Vintage Wade Davis makes Royals' roster

March 29th, 2021

After a spring season in which proved he was back on track, the Royals officially added the reliever to their 40-man before their 6-3 win over the Rockies at Salt River Fields on Sunday, signaling that he will be back in the Kansas City bullpen this year.

Davis, 35, signed a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training in January and set out to prove that his struggles in Colorado the past two years weren’t a sign of things to come. In six Cactus League outings (all one inning each) this spring, Davis didn’t allow a run, striking out two and walking three. He showed velocity and movement on his pitches, proving to the Royals that he is healthy and can be a force once again in their bullpen.

Per his Minor League contract, Davis will make $1.25 million for making the big league club, along with $1 million in incentives.

“I’ve been really impressed with his stuff, and we all know about the makeup of this guy,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s a winning player that we believe can help make a difference. He and Greg Holland, and that voice that they have together, is a powerful one that carries a lot of weight with our players. Just watching the pitcher, I’m excited about what he’s able to do on the mound.”

Davis and Holland, both back with Kansas City, were key pieces of the Royals’ bullpen during their back-to-back World Series appearances. Davis threw the final out of the 2015 World Series, clinching Kansas City’s first title in 30 years. From 2013-16, Davis appeared in two All-Star games and posted a 2.94 ERA with 47 saves. He had a 0.94 ERA in ’15 and posted a 0.36 ERA (one earned run in 25 innings) during the ’14 and ’15 postseasons, along with three victories and four saves.

That veteran experience is why the Royals brought Davis back, despite his struggles with the Rockies. His fastball velocity had dipped and he compiled an 8.65 ERA in 50 games (42 2/3 innings) in 2019, then allowed 10 runs in five appearances (4 1/3 innings) in ’20 as he battled a right shoulder strain before being released in September.

The Royals were confident in Davis’ health, but they wanted to see what his stuff looked like, especially knowing how the altitude in Denver affects some pitchers. By all accounts, Davis looked like himself again this spring.

“You take in what you hear and see, but realize there’s potential, there’s a lot more going on,” Matheny said. “To be able to give a pitcher that you know brings so much to the table an opportunity to come to a place where he’s comfortable and come to a place that isn’t Coors Field, it’s real. What I didn’t know was how good the stuff was going to look. We had the video, but stuff plays different there. … It didn’t affect everybody the same, but for some guys, it did. And apparently, it did affect Wade. It has nothing to do with his toughness, but just certain pitchers’ movement is radically changed in different places. Coors Field has a tendency to do that.

“I’ve been so impressed with the way the ball has come out of his hand, the way he locates, and then life that he has on the ball. I wasn’t sure what we were going to see, but it’s all been good.”

Minor’s final spring start

Royals starter Mike Minor threw 91 pitches across five innings and then a few more in the bullpen in his final Cactus League start before his scheduled start Saturday against the Rangers. The left-hander allowed two runs (one earned) with six strikeouts and three walks.

He went to the bullpen to simulate an extra inning.

“I felt OK with that one,” Minor said. “Had a couple innings where I felt pretty good, but the offspeed stuff and changeup [weren’t] very good today. Went to the bullpen just to get that extra ‘up.’ And I could control the pitches and level of intensity and work through some hitters down there.”

Minor said he felt better with his offspeed pitches and his changeup in the bullpen but couldn’t rely on them during the game, instead throwing his fastball 57 percent of the time. He made an adjustment in-game to stop drifting toward the plate with his body to where he was able to get more life on the offspeed and changeup.

Lefties battle

The Royals are down to their final days to decide on their last roster spots for Opening Day, and they’re letting those players compete until the end. At least one battle was on display Sunday, with lefties Jake Brentz and Richard Lovelady throwing one inning apiece -- and each allowing two hits with one strikeout. Each also threw 17 pitches.

Brentz, a non-roster invitee, touched 99.3 mph with his fastball, but his two hits were both to lefties -- Charlie Blackmon and Ryan McMahon.

“Brentz, to me, was really good again,” Matheny said. “Pounding the zone, saw the fastball really jump up there well. Richard did a nice job as well.”

The Rockies were able to hit against the defensive position the Royals had set up for Lovelady, but he got Blackmon to fly out to end the inning without any damage done.

Worth noting

The Royals will head to Kansas City after their final Cactus League game on Monday against Cleveland and then have a scheduled off-day on Tuesday. The club plans to have a workout at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.