The Royals are inching closer to having the type of batting order that manager Mike Matheny raved about during Spring Training.
After previously testing positive for COVID-19, first baseman Ryan O'Hearn was activated from the injured list on Monday and joined the team in Detroit. Left-hander Richard Lovelady was optioned to make room on the 30-man active roster for O'Hearn, who was immediately inserted into the lineup in the No. 5 spot.
O'Hearn quickly got involved in Monday's 14-6 win over the Tigers, going 2-for-4 with a two-run single during the Royals' six-run fourth inning and a leadoff double in the sixth.
“Those 14 days of quarantine were no joke,” O’Hearn said in a Zoom call. “Thankfully, I didn’t have any symptoms. … If there is a positive side, I’m here on Day Four of the regular season. I’m healthy, and I’m ready to go.
“It’s kind of scary to see you can have this thing and not even realize it. I had no idea. When they told me that I tested positive, I was shocked. I felt 100-percent healthy.”
O’Hearn was cleared to resume workouts at the team’s alternate training site at T-Bones Stadium in Kansas City.
“The last couple days were a lot better, getting to go to the alternate site, get ABs” O’Hearn said. “I kind of got locked in. I’m seeing the ball really well, having good ABs. That’s what ultimately got me here.”
Leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield has been anxious to get O’Hearn back.
“He’s a big part of our lineup, a big powerful left-handed at-bat,” Merrifield said. “He’s a guy who has proven what he can do in the big leagues.”
After his team’s slow offensive start in Cleveland, Matheny is hoping to jump-start his lineup. O’Hearn had a 1.252 OPS and five home runs in 13 games during Spring Training.
Kansas City is still without right fielder Hunter Dozier, who is on the injured list after testing positive for COVID-19. Dozier had a breakout season in 2019, hitting 26 home runs, and was expected to fill the No. 3 spot in the order.
“We’ve been really looking forward to having Ryan back,” Matheny said. “We saw in Spring Training what a player in the lineup he can be, the presence he can be.
“We’re trying to get this machine of an offense going, and putting a potentially dangerous left-handed bat in there is really important.”