Bobby Witt Jr. is proving to be worth the wait for Royals
By Christion D. Orr, Royally Covering Baseball
For years now Royals fans have been hearing about the talents of the players in the team’s Farm System, specifically Bobby Witt Jr., who for a while now has been named the #1 prospect with the Royals and lately he has been ranked the #1 prospect in all of baseball.
Those designations have led Royals fans to dream of him finally wearing Kansas City ble, not just in their “farm” system, but show his stuff at the professional level.
Well, Royals fans got their wish this past week when the Royals opened the 2022 season at Kauffman Stadium against the Cleveland Guardians.
Cleveland Guardians? I guess. But, to me, they will be the Indians for quite a while, I just have to continually remind myself NOT to call them the Indians. I hope I didn’t offend any native Americans by just referring to them as the Indians, I promise, I know they are the Guardians now. I was at The K for the first three games of the opening series and I still saw quite a few Cleveland fans wearing Indians apparel. I’m sure that will be the case for quite a while, because honestly they SHOULD still be the Indians. Why having a professional baseball team named after your race, is still confusing to me. But it is what it is.
And what it was, at least in the Royals season opener, was Bobby Witt Jr. came up a KEY in the Royals first two victories of the season on Thursday and then again on Saturday. He did it with his bat and feet on Thursday in the season opener and then did it with his glove on Saturday.
On Thursday, Witt drove in the game-winning run in the 8th inning and then used his feet to come and an insurance run in that 8th inning as the Royals opened the 2022 season with a 3-1 victory over American League Central rival Cleveland.
After a day off, as is customary in baseball to have an off day scheduled following the season opener for any possible weather disruptions, but there was no weather disruptions for the Royals, as the weather was more appropriate on Saturday after an opening day which was played through a bitter cold wind, which saw some snow flakes at times.
On Saturday, the wind was still around but the temps were more comparable to a spring training like feel and while Witt Jr. didn’t do any damage with his bat on Saturday, his glove and his throwing arm proved to be the difference, enough so that it earned him national recognition in the opening week for recording the game-changing play.
While the temps were more appropriate for baseball on Saturday, the bats and offense for both the Royals and Guardians seem to take the day off as the game went scoreless into extra innings.
In 2022 Major League Baseball is still using the rule where teams will start extra innings with a runner at 2nd base. That is a rule that was adopted in 2020 to help insure games wouldn’t play all night in the COVID-19 shortened season. It was used again last year and will be used this season, but in the newly MLB players agreement that rule will no longer be in use after this season.
But it came up very BIG for the Royals on Saturday and while proved his professional level worthiness on Thursday with his bat, it was his glove and arm that combined with catcher Salvador Perez on Saturday that helped the Royals secure their 2nd win of the season.
The Guardians started the 10th inning with Owen Miller at 2nd base, Miller moved to 3rd base and the Guardians had runners at the corners with 1 out when Cleveland dribbled a ball up the 3rd base line, Witt Jr. scrambled to the ball, scooped it up as he was falling to his back and as he was falling got off a throw to Perez, which bounced a couple of times but beat Miller to the plate, Perez applied the tag, preserving the 0-0 tie.
In the bottom of the 10th inning the Royals Adalberto Mondesi drove in the Royals’ Kyle Isbell, who was their runner at 2nd base to start the inning.
The Royals, however, were unable to keep that 2-game winning streak alive the remainder of their series with the Guardians.
The first two games were both pitcher’s duels, with the Royals winning 3-1 and 1-0, but Sunday’s game turned into a football score with Cleveland rolling to a 17-3 victory over the Royals as Cleveland controlled the game from the very beginning when they batted around in the first inning, which included a grand slam to help the Guardians score 6 runs in the 1st inning.
Cleveland added 4 more runs in the 2nd inning of Sunday’s game and led 10-0 before the Royals ever got their first hit, which came in the bottom of the third when the Royals were able to plate a pair of runs, cutting the lead to 10-2. But that was too little, too late, and not even close to enough as Cleveland scored the next 7 runs, while shutting out the Royals offense until the bottom of the 9th when Kansas City was able to score a final tally, to make a true football score of 17-3.
Monday proved to be a more competitive game than Sunday and more offensive game than either Thursday or Saturday. The Guardians again showed the Royals’ young pitching staff they still have work to do as Cleveland prevented the Royals from winning the series with a 10-5 victory.
I still have faith that this year’s Royals team will continue their trend of improvement. How much improvement truly relies on how quickly these young pitchers can mature.
That is a huge reason why I’m happy to see Zach Grienke back in the pitching rotation. Not so much for Grienke taking the ball every five games, which will be hopefully pleasant, but it is more the things Grienke can teach these young pitchers that should help them mature very quickly.
I see Grienke being a huge key in the Royals’ pitchers maturing and I don’t think we can overlook the man behind the plate in Salvador Perez, as he is this year’s Royals franchise player, as he has been for the past couple of years and hopefully for several years to come.
Salvy got off to a slow start this season offensively, picking up his first hit of the season on Monday, but Perez has been through highs and lows of a baseball season and he, I believe, will be the guide for these young pitchers to quickly mature.