Brad Keller handled the Tampa Bay Rays and put an end to their 11 game winning streak.
BIG PICTURE: The 2-1 win moved the Royals back to .500 at 23-23. They start their six-game road trip with a win.
KELL(ER) OF A GAME… Finally! Brad Keller has struggled so much this season. We had not seen the terrific Brad Keller that we know exists. We have seen it before. When was it going to come back? Was it going to happen this year? Well, Tuesday, we finally got it. Brad Keller was much improved.
Keller allowed four hits, three infield, and four walks in seven innings. He allowed just one run and struck out seven on 95 pitches. He was more aggressive in this game and really did a nice job keeping his fastball down for strikes.
Keller was the top-of-the-rotation pitcher the Royals need him to be. And don’t forget, he was going against a Tampa Bay team that had won 11 consecutive games.
MONDESI ISSUES… Adalberto Mondesi was reinstated from the injured list before Tuesday’s game. The Royals wanted to make sure he was 100% healthy before they activated him. Mike Matheny slotted him into the seventh spot in the lineup with hopes that he would hit his way up the order.
But as much talent as Mondesi has, he also has plenty of issues. The very first ball he saw was a ground ball to his backhand, which he fielded cleanly but then took too long throwing to first and bounced the ball to Carlos Santana, and the runner beat it out for a single.
These are the frustrations with Mondesi. He has all of the talent in the world, but he just isn’t always in the game mentally. He also doesn’t stay healthy.
So who is the future at shortstop for the Royals? Is it Adalberto Mondesi or Bobby Witt Jr.? The club will tell you that the plan is for Mondesi at shortstop, but I think that’s ridiculous. Mondesi is not the player you want to build around. Bobby Witt Jr. seems to be a much better investment. Sure, he hasn’t done anything at the major league level yet, but he also hasn’t done much less at that level than Mondesi.
Now, Mondesi has a ton of talent, as I have said. He just hasn’t put it together yet. Add his lack of progress to his mental lapses and his injury history, and you really have to question his future with the club. He has the talent to be an MVP, but do you see it happening?
Let me tell you a little story of a minor league pitcher who was similar to Mondesi. Do you remember Ramon Martinez? Well, if not, you certainly remember his younger brother Pedro Martinez. Ramon pitched for the Dodgers. Pedro came up with the Dodgers before going to Montreal and eventually Boston.
Ramon and Pedro had a younger brother named Jesus Martinez, who was in the Dodgers organization. I saw him play at Single-A Bakersfield, California. Whereas Ramon and Pedro were right-handed pitchers, Jesus was a lefty. And frankly, Jesus had better stuff than both of his older brothers. The problem was that he never put it together. He had control issues, and batters picked up his pitches better than his brothers’.
So there are times when you can have all of the talent in the world and never live up to it. Sometimes the problem is the expectations are unrealistic. I don’t think that’s the case with Mondesi. Maybe expectations are a little high, but we have seen what he can do. He just needs to stay healthy and be consistent and keep his head in the game.
I have added Mondesi to my “trade when you can” list that previously had just Danny Duffy on it. Maybe Mondesi can become a superstar, but I’m not as confident as I once was. I would rather place bets on Bobby Witt Jr. When Witt comes to the majors, he is my shortstop. Mondesi has to move or leave. That’s not how the Royals view it, but I think they are wrong.
ROYALS STRUGGLE AGAINST HILL… Tampa Bay starting pitcher Rich Hill doesn’t throw particularly hard, but the Royals made him look like Cy Young on Tuesday. Wait. Why is that? I thought you had to have top-shelf velocity to be successful pitching these days.
Hill does things a little differently. Hill has a tremendous curve. It’s sometimes hard for batters to wait on it. And it has a ton of movement. Even if you know it’s coming, it can be hard to hit. And then Hill mixes in a fastball that is in the upper 80’s or low 90’s. Batters are frozen when they get the fastball when they are expecting the curve. And the speed of the fastball messes with the timing they normally have from major league pitchers.
So maybe slower pitching is an advantage? If everyone is throwing upper 90’s, could upper 80’s be an advantage? I have seen it at multiple levels of professional baseball as well as youth baseball.
I have a son who just finished his senior year of high school baseball. Whereas most of the pitchers on his team, who went 27-3-1, threw hard, my son had a much slower fastball and a wicked curve. He was kind of the high school baseball version of Rich Hill but right-handed. My son used his fastball more than he should have because his curve was so good, but his coaches loved to establish the fastball first. He really only got to throw the curve when he had two strikes on the batter, and usually, he struck the kid out looking. But his fastball was effective. He had some movement on the fastball, but I truly believe some of it was the batters being used to trying to catch up with faster pitching, and it messed them up for the one inning he would pitch in most games.
So don’t always just look at velocity when you are judging pitchers. There is a lot more to it than velocity. Velocity helps you get away with more mistakes, but it also prevents many guys from really learning how to pitch. Rich Hill is a terrific example of a guy who can pitch.
NEXT UP: Mike Minor takes the mound for the Royals to wrap up the series. The Royals have two more games in Tamp Bay before they head to Minnesota.
Thanks for reading…