Bubic makes bullpen debut; Zimmer update

May 2nd, 2021

Flipping through video each week with Triple-A pitching coach Dane Johnson over the last month, Royals left-hander pinpointed the differences between when he was successful and when he showed more inconsistencies than he’d like.

The differences were small in stature but big in results once Bubic made the slight alterations to his posture and delivery. He focused on centering his body as he delivered the ball, specifically on his back side before his arm comes over the top.

“For me, it’s staying back longer,” Bubic said prior to making his season debut with one inning in relief in Sunday's 13-4 loss at Target Field after being recalled from the alternate training site on Saturday. “Staying stacked over my back hip just allows me to stay on my hip longer and not come out of it too early to where I’m essentially fighting against my front side. Because the front side is going to go and my arm’s just going to have to come up and compensate for that leak of energy. Keeping everything stacked over the center of the body, so the front foot gets down and then it’s just all natural from there.”

The progress he’s shown has allowed him to command the ball better, be more aggressive on the mound and pitch with confidence -- all things the Royals tasked the 23-year-old to work on when he was optioned in mid-March during Spring Training. After his first year in the Majors in 2020, the club wanted to see more consistency, and working on the backfields and then at the alternate training site allowed Bubic to reset after struggling with command during the spring.

“Just be able to relax, pitch a little more freely, pitch a little more aggressively, and just kind of reset that mindset,” Bubic said.

Now back with the Royals, Bubic is ready for whatever situation manager Mike Matheny entrusts in him. Bubic came on for Brad Keller in the fifth inning on Sunday and gave up two runs on three hits. For now, he’ll pitch out of the bullpen in what Matheny called a “flexible” role -- Bubic is built up to go multiple innings, but he could also be used in shorter stints. Whatever his role, he’s ready to build on what he did at the alternate training site. His last outing against the Rangers was his best as he struck out six in five innings a week ago.

“That’s the kind of outing I know I’m capable of -- everything was in the zone for strikes, getting swings and misses, and count leverage was huge that day,” Bubic said. “Pitching from behind, I’m all too used to that the last 12 months or so, but getting ahead just makes life a lot easier.”

Bubic said his curveball, a pitch he’s worked to develop since he was selected in the 2018 MLB Draft, feels the best and most consistent it’s ever felt. It gives him a solid third offering and allows him to be more aggressive in the zone. That was something else he focused on during his time at the alternate training site, working to get back to the efficient pitcher he was in the Minor Leagues.

“Just locking in right away and not trying to be too fine early in counts,” Bubic said. “Especially because once I get ahead, I have three different weapons I can go to to get hitters out. … Got a little more experience under my belt to be back here and understand that I don’t need to try to do more, don’t need to try to do something I haven’t done in the past. Because what I’ve done to get here is perfectly capable enough to get these hitters out.”

Veteran batterymates win April award

The longest-tenured Royals have started 2021 scorching hot, hoping to lead their team back to October baseball. Starter Danny Duffy and catcher Salvador Perez were named the team's pitcher and player of the month for April. The awards are determined by a local media vote.

Perez tied for the team lead with 26 hits in April, 11 of which went for extra bases. He had a standout week during a homestand in the middle of the month, when he logged his 1,000th career hit, had a walk-off pickoff and a home run to clinch the series against the Angels on April 14. Later that week, he hit a walk-off home run, caught all nine innings of a shutout and hit the go-ahead two-run home run to clinch the third win in four games against the Blue Jays. Then, he hit a walk-off single against the Rays on April 21.

Duffy posted a 0.39 ERA in April, which was best in the Majors (minimum four starts) and the best ERA in any calendar month in Royals history (minimum four starts), besting Zack Geinke’s 0.50 ERA in five April starts in 2009 (his American League Cy Young Award season). Duffy’s only loss in April came on April 19 against the Rays, a game where he was charged with two unearned runs over six innings.

Zimmer update

Reliever Kyle Zimmer was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left trapezius strain on Saturday after his shoulder “locked up on him,” following Friday night’s game against the Twins, Matheny said. It lessened a bit by Sunday, but Zimmer wasn’t available in the bullpen on Saturday, prompting the club to make a roster move. There’s no timeline for Zimmer’s return; the team will reassess his shoulder in Kansas City on Sunday night.

“Yesterday, he almost needed help getting a shirt off,” Matheny said, “It was really -- I think there’s just a routine he does of things almost focused just on his shoulders and scaps, making sure he’s staying strong and flexible. Something just spasmed on him. We were in a spot that we were going to be a little light and not know how long this is going to take.”