After tough '21, Staumont back to feeling like usual self

April 1st, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- When pitched the ninth inning for the Royals during their 5-4 win over the A’s at Hohokam Stadium on Thursday, the stadium radar gun flashed 98-99 mph consistently, with Staumont mixing in his breaking ball for strikes.

It looked much more in line with the Staumont the Royals know and want to anchor their bullpen.

“Big arm, big spin, big fastball, and it just takes awhile to get that harnessed,” manager Mike Matheny said. “This time, he was right around the zone … maintained his composure, using the life with the four-seamer, movement on the sink and breaking ball looked better too.”

It has taken Staumont a full year to build back to where he feels like his normal self and ready for a full season. This time last year, the Royals' reliever was working his way back from a nasty bout with COVID-19, and the effects of the disease lasted longer than Staumont ever would have thought.

“It really did mess up how I felt, how I pushed,” Staumont said recently. “The way I’ve always explained it is like, the first couple weeks of the season, I had reserve left. Without knowing it, we blew through it. We hit about June and everything was gone. I felt better after COVID, so when we ran out of gas, it was just like a train hit me.”

Staumont rarely pitched back-to-back days last season, and he learned how to pitch without his best stuff. The right-hander still put together a good season, posting a 2.88 ERA across 65 2/3 innings, but he didn’t feel at his best. Staumont used the offseason to reset -- and rebuild.

“We’re going to play like 179 games over 202 days [including Spring Training], so if you don’t build that base, the game doesn’t stop for you,” Staumont said. “Having last year, having to deal with all that, and then being able to go home and rebuild all that as much as you can -- you try to build off of your year before, but last year wasn’t one of those years. So it was just nice to go home and take a deep breath and focus on me.”

Staumont feels and looks like himself again, and while he’s been working out some kinks, he will be in the Royals’ high-leverage reliever mix with Scott Barlow, Jake Brentz and Amir Garrett.

Staumont found himself frustrated at times last year; not with his play, but with how he physically felt. He can separate baseball and life “pretty easily,” he said, and never had a problem mentally on the field. But it was vexing to not have answers to why he was feeling a certain way physically after having COVID.

“There were so many gray areas and holes that it was really hard to address the issues,” Staumont said. “And I don’t think even today we can go back and know why I didn’t feel normal. Maybe 15 years down the line, we’ll see the effects of being sick. But I have no answers now. But we don’t have to worry about that now. I got through the season, got to the offseason, reset.

“I think every day I get farther away, it’s better and better and better.”

Royals celebrate organizational awards

The Royals held their annual awards ceremony Thursday morning, when the whole team congregated in the Major League batting cages and organizational awards from the previous year were announced. The George Brett Hitter of the Year (Bobby Witt Jr.) and the Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year (Jackson Kowar) were announced last September, but a number of Royals prospects were honored Thursday:

• Frank White Award (the organization’s top defensive player): Nick Pratto, for committing just two errors in 955 2/3 innings at first base (.998 fielding percentage) between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha.

• Willie Wilson Award (the organization’s top baserunner): Tyler Tolbert, for stealing 55 bases, which ranked fourth among all Minor League players in 2021, and for only getting caught stealing twice for a 96.5 percent success rate.

• Mike Sweeney Award (player who best represents the organization on and off the field): Vinnie Pasquantino, for hitting .300/.394/.563 between High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

• Dick Howser Award (organization’s most outstanding player development employee): Mitch Stetter, the Royals’ manager of pitching performance.

• Matt Minker Award (organization’s most outstanding Minor League employee): Dave Heller, majority owner and managing partner of High-A Quad Cities.

• Art Stewart Award (organization’s most outstanding scout): Keith Connolly, regional supervisor

• Carlos Fortuna Award (player who is dedicated to improving his English, work ethic and conduct): Adrian Alcantara, a right-hander who appeared in 24 games for Low-A Columbia and led the team with 98 strikeouts across 96 1/3 innings.

The Royals also recognized MJ Melendez as the 2021 Joe Bauman Award winner, handed out annually to Minor League Baseball’s home run leader. Melendez crushed 41 homers last season to become the third Royals Minor Leaguer to earn the award (Chris Brazell in 2007 and Mike Moustakas in 2010).