What are some KC Royals questions and answers as the weekend gets underway?
Six games into the new season, the KC Royals are .500 and scheduled to wrap up their first road trip with two games in Chicago this weekend. As usual, several big and small questions surround the team, so let’s take a shot at answering a few.
Have Mike Matheny and ChiSox skipper Tony La Russa ever worked together?
Absolutely. Although Thursday’s series opener was the first time they’ve managed against each other, the careers of Matheny and La Russa overlapped in St. Louis from 2000 through 2004.
La Russa, of course, managed the Cardinals; Matheny was his primary catcher. The Cards won three National League Central titles and were runners-up once during their five seasons together. Matheny won three of his four Gold Gloves and hit .245 with 29 home runs and 221 RBIs during the stretch.
La Russa retired after St. Louis won the 2011 World Series. Matheny, with no professional managing (or coaching) experience, succeeded him.
Where is KC Royals speedster Jarrod Dyson? Has he played yet this season?
Jarrod Dyson is staying ready on the bench, which is part of his job description with the Royals.
Kansas City signed Dyson in early March, a somewhat surprising move considering his age (36, turning 37 in August) and the plethora of talented outfielders the club has throughout the organization. But there is obviously no plan for Dyson to play every day. Instead, Matheny will use the fleet Dyson mainly as a pinch runner (look for him to see some action as the “second base runner” in extra inning situations) and late-inning defensive replacement.
Dyson, now in his second tour with the Royals, has played twice this season, once against Texas and once against Cleveland. He entered both games on defense and has yet to appear at the plate.
Who is the biggest Kansas City surprise so far this season?
This is a close one—the once-demoted Nicky Lopez and rookie Kyle Isbel are both playing well. But the edge goes to Lopez.
The Royals sent Lopez down a few days before Opening Day because his Cactus League hitting (.118) was worse than last season’s .201; better to have him working hard on his bat in the minors than struggling with it in the majors.
But since being recalled to play shortstop until Adalberto Mondesi comes off the Injured List, Lopez is making a case, albeit founded on a small sample size, for getting back his second base job. Entering today’s game with the White Sox, he’s batting .368 with a .409 OBP and two RBIs, and hit safely in the first five games.
Did the KC Royals release catcher Meibrys Viloria and pitcher Scott Blewett?
No, although they might have come close. To make room for rookies Isbel and Jake Brentz on the Opening Day roster (both had to be added to the 40-man and 26-man rosters), Kansas City designated Viloria and Blewett for assignment to clear 40-man space.
The Royals placed both on waivers but, after no club claimed either, sent Blewett to the Alternate Training Site and Viloria to Northwest Arkansas.
When will all these days off end?
This is the 10th day of the major league season, and Kansas City has already had three days off. But there’s a reason.
Each off day followed a home opener. The first came the day after KC hosted and beat Texas on Opening Day; the second came after the Royals beat Cleveland in the Indians’ first home game; and the third occurred Friday after the White Sox defeated Kansas City in Chicago’s home opener.
Teams frequently schedule an open date the day after their first home game, just in case weather prevents that game from being played. If that happens, the opener moves to the next day.
Starting today, though, the Royals are scheduled to play 12 games without a day off, including 10 straight at home after playing the White Sox in Chicago this afternoon and Sunday.
Brad Keller is supposed to be the KC Royals’ ace. What’s up with him so far?
We’ve saved the biggest question for last. And it’s one the Royals must answer soon if they want to entertain any thoughts of contention this season.
No one disputes the unfortunate state of the KC rotation so far—in six games, only Danny Duffy and Jakob Junis can claim good starts. Unfortunately, Keller owns half of the four bad efforts.
Texas drilled him for six runs in just 1.1 innings on Opening Day, and the White Sox punished him with four more in 3.1 frames Thursday. He’s 0-1 with a 19.29 ERA and 4.286 WHIP.
Keller is clearly struggling with his command and control. But is something else contributing to his troubles? The Internet abounds with theories, including some underlying injury, but Keller blames himself and his approach. According to mlb.com Royals beat writer Anne Rogers, Keller questioned his conviction to his pitches following Thursday’s game, then bluntly admitted he was:
"“Being a little timid, especially going in on some guys, trying to place some balls instead of throwing through the catcher. Trying to be so fine and making the perfect pitch instead of just going after guys and letting them get themselves out.”"
Will Keller straighten himself out? Probably. Let’s hope he does so soon.
There they are. Five KC Royals questions and five answers to kick off the weekend.