The KC Royals broke fast from the gate Friday night. They pummeled St. Louis early and led 9-0 after only two innings. Few leads are completely safe with these Royals, though, and the Cards closed to within three after six.
Fortunately, Kansas City managed to rediscover its punishing early offense and, by the time the ninth inning rolled around, led 12-6. Manager Matt Quatraro didn't really need a closer to finish up (Carlos Hernández, apparently the club's new closer since last month's Scott Barlow trade, had pitched in the eighth, anyway) and called on Jonathan Heasley to pitch the final frame.
Heasley was shaky. He hit leadoff man Nolan Gorman, then gave up a first-pitch home run to Willson Contreras that trimmed the Royals' six-run cushion to four. A single to Tyler O'Neill followed before Alec Burleson lined out and Jordan Walker hit into a game-ending double play.
Heasley's short performance certainly isn't the worst of his short career that began with three games in 2021, but is consistent with the troubles he's had since — he lost 10, won only four, and posted an excessive 5.28 ERA over 21 starts last season.
And now, the Royals have farmed Heasley back out. They optioned him to Triple-A Omaha before Saturday's series-ending 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.
Jonathan Heasley continues to struggle on the mound for the KC Royals
Did Kansas City return Heasley to Omaha simply because he gave St. Louis three straight hits and a pair of runs before getting an out Friday? Of course not. The pitcher who the Royals included with Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, Jackson Kowar, Jonathan Bowlan, and others in the then-promising, but presently-disappointing, group of pitchers that dominated their 2018 draft class, has pitched erratically since the club recalled him from Omaha July 4.
He gave up only one earned run in the seven innings that constituted his first seven appearances, but then surrendered three to Cleveland in 1.1 innings July 26, two in one frame to the Mets Aug. 3, another pair to Philadelphia in two innings three days later, and the two he gave the Cardinals in his Friday night inning. Combined with the two runs he handed Oakland in 2.2 May 5 innings (the only other game he's worked this season), he headed back to Omaha with a 7.20 ERA.
And he'll have to be better at Omaha than he was before his Independence Day call-up to Kansas City, when he was 2-5 with a 7.51 ERA in 17 games for the Storm Chasers.
So it is that, unless he makes it back to Kansas City and turns his season around, 2023 will be his second straight poor campaign. And that's something the Royals didn't have in mind when they drafted him five years ago.
Whether time is running out for Heasley depends much on how he performs for the Storm Chasers, and for the Royals if they give him another chance this season. The two minor league options he has left give the club ample opportunities to get him on track.
Don't look for the organization to give up on Heasley just yet.