In this edition of KC Royals Midweek Musings, we’re talking Whit Merrifield, player updates, former Royals and more.
Some KC Royals Midweek Musings while wondering why the club’s offense just can’t get untracked:
The best laid plans… The Royals’ preseason intentions to make Whit Merrifield their regular center fielder have, for now, gone the way of the “best laid plans…” Merrifield has yet to start a game in center, although he’s twice been moved there late in games.
Including Tuesday night’s tilt against the Cubs, the consummate “play anywhere” player has started seven games at second base, where he’s played almost 400 times for the Royals, four games in right field, and one in left. A combination of factors clearly outside his control, including a slow start and early time off for second baseman Nicky Lopez, and Hunter Dozier’s absence from the lineup, account for his delayed deployment to center.
Expect Merrifield to see more time there, however, when Dozier returns…unless, of course, Lopez continues to struggle at the plate (he was slashing .167/.250/.222 heading into Tuesday night and didn’t start again), or manager Mike Matheny needs him elsewhere.
Kansas City roster update. The Royals recently moved pitcher Foster Griffin from the 10-day Injured List to the 60-day list, effectively ending his rookie season after only one appearance. A left forearm strain, sometimes a precursor to UCL issues, is the culprit.
Kelvin Gutierrez remains on the same IL with a right elbow strain.
Hunter Dozier remains out after his positive COVID-19 test; he should be back soon. Brad Keller, also sidelined by a positive test, is now slated to return Thursday when the Royals conclude their four game home-and-home with the Cubs.
Ronald Bolanos, acquired along with Franchy Cordero in the KC Royals’ recent Tim Hill deal with San Diego, was optioned to the alternate site after two disappointing starts. He gave up seven runs in 3.2 innings.
Can former Royal Eibner help the Marlins? The Miami Marlins, clearly looking for roster help after taking a hard COVID-19 hit, have acquired former Kansas City outfielder Brett Eibner, now trying to revitalize his career as a two-way player.
As of Tuesday night, the Marlins hadn’t added Eibner to their 40-man or active rosters; presumably, he’ll be assigned, if he already hasn’t been, to the team’s alternate site.
Miami found Eibner playing in the independent Constellation Energy League, an unaffiliated four-team circuit made up primarily of former minor leaguers and a few ex-big leaguers playing 56 games in the Texas home park of the Sugar Land Skeeters. It’s not Eibner’s first foray into independent ball–after missing 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Eibner played last year for the Skeeters and the Texas AirHogs. He was 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 16 relief appearances for Texas and 0-0, 2.25 in eight Sugar Land games.
Eibner was again pitching well when the Marlins came calling. Working for former KC pitching coach Dave Eiland’s Eastern Reyes del Tigre (fellow former major leaguers Roger Clemens, Greg Swindell and Pete Incaviglia also manage Constellation clubs), Eibner had eight strikeouts against one walk in 5.1 scoreless innings.
The 31-year old right-hander played briefly for the Royals in 2016; he hit .231 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 44 games before a trade took him to Oakland. He endeared himself to Royals’ fans before the trade with a walk-off RBI single that capped a remarkable ninth-inning comeback win against the White Sox.
Overseas baseball: Kansas City alums. Their rotation issues notwithstanding, the Royals probably aren’t looking to sign former KC pitcher Aaron Brooks. But he’s making a bit of a splash with the Korean Baseball Organization’s Kia Tigers–in his last start (a win Friday), he gave up just one run in eight innings, lowered his ERA to 2.42 and improved his season record to 6-3.
Ex-KC outfielder Nori Aoki is batting .322 and has six home runs in 36 games for Japan’s Tokyo Yakult Swallows; teammate Alcides Escobar has homered once in 33 games and has a .274 average.
Simulation update. While the real KC Royals struggle in the early going, how go the virtual Royals in Baseball-Reference’s (baseball-reference.com) ongoing simulated 2020 season? Not much has changed since our last update–through Tuesday’s games, Kansas City is 41-72 and remains in fourth place in the American League Central, 31.5 games behind front-running Cleveland.
Ryan O’Hearn and Jorge Soler are tied for the team home run lead with 16 apiece; Whit Merrifield’s .319 average is the team’s best; and, despite a .239 average and .269 OBP, Adalberto Mondesi has 31 stolen bases.
Jorge Lopez’s seven wins are tops on the club (Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery both have five), and Duffy and Keller both have 12 losses. Ian Kennedy’s 11 saves lead the Royals’ relievers.
The simulation utilizes Out of the Park Baseball 21; daily updates are available around Noon.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with more KC Royals Midweek Musings. Until then, stay safe and healthy.