Pasquantino becoming a pitcher's Nightmare

Designated hitter belts majestic 411-foot homer coming off AL Player of Week honors

August 16th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rookie Vinnie Pasquantino was doing a crossword in the Royals’ clubhouse prior to Monday night’s series opener against the Twins when he heard an announcer on MLB Network having trouble pronouncing his last name.

That caused him to turn his focus to the television where it was being announced that Pasquantino was named the American League Player of the Week.

If the 24-year-old keeps up his play on the field, no one will have trouble remembering how to say his name.

Pasquantino, whose nickname is the "Italian Nightmare," followed up his first Major League award by hitting a two-run homer in Kansas City’s 4-2 loss at Target Field. The lefty-hitting designated hitter extended his hitting streak to seven games in going 1-for-3 with a walk, as he suffered what manager Mike Matheny described as a "shoulder stinger" in his final at-bat. Pasquantino said he was fine after the game.

“Very happy for Vinnie to get that kind of acknowledgement,” manager Mike Matheny said. “You think about the teams that we played over this last week and the pitchers that he’s faced, it even adds that much more to what he was able to accomplish. He’s a dangerous hitter. That was one of the prettier home runs. We had such a good view from our vantage point. The ball just jumped for him.”

Pasquantino downplayed the award and his big week during Kansas City’s 7-4 homestand against the Red Sox, White Sox and Dodgers. The seemingly humble rookie also downplayed his latest home run, which was his eighth of the season and traveled a Statcast-projected 411 feet to put the Royals ahead 2-0 in the first inning.

His teammates are happy to talk him up.

“He’s an extremely smart hitter, probably one of the smartest hitters I’ve been around,” said lefty starter Kris Bubic (2-7), who took the loss after giving up four runs on 10 hits and three walks to go with seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

“He was getting a little unlucky when he first came up [from Triple-A Omaha]. He was hitting a lot of balls hard and didn’t really have the numbers to back it up, but now you’re kind of seeing some of those balls fall. His approach is so consistent. He’s a tough guy to pitch to. So, it’s no surprise that, with the advanced approach he has, he’s hitting the ball everywhere and hitting the ball hard.”

Through his first 12 games with Kansas City, Pasquantino was hitting .150 with one home run in 40 at-bats. He hit his second homer during a July 11 doubleheader in which he had four hits in seven at-bats. Since July 11, he’s hitting .301 with seven homers and 13 RBIs in 30 games.

Pasquantino, who homered for the second straight game, is hitting .440 with five homers and eight RBIs during his seven-game hitting streak.

“As pitchers are trying to figure me out, I’m trying to figure pitchers out,” Pasquantino said. “But at the same time, I’m also trying to figure myself out and sometimes that’s more important. I’m not even talking about from a physical standpoint. I’m talking from an emotional standpoint and from a mental standpoint of just kind of getting used to what this is.”

Pasquantino added that he doesn’t think he’s had a big “Welcome to the Majors” moment, and he doesn’t expect one.

“It’s just kind of one of those things where I’m trying to pedal the bike and move one step at a time,” he said. “I’m not looking for any sort of ‘I’ve made it’ moment or anything like that. It’s just something where every day I want to show up to the ballpark with the same mindset, which is to try to help this team win games.”

Pasquantino was one of seven rookies in the Royals’ lineup against the Twins. It was the first time since the final day of the 1991 season that Kansas City had that many in a lineup.

“It’s cool, for sure, and you hope that we can turn that into something, right?,” Pasquantino said. “At some point, we all won’t be rookies. We just want to play good baseball and we want to get wins. Tonight was a tough one. Hopefully tomorrow, we run it back and go for a win.”

The Royals' offense sputtered after Pasquantino's homer as they left eight runners on base and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Rookie Michael Massey just missed his first career homer with a long drive off the right-field wall in the sixth after Pasquantino started the inning with a walk. Both runners were left stranded.

Massey, another 24-year-old who has hit .341 in 14 games, had two doubles.

“We know we have a lot of young talent in this room,” Bubic said. “Every guy that comes here is ready to make an impact or has already made an impact already. So, it’s exciting to see that and we’re going to keep riding with them for ... the rest of the season and beyond.”