After going 1-for-3, driving in a run, and sacrificing the eventual winning run to third base in the ninth inning against Minnesota Saturday, Nicky Lopez didn't play for the KC Royals when they lost to the Twins the next day.
Tuesday, the Royals revealed why.
Appendicitis struck Lopez early Sunday and, although KC announcer Joel Goldberg reported via Twitter he actually showed up at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday, the resulting appendectomy will keep Lopez out of action for a minimum of two weeks.
Those two weeks, or what longer period Lopez may require to recover completely, could work a long-term change to the face of the Kansas City infield.
Nicky Lopez's roster replacement has the potential to improve the KC Royals
Taking Lopez's place on the Royals' active 26-man roster Tuesday was Maikel Garcia, whose path back to Kansas City (he played nine times for the club last season) Lopez's bad appendix necessitated. Expect Garcia to see plenty of playing time—he's the Royals' third-best prospect per MLB Pipeline, and hit .318 for them and .285 with a .359 OBP in 118 games split between Double-A and Triple-A last season. His early .242 at Omaha this year isn't concerning.
But don't assume he'll head back to the minors when Lopez returns. Garcia has a decent chance to displace Hunter Dozier and end the third base problem that's dogged the Royals since they traded away Mike Moustakas back in 2018.
Why? Garcia's glove is major league-ready and far better than Dozier's; if his bat meets expectations, he might just take the hot corner away from Dozier, who, with his .161/.212/.226 21-game line, remains locked in the firm grip of the slump that's plagued him since 2020. Garcia started at third Tuesday night and went 2-for-4. Dozier rode the bench.
And there's another possible, but less likely, scenario, one that still requires Garcia to hit well—the Royals could move him to shortstop and Bobby Witt Jr. to third. Such a move doesn't defy logic because both players are versatile enough to make it. Like Witt, Garcia is primarily a shortstop, but has some third base experience, and Witt played there 55 times last season. That the Royals want to keep Witt at short is no secret, but the prospect of a better infield with him at third and Garcia at short might change their thinking.
What the club ends up doing remains to be seen and depends on Garcia's performance while Lopez mends. But an infield improved by Garcia's everyday presence in it is something to relish.
Time will tell.