Bubic final piece to Royals' 2023 rotation

Lefty earns No. 5 spot, features more swings and misses with revamped slider

March 28th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- The Royals finalized their Opening Day starting rotation with the last piece of the puzzle decided on Tuesday.

will be the fifth starter to open the 2023 season, manager Matt Quatraro announced before a 5-3 exhibition loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Field.

That sets up the Royals’ rotation as follows:

Thursday vs. Twins (Opening Day): RHP
Saturday vs. Twins: RHP
Sunday vs. Twins: RHP
Monday vs. Blue Jays: RHP
April 4 vs. Blue Jays: LHP

Bubic slid into the fifth spot after lefty  went down with a left shoulder strain last week. Lynch is still shut down from throwing and he will start the season on the injured list. Bubic’s throwing program was delayed coming into spring because of left shoulder soreness, but he’s healthy now and has been building up innings. The Royals were going to be faced with a decision between Bubic and Lynch in the rotation before the injury sidelined Lynch.

On Monday, Bubic threw 70 pitches across 3 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and two walks against the Rangers, and this spring, he’s struck out 15 in 10 1/3 innings.

“There have been ups and downs with some of the command of all his pitches, but what he’s done is right the ship quickly,” Quatraro said. “He walked the leadoff guy last night on four pitches, but he got back in the zone. The distribution of the pitches, his slider being more effective, more swing and misses. Tracking positively on a lot of that stuff. Just a matter of keeping it going.

“We talked to him last night about him not being a finished product by any means, but he’s made strides and we’re going to look for you to continue to do that.”

When he takes the mound next week, Bubic will debut his slider in the regular season, a pitch he’s been toying with for several years before committing to it this spring. He threw 17 of them against Texas, his second-most used pitch behind his fastball.

Having that fourth pitch keeps Bubic unpredictable, and he’s seen an increase in swing-and-miss throughout the spring because of it. Bubic registered 14 whiffs on 32 swings -- 41%. Bubic’s whiff percentage was 21.3% last year.

“Having the presence of the slider and having the hitters think about it as well elevated the rest of the arsenal,” Bubic said on Monday. “... This spring, I’ve had quite a few deep counts that have gotten the pitch counts up, but at the end of the day, I think this might be the most swing-and-miss I’ve gotten on a consistent basis. I know it’s a small sample size in spring, but I’ll take the swing-and-miss.”

Bubic posted a 5.58 ERA last year across 129 innings. His strikeout rate dipped to 18.7%, while his walk rate increased to 10.7%. Part of the Royals’ pitching-heavy 2018 MLB Draft class, Bubic has been searching for consistency since he made his debut in ‘20. This year is the time to find answers, and the Royals believe adding his slider will help, along with what every other pitcher is tasked with in ‘23.

Throw strikes.

“What we’ve done this spring, building up, is just keep it as simple as possible,” Bubic said. “Filling up the zone with good stuff. You can talk about pitching to hitters’ strengths and weaknesses all day, but you have to go out there and compete with your stuff in the zone. More often than not, good things are going to happen.”

Liftoff toward Kansas City

The Royals wrapped up their preseason schedule, finishing 19-13-1 in spring play.

Players and coaches have been itching to get to Kansas City ever since they left Arizona for Arlington over the weekend, and now, Opening Day is just two days away.

“We’ve had an awesome Spring Training,” said Singer, who allowed one run on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts in five-plus innings against the Rangers on Tuesday. “The coaching staff’s been great, players, too. We’re ready to get to Kansas City and get going.”

Thursday will mark Quatraro’s managerial debut in a dugout full of new faces on the Royals' coaching staff.

“I’m excited to get going,” Quatraro said. “At some point tonight or tomorrow or Thursday morning, I’m going to be like, ‘Are we sure we’re ready? Did we get everything?’ The comfort in that is knowing all these coaches are handling their areas.”