The Kansas City Royals invested heavily in young arms in the 2018 draft, taking four college pitchers in the first 40 picks. They added the consensus best college pitcher available in the 2020 draft, taking Asa Lacy from Texas A&M with the fourth overall selection.
But when the Royals send Carlos Hernandez to the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday for his first major league start, they’ll be going outside their prized quintet.
The Royals will be going for their fifth straight win Saturday, as they defeated the Pirates 4-3 behind rookie Kris Bubic’s first career major league win Friday night. That followed rookie Brady Singer taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning Thursday night in Cleveland.
Hernandez (0-0, 1.42 ERA) has pitched 6 1/3 innings out of the bullpen since making his debut Sept. 1. He came in in relief of Matt Harvey both times. He says he’s ready.
“I’m really happy, but I kind of expected it at some point,” he said through an interpreter Friday. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s the fruit of my labor. I feel like my work is paying off.”
The Pirates will give Trevor Williams (1-6, 5.80 ERA) another chance in Saturday’s contest. He had an up and down start his last time out, throwing 111 pitches in six innings. He struck out six batters and allowed only five hits, but three of those hits left the yard. He’s allowed 10 homers in 40 1/3 innings this season.
“He’s showed us the ability to use his breaking ball,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “That’s something we’ve talked about numerous times. The starts that he’s had that have been productive is when he’s been able to use his breaking ball. The outings that have been shorter have been when he’s not been able to execute the breaking ball.”
The struggles have not caused Williams, who has never faced the Royals, to lose his confidence.
“Your numbers are going to be your numbers,” Williams said after his last start. “If it looks bad, so be it. I know that I’m a good pitcher. I know that, at the end of the day, I’m executing most of my pitches. And there are some things that I do need to work on, there’s no doubt about that. However, I’m taking as much positive as I can.”
Hernandez joins Singer and Bubic among starting pitchers who have made their debuts for Kansas City this season. With Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch — the other two 2018 draftees — and Lacy at the Royals’ alternate site, Hernandez has a chance to show that he belongs as part of the Royals future.
Hernandez was not part of the club’s original 60-man roster when the regular season resumed. He kept in shape in the club’s Arizona spring training facility and spent a short amount of time at the alternate site.
But manager Mike Matheny said he earned his call up, and he now has a chance to be part of the conversation of the Royals youthful pitching future.
“He’s right in that age group of young, exciting pitchers,” he said. “He’s one of those great stories of a guy who gets the opportunity and he jumps all over it. Those are the ones you love telling guys all through your system.”
–Field Level Media