Whatever one thinks of how he runs the baseball side of the KC Royals, President of Baseball Operations Dayton Moore’s fondness for his players is beyond dispute, so much so that the pronouncement he made late last season about Adalberto Mondesi must have been professionally and personally difficult.
Moore’s words remain etched in the memories of Kansas City fans who through the thick and thin of Mondesi’s injury-plagued career remain hopeful that he’ll someday permanently realize the potential that packs his body.
The Royals, said Moore late August during one of three trips to the Injured List that stole most of Mondesi’s season, could no longer count on him as a full-time player. They’d have to find ways to get him in the lineup, but not on an everyday basis.
Mondesi returned Sept. 1 for the campaign’s final weeks and, in his longest healthy stint of the year—25 games—hit .178 to finish the year with a .125/.176/.125 line.
Hoping to turn his health fortunes around, and as superbly chronicled by The Athletic’s Alec Lewis last month (subscription required), the Royals undertook comprehensive efforts after the season to help Mondesi avoid injury.
Those efforts seemed to have borne fruit. In an obvious step back from Moore’s August position, the Royals made it clear before their shortened spring training ended that they’d start this season with Mondesi as their regular shortstop. A Plan B appeared to replace August’s Plan A.
And it worked, at least from a health and defensive perspective.
Starting play in Chicago Tuesday night, and although he entered the game against the White Sox homerless and hitting .125, Mondesi had played every one of Kansas City’s 14 games, a streak he extended to 15 when he took the field in the bottom of the first inning, and was back to turning spectacular plays at short.
But after what happened in the sixth, a Plan C may be in order.
KC Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi hurt himself Tuesday night in Chicago.
After walking in the second and grounding out in the fourth, Mondesi bunted in the sixth for his first hit since singling Friday in Seattle. An adept base stealer, he appeared to be trying for his sixth swipe of the season when he suddenly held up and stepped gingerly back to first base. He left the game on his own moments later.
A sore knee was the initial post-game diagnosis; hopefully, nothing more severe will show up when the Royals check Mondesi today.
But a big question remains.
Just what the heck are the KC Royals doing with Adalberto Mondesi this season?
After Tuesday, and based on Mondesi’s performance at the plate so far, Kansas City fans are entitled to wonder what the Royals are thinking when it comes to their shortstop.
One big question is why Mondesi was playing at all Tuesday. His miserable season-long slump warranted a day or two off, especially for the injury-prone player who hasn’t missed a game yet. And even though the club had Monday off, Tuesday would have been a perfect night for manager Mike Matheny to rest him—the game began in windy, 50-degree weather and conditions only got colder, with many players layered up and sporting winter masks.
Should Matheny have kept Mondesi out of the lineup in such conditions? Did the cold increase the risk of injury to a player who seems more at risk to be hurt than any other Royal?
The answers to such question’s don’t come easy.
The fact remains, though, that try and wish as they might, the Royals and Mondesi may never solve his injury problems. He may be one of those players the game always treats badly, one who can’t escape the game-robbing physical penalties it imposes on those more susceptible to health issues than others.
The Royals seemed to have resigned themselves to such a fate for Mondesi last August. Then they decided during spring training on a different approach and stayed that same course despite Mondesi’s glaring hitting woes. And they played him Tuesday when the better choice may have been not to.
Now, and even if his latest malady turns out to be nothing more than a temporarily sore knee, the Royals may reevaluate how they think about Mondesi. Maybe they’ll decide he really is a part-time player. Maybe they’ll give him a few days off, then again try to play him every day, or almost every day. Maybe they’ll decide they’re well enough off with Nicky Lopez at shortstop and Whit Merrifield at second and try to trade Mondesi.
In any event, perhaps they’ll finally decide just what they’re doing with him.
Let’s hope the Royals settle on a plan for Adalberto Mondesi. And that it works.