KC tabs prospect Bubic for home opener

July 30th, 2020

The Royals continue to look to the future right now.

Less than a week after the Royals revealed that right-hander Brady Singer, the team’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, would move into the rotation, manager Mike Matheny made another stunning announcement on Thursday: 22-year-old left-hander Kris Bubic would start the club’s home opener on Friday against the White Sox.

Bubic has never pitched above Class A Advanced Wilmington.

“We’ll let him have an opportunity,” Matheny said. “I’m excited to watch him. He’s shown us he’s ready. He was phenomenal last year. Everything we saw has shown us he’s ready.”

The Royals’ rotation has been decimated in 2020. Projected starters and are still on the injured list because of COVID-19 related issues. Left-hander , who started Monday night in Detroit, also is on the IL with a strained lat muscle.

“We have had nothing normal with our starting pitching besides [Danny Duffy],” Matheny said. “This [starting Bubic] gives us our best chance.

“He’s stretched out just like everyone else. He can extend.”

Bubic got the news on Thursday morning while at the Royals’ alternate training site.

“When I walked into the facility at T-Bones Park, [Royals director of pitching performance] Paul Gibson pulled me aside and took me into the office,” Bubic said in a Zoom call. “I was slated to throw five innings in an intrasquad game [Wednesday]. And the rain put that aside, and there was more rain [Thursday].

“So then Paul said, ‘We got you slated for five innings on Friday, but it won’t be here, it will be at Kauffman Stadium against the White Sox.' It took a minute for me to understand what he was saying. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t something I was expecting to hear.”

Bubic immediately called his mom, Jela, and sister, Bianka. Neither immediately picked up the call.

“I had to text them and say, ‘Hey, it’s kind of urgent,’” Bubic said.

And actually, Bubic’s promotion is based out of urgency. The Royals remain unsure when Keller and Junis can return to the rotation.

Bubic, the Royals’ No. 6 prospect, was the 40th overall pick of the 2018 Draft, part of a pitching-heavy Draft that included Singer, Daniel Lynch (No. 3) and Jackson Kowar (No. 4).

But it will be Bubic who will get the nod ahead of Lynch and Kowar.

“It’s a number of eyes and evaluators who go into this decision,” Matheny said. “I thought he was really good in spring camp and in Summer Camp. He has an idea of what to do.

“He has an above-average fastball and curveball, and a plus-plus changeup.”

That plus-plus changeup was a key reason Bubic led all of Minor League baseball last season with 185 strikeouts. He went 7-4 with a 2.48 ERA at Wilmington.