Notes: Rotation; Lopez; players of the month

September 4th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Injuries, callups and an overworked bullpen caused the Royals to reconfigure their rotation over the past week, but they’re hoping things will go back to a normal rhythm as this weekend’s series against the White Sox kicks off.

started Friday, with Daniel Lynch and Brady Singer lined up behind him. If all goes well, Kris Bubic will line up for Monday’s start against the Orioles in Baltimore after the lefty came in relief Thursday, allowing one run in two innings and giving the bullpen a breather.

Hernández made his last appearance out of the bullpen, with 5 2/3 innings of relief in Seattle last weekend. While it seemed unexpected in the moment, the Royals knew if they needed a fresh arm to cover innings, they would have to look to one of their six starters at the time -- a six-man rotation meant one fewer arm in the bullpen at the time. Then, they lost Brad Keller, one of the rotation’s workhorses, to a right lat strain, causing them to rethink the rotation again. They called up Jakob Junis and Jackson Kowar to start Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, before Junis went on the injured list a day later. That allowed Mike Minor to be pushed back until Thursday after feeling late-season fatigue.

“The fluidity I was talking about, why we’ve had all the TBDs is saying, ‘Let’s see what happens tonight,’” manager Mike Matheny said. “Part of that was before Sept. 1, with the six-man, short in the ‘pen, something’s got to give. We were in tight games, guys were getting beaten down.”

Now that rosters are expanded to 28, the Royals have an extra arm in the bullpen. Jake Brentz returned from the injured list without the Royals having to take a reliever away. Ideally, the Royals would like to ride with a six-man rotation until the end of the season -- Hernández, Lynch, Singer, Kowar, Bubic and Minor -- barring injury.

“Whatever situation it was going to be this week, I was ready for it,” Bubic said. “You can treat this as an extended bullpen a little bit. But the body will feel normal again, and I’ll get back the routine starting Monday.”

All of the Royals starters bought into the idea of pitching when they were needed, a lesson Matheny hopes pays off in the future.

“I think it is tough,” Matheny said. “But I also think it’s a great learning opportunity for these young players. I’m hopeful in a year from now, we’re prepping for them for what it looks like in the postseason: When it’s your bullpen day, just be ready to come out of the bullpen instead of pitching a bullpen side session. Those sorts of things don’t normally get a trial run. We needed them, and I think that’s the overriding philosophy here. What can I do, what do I need to do to help this team, regardless of if it makes it a little bit outside my comfort zone.”

Lopez’s confidence at shortstop

The Royals debuted a semi-new look infield on Friday night, with Adalberto Mondesi’s first game at third base as he eases back into regular playing time after coming off the injured list earlier this week. The shortstop will see most of his playing time at third base to finish the season because the Royals don’t want to interrupt the Gold Glove-caliber season Nicky Lopez is having at shortstop, nor the rhythm he and Whit Merrifield have created in the middle infield.

That vote of confidence didn’t slip by Lopez, who has turned his season around from originally being optioned to Triple-A Omaha to being one of the Royals’ most productive players.

“You never want to get called back up due to an injury,” Lopez said. “I don’t care who it is or wherever you’re at. But you got to take advantage of what you’re given. I’m blessed that they’re going to still keep me at short. I think I’ve put together a pretty good run this year at shortstop, and I look to finish the season strong.

“But I’m looking forward to Mondesi playing third next to me. Our defense is great. It’s better with him out there. We know that, everyone knows that. I look forward to sharing the field with him again. … I’m blessed they believe in me to take over short the rest of the year.”

August players of the month

Royals players all over the system had productive Augusts. Before Thursday’s game, the club announced that Salvador Perez (12 home runs and 28 RBIs) and Hernández (2-0 with a 2.08 ERA) were named the Royals’ player and pitcher of the month.

And on Friday, Minor League Baseball announced that Royals prospects Bobby Witt Jr. (Triple-A East) and Drew Parrish (Double-A Central) were among the honorees for August. In Omaha, Witt Jr., the No. 3 prospect in baseball, led the league with 29 RBIs, 10 doubles and nine home runs. He hit safely in 23 of 29 games and recorded at least one extra-base hit in 15 games.

Parrish, the Royals’ eighth-round pick in the 2019 Draft, went 3-0 for Northwest Arkansas with a 1.13 ERA in five appearances (four starts). The lefty struck out 27 in 24 innings and held opponents to a .163 average.