Bullpen game likely for Royals in finale

April 6th, 2021

Instead of starting on Wednesday against Cleveland ace Shane Bieber, the Royals will likely piece together a bullpen game to round out the short, two-game series before heading to Chicago, where Keller will open the series against the White Sox on Thursday. From there, the Royals are scheduled to roll with the normal rotation, with left-hander Mike Minor, right-hander Brady Singer and lefty Danny Duffy following Keller in that order.

The adjustment gives Keller an extra day’s rest after starting Opening Day last Thursday, when he allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest Opening Day start in franchise history. The Royals hadn’t previously announced that a fifth starter would be needed Wednesday, but manager Mike Matheny said that was the plan they had been prepping for since the beginning of the season.

Duffy delivered six scoreless innings on Monday with five strikeouts, and the Royals needed just two more relievers to seal the 3-0 win over the Indians; Scott Barlow pitched two innings and Jesse Hahn recorded the save. Using only three pitchers in the victory should give the Royals enough relievers to cover Wednesday’s game.

Right-handers (who threw one inning on both Saturday and Sunday), (three innings Thursday) and (three innings Sunday) are stretched out for multiple innings if needed, although Zimmer might not be available based on the 34 pitches he threw Sunday. The Royals also have right-hander Ervin Santana on their taxi squad for the road trip, and they could turn to him if they needed another pitcher who’s built up to go multiple innings. A 15-year Major League veteran, Santana has starting experience and stretched out to as many as three innings by the end of Spring Training.

Santana, a Minor League signing and non-roster invite to Spring Training, isn’t on the 40-man roster, so if the Royals go that route, they’d have to make a corresponding move.

“I think in theory, anything can happen,” Matheny said. “Depends on what happens [Monday]. Whether it’s Santana, or you’d have time to get anybody here. That’s always part of the option. Ideally, we’d like to have a solid start [Monday], run through a few of our guys and have plenty of coverage for that game on Wednesday.”

In addition to Santana, the Royals’ taxi squad includes third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, infielder/outfielder Erick Mejia, catcher Nick Dini and right-hander Brad Brach, who is also not on the 40-man roster.

Injury updates
• Hunter Dozier (right thumb contusion) missed his third consecutive game after being held out of the lineup Monday. The third baseman has seen the swelling and soreness decrease enough to take reps on the infield, but he still needs to see how he responds after swinging.

“It’s one of those things where you know you’ll go backwards if you don’t take the amount of time that you’ll need,” Matheny said. “He’s already pushing pretty hard [to get back in the lineup], which is a good sign. But we have to see how he reacts after he swings.”

• Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi (right oblique strain) remained in Kansas City for the road trip, per COVID-19 protocols that say injured players can’t travel with the team unless they’re close to being activated. The reports that Matheny gets from the Royals trainers have all been positive, but the Royals aren’t going to rush him back into game action, especially with an oblique injury.

“That’s one of those injuries that we got to go slow and not push,” Matheny said. “I know it’s been hard for him sitting on the bench and watching, but that’s exactly what he needs to do right now. We’re wired to do more to get things fixed, but this is a less is more situation. So hopefully he keeps doing that. Everything we’re getting back from the trainers in our daily reports is that he’s leading in the right direction.”

Worth noting
• First baseman Carlos Santana faced his former club for the first time in his career Monday. He went 0-for-4, but got a nice standing ovation from the crowd in Cleveland and was instrumental in a bottom-of-the-ninth double play that kept the Tribe scoreless. Santana spent 10 of his first 11 big league seasons with the Indians and is one RBI shy of 800 for his career.

• Right-handed hitter Ryan McBroom started Monday, serving as the designated hitter against Cleveland lefty Logan Allen. He scored a run and drew a walk. Jorge Soler, a fellow right-handed hitter, was in right field for the first time this season and also drew a walk. Lefty Kyle Isbel replaced McBroom in the ninth and struck out in his lone plate appearance.

• Whit Merrifield played in his 311th consecutive game Monday, which is the longest active streak in the Majors -- but still 2,321 games shy of Cal Ripken Jr.’s Major League record of 2,632 straight games played. To catch Ripken, Merrifield would have to play another 14-plus full seasons without missing a game.

Merrifield provided all the offense on Monday, knocking a two-run homer in the second inning and adding a sac fly in the seventh.