Notes: Roster challenges, exhibition tilts, Witt

July 12th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- All three Royals catchers on their 40-man roster are on the injured list, leaving some concern for manager Mike Matheny and general manager Dayton Moore about who might be available Opening Day.

But neither Matheny nor Moore are in any way panicking.

Asked who would be the starting catcher if the season opened today, Matheny playfully avoided the question, smiling and saying, “Umm, yeah.”

But both Matheny and Moore seem confident that they can get some combination of [COVID-19], [undisclosed] and [COVID-19] -- all on the injured list -- back soon enough to prepare for Opening Day on July 24.

“I have full confidence in the system,” Matheny said. “And I know how much work Salvy has been doing in isolation. All through Spring Training, he was ahead of everyone.

“Timing is obviously going to be an issue, but he’s doing everything he can to be in that conversation [for Opening Day].”

Moore agreed.

“Mike and I have talked to that issue,” Moore said. “We’re fortunate [that] if something were to occur, it happened now. [Catcher] is a position that is not easy to cover.

“We’re hoping to get some of those guys back sooner rather than later. It’s not ideal, but we’re doing the best we can do, just like everyone else.

The Royals also have concerns with starting pitching, which lacked depth even back in Spring Training when only four spots were set -- , , and .

Keller, who was a likely candidate for Opening Day starter, has been in isolation since early in Summer Camp after testing positive for COVID-19. It now seems probable that Duffy will get that Opening Day start, depending on how soon Keller can return and get stretched out into game shape.

In the meantime, Matheny and his staff will have to get creative, perhaps going with an opener for the fourth and fifth spots, at least until Keller returns.

That might mean pitchers such as and -- who have started before but were targeted for the bullpen -- may be pressed into brief starter roles at the season’s opening.

“We have to be flexible there,” Matheny said. “It’s all about how to get 27 outs. We’d love to have five locked-in starters, but we don’t know how all of this is going to play out. We have to stay fluid, stay open to many possibilities.

“We’ll have to get as many guys as possible stretched out to cover us.”

The other issue is how the Royals construct their 30-man roster with so much uncertainty at catcher and in the rotation.

“Things are going to change several times before we head north,” Matheny said. “I think us being a versatile club, and a flexible club, will allow us to look at these opportunities differently.”

Added Moore, “You have to be prepared for any situation. We build our roster on who’s available. It is really one day at a time.”

Exhibition games?
The Royals are still hoping to play an exhibition game or two before Opening Day.

“We’re getting close to that,” Moore said. “You have to find the right partner. We’re working through that. We’re close and hopefully we can announce something in the next couple of days.”

Moore said it is possible the Royals will have a road and a home exhibition game.

The Bobby Witt Jr. progression
That the Royals put shortstop , the 20-year-old who is the team’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, in the 60-man player pool raised some eyebrows around baseball. But the Royals felt all along having Witt there was good for his development, something he would have missed because the Minor League season was canceled.

And Witt certainly has held his own with the big leaguers, impressing both Matheny and Moore.

“We know he’s mentally ready to handle this type of environment,” Moore said. “We can all recognize his tools and skill level. He has an understanding beyond his years that have put him in position to do well here.”