Jackson Kowar made his major league debut Monday night and couldn’t get out of the first inning.
BIG PICTURE: The Royals have now seen two of their top pitching prospects struggle in their major league debut this season. The loss dropped the Royals back to .500 at 29-29. They are 6 1/2 games out of first in the American League Central and 3 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot.
NOTES: RHP Jackson Kowar was selected from Triple-A Omaha. His first major league start was last night… RHP Jakob Junis was optioned to Triple-A Omaha… RHP Jake Newberry was designated for assignment.
KOWAR’S DEBUT… Jackson Kowar was clearly, and understandably, nervous in his debut. He struggled to throw strikes. You could see how much adrenaline he had. He was leaving fastballs high and away. He buried some changeups in the dirt several feet in front of the plate. Anything that could go wrong did.
Things went so bad that Kowar wasn’t able to get out of the first inning. Two outs. That’s it. Unlike when the Royals face pitchers in their debut and make them look like Cy Young, the Royals have now had two highly-rated prospects make debuts this season, and both fell flat on their faces.
The question is whether the Royals will let Kowar stay in the majors and work on things or if they are going to ship him right back out and not let him learn anything. That’s what they did with Daniel Lynch. Three bad outings, and he was done. But Kowar has dominated at Triple-A this season. So at this point, the Royals would be better off letting him learn in the majors.
But this brings up a question. How should young pitchers break into the major leagues? I have always been a fan of bringing up a player and letting them pitch one inning each time out from the bullpen in their first season.
But that’s not something the Royals do under Dayton Moore. Moore believes that a starting pitcher is a starting pitcher, and he seems reluctant to bring them out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be working.
SECOND INNING FIGHT BACK… Mike Tyson said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. The Royals got punched in the face in the bottom of the first. So the question was, how would they respond?
After two outs were retired, Jorge Soler hit a blast for a solo home run as if to say, “Enough of this crap! Let’s get things going!” Then after a pitch hit Michael Taylor, Hunter Dozier doubled down the left-field line, and the Royals closed to within 4-2.
Los Angeles took a 4-0 lead and then immediately gave two runs back. As much as Kowar struggled to start the game, the Royals were right back in the game with a lot of baseball still to play.
IS ERVIN SANTANA GETTING THE SHAFT?… How would you feel if you were Ervin Santana? You have been a starter your entire career. You are pitching well in 2021. But when the club needs a start, they bring up the young prospects for those opportunities instead of turning to you.
Now, Santana certainly had to know his role when he signed. He had to know that the Royals were loaded with young, talented starting pitchers getting close to making the major leagues. But even with that, it’s only natural to be frustrated when you are passed over time after time.
And then Daniel Lynch just fell apart when he got his chance. So when the club needed someone in Los Angeles on Monday, instead of calling on Santana, they called up another top prospect: Jackson Kowar. It’s understandable. Kowar was toying with batters at Triple-A. He looked like he was ready to start his big league career. But then he fell on his face just like Lynch.
When Kowar struggled on Monday, Santana entered the game. And Santana seemed to relish the opportunity, not just to get starter innings essentially, but to do it following one of the kids who was supposed to have his job.
The young pitching prospects need their opportunities. Should they be getting those innings in the rotation or the bullpen? That’s another question.
NEXT UP: The Royals will try to pull even in the series with a win Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Kris Bubic gets the start for the Royals.
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