(Editor's Note: This KC Royals story has been updated. Several hours after the club announced these roster moves, and the original version of the story published, Nick Wittgren declined his option to Omaha and became a free agent).
The KC Royals, no strangers to recent roster moves, made three more Wednesday afternoon. Just hours before taking the field for the third game of their four-contest series with Seattle, the club announced it's called up Double-A pitcher John McMillon, optioned reliever Nick Wittgren to Triple-A Omaha (he subsequently declined the option and is now a free agent), and moved injured starter Brad Keller from the 10-day Injured List to the 60-ay List.
McMillon, who's never thrown a major league pitch, should be in Kansas City and ready to work against the Mariners if manager Matt Quatraro needs him tonight.
KC Royals reliever John McMillon makes huge jump from Double-A to the majors
McMillon's promotion is an attention-getter. He twice elected college ball over the majors after being drafted by Tampa Bay (2016) and Detroit (2019), then joined the Kansas City organization on a free agent deal when no one picked him in the 2020 amateur draft. His pro debut came in a 2021 season split between the Royals' two Arizona Complex League teams and Low-A Columbia; he went a combined 0-1 with a 7.41 ERA in 13 games.
The righthander returned to Columbia last season and, in 26 relief appearances, walked a troubling 38 batters and surrendered 21 earned runs over 31 innings.
Fortunately for McMillon, who'll turn 26 in January, things are much better this year. He started the season back at Columbia and earned a promotion to High-A Quad Cities by winning once and posting a much-improved 3.38 ERA in nine games. He was even better with the River Bandits, going 3-0 and giving up only six runs in 20 innings (2.70 ERA). Even more impressive has been the almost two months he's pitched at Northwest Arkansas since being promoted to the Double-A Naturals June 20: he was 3-2 with a microscopic 0.87 ERA in 15 games when the call to Kansas City came Wednesday.
McMillon is currently ranked 25th on MLB Pipeline's most recent list of top KC prospects,
The KC Royals sent relief pitcher Nick Wittgren down to Triple-A Omaha
Wittgren's demotion could be considered a mild surprise. A veteran of three seasons with the Marlins, three with Cleveland, and one with St. Louis, he signed a free agent deal with the Royals last winter, impressed them with a 17-game 1.25 ERA with Omaha before they called him up in late May, and hadn't yielded an earned run in his last nine appearances out of Quatraro's bullpen. But the three runs he gave Minnesota in 1.2 innings July 4. and the three he yielded to Cleveland in just a third of an inning July 8, skew his current ERA to 4.97.
Probably also damaging to his cause were the save and lead he blew against the Mariners in Monday night's series opener by giving up two runs (both charged to Austin Cox). Fortunately for him and the Royals, his teammates picked him up by scoring twice in the ninth to win 7-6.
Wittgren exercised his right to reject the option to Omaha and chose to become a free agent.
Brad Keller's transfer to the 60-day Injured List ends his KC Royals season
Before the Royals transferred him to the 60-day IL Wednesday, Keller had been on the 15-day list with right shoulder impingement since May 19. He managed to get some game work in during rehab assignments at Omaha, where opposing hitters battered him for 17 runs and collected 21 walks in nine innings, and most recently in the Arizona Complex League, where Monday he gave up three runs, three hits and a pair of walks in one-third of an inning.
He'd been suffering through a disappointing big league season before his shoulder issue forced him out of action.
Moving to the 60-day IL means Keller won't pitch in the majors again this season. This will be the third campaign in the last five that has ended prematurely for him.