KC Royals prospect changes role, makes big statement

Walter Pennington did something relatively new and good Saturday.
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Walter Pennington, the left-handed pitcher the KC Royals signed after no one called his name during the 2021 draft, is having a fine season with Triple-A Omaha. He's pitched more than well for the Storm Chasers after impressing the club in spring training.

All his success aside, though, the Chasers tried something different with Pennington Saturday night. Rarely used in any rotation since turning pro, Omaha manager Mike Jirschele chose Pennington to start against Jacksonville.

The results were spectacular.

Walter Pennington was excellent in his Saturday start

Just how good was Pennington against the Jumbo Shrimp?

Perfect, as it turned out.

Whether you call him a starter or an opener, Pennington retired all 12 batters he faced before Jirschele switched to Jonah Dipoto to begin the fifth inning. His six strikeouts included one in the first, two in the second, and three in the third. And although Pennington looked good, Jirschele was probably wise to pull him after four — having never thrown four complete frames as a professional, he certainly isn't stretched out as a starter. While he'll likely remain a member of Omaha's bullpen, he seemed to prove Saturday he can start, or open, if necessary.

The KC Royals prospect is making a strong case for promotion

As long as he continues pitching like he has since spring training began this year, Pennington should earn a Royals uniform before the season ends. An impressive non-roster invitee in spring camp, he struck out three in his one-inning Cactus League debut and ultimately turned heads with a 1.23 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 7.1 Cactus League innings. Kansas City didn't include him on its Opening Day roster, but that hasn't slowed him down — including Saturday evening's performance, Pennington is 2-1, 1.40 ERA in 16 games, and has 36 strikeouts and an 0.74 WHIP in 25.2 innings.

Those numbers reflect how good he's been since breaking in with the Royals' Arizona Complex League entry, and then moving up to Single-A Columbia after he signed in 2021 — now in his fourth minor league season, Pennington is 18-9 with a 126-game 3.65 ERA and an eye-popping 12.62 K/9.

So, don't be shocked if he gets to The Show this season.

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