Royals to see Astros, Cards in exhibition slate

All three games to be televised on Fox Sports Kansas City

July 14th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- As expected, the Royals finalized plans to have three exhibition games next week prior to opening the season in Cleveland on July 24.

The Royals will host Houston on July 20 at Kauffman Stadium at 7:05 p.m. CT, and then again on July 21 at 1:05 p.m. Then the team will travel to play the Cardinals in St. Louis on July 22 at 3:05 p.m. before heading to Cleveland for an off-day before Opening Day kicks off. All three games will be aired on FOX Sports Kansas City, though the Royals and FSKC have not yet finalized a new TV contract; that is expected soon.

Royals manager Mike Matheny had already indicated that the regular-season trip to St. Louis, where he managed from 2012-18, would not be emotional. Same for this exhibition game.

“Just another moment for me,” Matheny said, smiling. “I know that doesn’t make for great [reading].

“All of us were realistic. Geographically, it made sense. It is a team we’ll play six times, so that’s part of the conversation. I know our guys are going to be ready. They have been hungry, and they aren’t complaining about playing against their own teammates, but they’ll look forward to playing someone else.”

Duffy progressing toward opener
With right-hander Brad Keller, who started last year’s season opener, still in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, it seems left-hander Danny Duffy is trending toward being the Opening Day starter. Matheny said he hopes to make an official announcement in the coming days.

Duffy threw three scoreless innings on Monday night in an intrasquad game. He gave up three hits and struck out three, walking none. Duffy has worked his pitch count into the 75-80 range.

Witt keeps impressing
Shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., the Royals' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has seemingly done at least one thing to impress Matheny’s staff every intrasquad game so far, and Monday was no exception. Witt delivered two hits and also lined out to right field. The 20-year-old knocked a bullet up the middle off Duffy’s glove for an infield hit, then poked a hard single to right off Duffy his next time up.

Witt also made his first error in an intrasquad game, throwing several feet over first baseman Nick Pratto’s head on a grounder by Nick Dini.

Do Royals need a backup shortstop?
With shortstop Adalberto Mondesi 100 percent recovered from last fall’s shoulder surgery, there might not be a need to keep a true backup middle infielder on the roster. In a pinch, the Royals can go with second baseman Nicky Lopez at shortstop. Lopez has proven to be a well above-average shortstop.

“I feel really good about Nicky being there,” Matheny said. “We’re still talking about having a player who could cover at shortstop, too. We’re not ruling out anything.

“But we feel good about Nicky playing a good shortstop for us, too.”

Will there be a home-field advantage in 2020?
The Royals will open the season on July 24 and embark on their longest road trip of the season -- seven games through Cleveland and Detroit. But Matheny doesn’t see much home-field advantage for anyone.

“Maybe familiarity with your stadium,” Matheny said, "but the Central division teams already know the stadiums.

“I guess it will be just sleeping in your own bed, but it probably ends right there.”