KC Royals News: Has Ryan O’Hearn found his niche?

(Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

That this is the fourth straight season Ryan O’Hearn has struggled at the plate for the KC Royals can’t be argued. After a promising 2018 rookie campaign, O’Hearn hit .195 in both 2019 and 2020, just .225 last year, and through Sunday is slashing .208/.264/.271.

Internet baseball coverage and social media have been ablaze for weeks with cries for the end of O’Hearn’s Kansas City tenure; indeed, we recently said in this space that he shouldn’t play for the club.

But O’Hearn is making a case to stay, albeit in a limited role.

For the ninth time this season, Manager Mike Matheny summoned O’Hearn to pinch hit Sunday afternoon. And for the sixth time, O’Hearn came through, lining a two-out RBI single to pull the Royals within three runs in their last at-bat against Houston. Kansas City lost a few minutes later, but O’Hearn pushed his 2022 pinch-hitting average to .667 (6-for-9) and his pinch-hit RBI total to three.

He also clubbed a pinch-hit homer earlier in the season and now has more home runs in that role than any Royal in history.

As much as Matheny apparently likes him and as hard as he seems to work to find ways to get him onto the field, don’t be surprised if O’Hearn’s hot lefthanded pinch hitting keeps him on the club, at least for the foreseeable future. It shouldn’t in the grand scheme of things, but with these Royals it probably will.

The club’s newest reliever made his KC Royals debut against Houston Sunday.

Kansas City’s latest player acquisition was, considering their weak hitting and rocky starting pitching, a bit of a surprise. The Royals traded minor league pitcher Yohanse Morel to Texas Friday for reliever Albert Abreu.

Perhaps the club can use a bullpen piece to help steady its recently rocky relief corps, but bringing Abreu aboard is just as surprising as KC’s choice not to try strengthening its offense by calling up Vinnie Pasquantino or trading for an established bat. At the time of the deal, Abreu had a 5.21 ERA derived from 37 big league games spread across stints with the Yankees and Rangers, and his 6.4 BB9 proves his control leaves much to be desired.

But with their penchant for finding new relief pitchers, the Royals traded for him anyway, and he appeared in his first game as a Royal Sunday. The outing was brief—Abreu entered with runners at first and second and his club trailing 6-3 (the Astros won 7-4) in the ninth and immediately gave up an RBI single to Jeremy Peña and a walk to Chas McCormick, then induced Martin Maldonado to ground into a force out. He wasn’t stellar, but he didn’t implode.

Look for Matheny to use Abreau more. He’s out of minor league options, so the Royals won’t be prone to cut him loose anytime soon.

Are the KC Royals close to parting ways with Cal Eldred and Carlos Santana?

Quick search engine queries for “Cal Eldred” or “Carlos Santana” are bound to reveal how popular the notion of the Royals parting ways with either, or both, may be. Eldred is, and has been, the lightning rod for the team’s pitching shortcomings and Santana just hasn’t performed since last season’s first half.

No public signs that Eldred’s seat is any hotter than it has been (if it’s been hot at all) have arisen since Kansas City let hitting coach Terry Bradshaw go last month. No rumors suggest an imminent firing or resignation.

That isn’t necessarily the case with Santana, though. The Royals have tolerated his terrible hitting (his 0-for-3 Sunday against the Astros lowered his average to .157) most of the year, an approach undoubtedly motivated in no small part by their hope that he rediscovers how to hit and increases his trade value at the same time.

But according to 610 Sports Radio’s Josh Vernier, Matheny signaled Friday that Santana may not be playing as much going forward:

Santana didn’t start or play Friday or Saturday and was hitless Sunday. It remains to be seen how, or if, Matheny deploys him in the three-game home series with Toronto that starts Monday night.

Next. KC's play like a box of chocolates. dark

Scheduled to start for KC against Toronto are Daniel Lynch, Brad Keller and Brady Singer.