Bolaños flashes 'electric stuff' out of 'pen

No. 24 prospect ties Royals' relief record with 5 straight K's

June 9th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- The Royals did not receive the outing they were looking for from starter Kris Bubic in Tuesday's 8-1 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium, but they did get an impressive performance from one of their top prospects.

Ronald Bolaños, the Royals' No. 24 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, provided quality relief work after Bubic was pulled having given up six runs on six hits (four homers) and two walks in four innings.

Bolaños fired two perfect innings and struck out five. The right-hander struck out the first five batters he faced, which tied a Royals record for most consecutive strikeouts to begin a relief outing. He joined Luke Hochevar (Sept. 10, 2013, vs. Cleveland) and Scott Sullivan (May 30, 2004, vs. Minnesota) as the only other Royals to punch out the first five batters they faced out of the 'pen.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said the rookie hurler looked good enough to leave in the game for more than the two innings he worked.

“We were thinking we'd let him run it out,” Matheny said. “It looked so good. We don't want to wait for another four days to see that again. It was as impressive as almost any outing we've seen this season. As far as the movement, the life, controlling the count with two different pitches. … It was electric.”

Bolaños relied on three pitches in his outing: a fastball that touched 98.1 mph, a wipeout slider that had a 67 percent whiff rate and a sinker that he used to collect three of his strikeouts.

He struck out Anthony Rendon swinging with a slider to begin his relief outing. Then he froze Max Stassi, who homered in the third, with a 98.5 mph sinker and then sat down Phil Gosselin swinging on a 96.3 mph sinker that he placed low and inside.

The only batter to put the ball in play against Bolaños was Juan Lagares. But he put the Angels' outfielder away on just two pitches, inducing a 75.5 mph popout to Hanser Alberto at shortstop to close out the sixth inning.

Bolaños said getting ahead of hitters was the main difference between his outing on Tuesday and his first and only other outing of 2021, when he gave up two hits in a scoreless inning against the Twins on Friday.

“I got really good results attacking the zone,” Bolaños said through an interpreter. “If we really have to compare it, before, I struggled with that. Today, we went at it and it felt good.”

The 24-year-old righty worked just 3 2/3 innings in two outings last year and did not make Kansas City's Opening Day roster for 2021. Following Tuesday night’s performance, Bolaños said working hard and keeping his routine will be key factors in continuing to be an impact arm.

"It's about putting in the reps and being consistent with everything, and having that momentum to carry forward,” Bolaños said through an interpreter.

A difference evident to Bolaños since the end of Spring Training has been an improvement with his mechanics.

“Definitely keeping the delivery simpler than in previous years,” he said. “It felt scattered, and this time around it feels more direct to the plate. It's given good results.”

Matheny said the adjustments have given Bolaños a more consistent and repeatable delivery.

“Just radical improvement mechanically that is translating straight into the execution of stuff,” Matheny said. “I mean, it's electric. He has electric stuff. Electric arm. … I mean, everything was right on one spot. Couldn't ask to do anything more than what he did.”