Royals place Hahn on IL, recall Newberry

April 12th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals placed right-handed reliever Jesse Hahn on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder impingement syndrome, the club announced Monday ahead of its series opener against the Angels in Kansas City.

In a corresponding move, the Royals recalled right-hander Jake Newberry from the alternate training site.

Hahn, one of the Royals’ high-leverage relievers, felt soreness leading up to Sunday, but took advantage of the off-days last week to rest his arm. When he was warming up to enter  the Royals’ 10-inning, 4-3 win over the White Sox on Sunday, Hahn felt more than soreness and was able to locate the point of pain when informing the Royals about it after pitching Sunday.

Hahn had a full examination done Monday morning in Kansas City, including X-rays that showed the impingement, but no muscle strain. He won’t throw for the next three days and will take medication to get rid of the inflammation before assessing later this week. There’s no timetable for Hahn's return, but Royals manager Mike Matheny said it will be “some time.”

“He said he felt while he was in the ‘pen, been battling through a little bit,” Matheny said. “There’s always that fine line. Every one of these guys, they walk in here each day, teetering on, ‘Whether what I feel right now is major, is it just what I got to go through and what I have to pitch through, what I have to play through?’ … Fortunately, [Hahn] was honest with us last night after the game. We had a chance to get a look at it. The doctors saw some things that we needed to take a little pause.”

Hahn has allowed two home runs in 3 1/3 innings this season, including a two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday. He’s struck out three but walked four. On Sunday, he didn’t record an out while issuing two walks and surrendering a home run.

Matheny noted that Hahn’s velocity was down Sunday, and the numbers reflect that: Hahn’s sinker in 2020 averaged 94.9 mph, but it averaged 92.9 mph on Sunday, topping out at 94.1 mph. The first sinker he threw was at 91.7 mph. His curveball was also down in velocity compared to last season, but the spin rate nearly matched his 2020 average.

“We need to get him right,” Matheny said. “He’s going to be a huge part of what we’re doing. His stuff is that good, and he’s going to pitch significant innings for us. We just got to get ahead of this.”

For now, the Royals will continue to rely on Greg Holland, Josh Staumont and Wade Davis in high-leverage situations. Hahn was the Royals’ go-to reliever against left-handers, but Matheny said lefty Jake Brentz will continue to get opportunities in those spots, too.

Zimmer’s first save

Perhaps the biggest sign of how far Kyle Zimmer has come was Sunday afternoon, when the right-hander notched his first Major League save.

He did it in the bottom of the 10th inning, with the designated runner on second base and a one-run lead. Zimmer struck out the first two hitters he faced and induced a ground ball to shortstop for the third out.

“Personally, it is special,” Zimmer said. “It’s something that I can share with my friends and family and all the people who have gotten me here and helped me up through the really tough down times. It’s another box I get to check off on my personal career, but the win for the team definitely comes first.”

After being drafted No. 5 overall in 2012, Zimmer endured four surgeries over the course of six Minor League seasons. He spent the entire 2018 season rehabbing and participating in Driveline Baseball’s program to help get back on track. Finally, in 2019, he made his MLB debut, but he battled command issues.

In 2020, he was healthy and showed consistency, but the Royals were cautious, making sure he got clean innings in low-leverage situations. Slowly but surely, he earned the trust of Matheny and the coaching staff for higher-leverage spots, and Sunday’s was as high leverage as they come in the regular season.

“Pretty special,” Matheny said. “I thought kept everybody off balance and he threw strikes. To be able to throw strikes with more than just your fastball was pretty important in a situation like that.”

Having used Staumont and Holland already, Matheny needed a 10th-inning pitcher who could control the running game, field the position and control the strike zone. Zimmer, who had gotten loose early in the game after starter Mike Minor faced some trouble, retired the side in 14 pitches. Zimmer hasn’t allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings this season.

Dozier out Monday

Hunter Dozier did not start Monday’s game because his right thumb began bothering him again, Matheny said. It’s the same injury that caused Dozier to miss three games last week after his thumb swelled up during an at-bat on Opening Day. Hanser Alberto took over third base and hit eighth on Monday.

“We had a couple long talks yesterday, and [Dozier] feels good, it’s just something that kind of keeps flaring up a little bit,” Matheny said. “But seems to be gone by the next time he gets up to bat. There’s going to be some times where if it does flare, we’re going to have to give it a little more of a rest. Trainers are very confident this is something we can get ahead of.”