’s a job to do, and just went out there trying to put up a zero and keep us in the ballgame, and give my team the best chance to win. It was a great day, though, that’s for sure.”

And what about that first strikeout ball?

“That one will probably go to my dad,” Brentz said. “I wouldn’t be in this spot right now if it weren’t for my family.”

Merrifield’s hot start

Whit Merrifield joined Michael A. Taylor as both hitters produced a club record six RBIs apiece in their first two games of the season. Both Merrifield and Taylor entered Sunday 5-for-9 with two home runs across two games in which the Royals’ offense erupted for 25 runs.

“This is one of the most fun clubhouses I’ve ever been a part of since I’ve been in Kansas City,” Merrifield said. “Guys really cheer for each other, love each other, and that shows during the game when the energy is there because you’re genuinely cheering for the guy out there battling for you and for the team. These first two games have been incredible.”

While Merrifield’s comfort level at the plate and hitting leadoff has always shone through, he switched from right field to second base midway through Spring Training and he has been getting used to being back in the infield again.

“I’ve always loved playing second base,” Merrifield said. “In a perfect world, I would have gotten a little more reps in Spring Training, but second base is pretty second nature to me at this point. It’s a really comfortable position. So I’m happy to be on the dirt and hope to continue to play a good second base.”

Worth noting

• Hunter Dozier (right thumb contusion) took reps on the field on Sunday morning to make sure he’d be ready to play defense if needed. The third baseman was held out of the lineup for the second day after his thumb swelled up during an at-bat on Thursday.

“Swelling’s gone down,” Matheny said. “Still just going to try to get ahead of this instead of taking a couple steps forward and then maybe too many back. We think this is something that he’s making progression, so let’s continue to progress. We’ll give him another day today as far as a start goes.”

• Royals catcher Salvador Perez was recognized pregame on Sunday for winning the 2020 American League Comeback Player of the Year and Silver Slugger awards. Matheny and general manager Dayton Moore were on the field to present Perez the hardware.