(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
April is barely over, and May is in just its fourth day, but his date today with the St. Louis Cardinals may be the most important starting assignment Kris Bubic has drawn for the KC Royals this season.
Bubic is scheduled to start for the Royals in a 12:10 p.m. CDT game at Kauffman Stadium. Originally slated for this evening, the contest was moved up in the face of an unfavorable weather forecast.
It will be important work for Bubic, who desperately needs a good outing after early season struggles.
He simply hasn’t pitched well—he’s 0-2 in four starts, but more troublesome are the 14 runs he’s surrendered and nine walks he’s issued in 12 innings.
Combined with his 1-6 rookie record two seasons ago and his inconsistent 6-7 campaign last year, three of his four 2022 starts spell trouble. Although he allowed Detroit only a run in 4.1 innings April 16, he still walked six; he gave up five runs and managed to get only two outs against Cleveland in his first start; Seattle scored five times against him in just two innings plus two batters 11 days ago; and in five innings Friday, he gave the Yankees their first three runs in their 12-2 victory Friday.
How much time Bubic has left in manager Mike Matheny’s rotation could be decided today. A good game will certainly buy him at least another start, but another poor one might mean the bullpen. Or worse.
Kansas City needs better starting work to complement the excellent performances of rotation headliners Brad Keller, Zack Greinke and Daniel Lynch. Although they’re 8-14 after an uncharacteristically good night at the plate propelled them to an easy 7-1 victory over St. Louis Tuesday, the Royals are still losers of seven of their last 10 games, and Bubic and Carlos Hernández, the club’s other members of its five-man rota, haven’t been up to snuff.
And they have competition lurking at Triple-A Omaha, the stiffest of which is Brady Singer, recently sent there to stretch out in preparation for a return to the rotation (he’d been in the bullpen all season until the club sent him out last Thursday).
Singer has pitched only once for the Storm Chasers, a 2.2-inning effort Saturday in which he gave up a run but struck out three. Logic suggests a longer Triple-A stay, but the Royals may recall him to take Bubic’s rotation spot if Bubic fails today.
Then there’s Jon Heasley, who went 1-1 in three late 2021 starts for Kansas City after going 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. A righthander, he’s 1-0, 3.63, and has a 9.3 SO9 and 1.6 BB9 in five Omaha starts this year. He might be summoned before Singer.
The Royals could also give current major leaguer Ronald Bolaños a start.
Making Bubic’s important task even harder today is who he’ll face. Veteran Adam Wainwright, 2-3, is the Cardinals’ scheduled starter, and although he’s lost his last two starts, he’s still a force to be reckoned with and likes pitching against Kansas City, against whom he’s 6-3 lifetime. (Wainwright was slated to square off against KC’s Zack Greinke in a highly anticipated matchup last month, but weather prevented it).
And St. Louis, winner of two of its three games with Kansas City this season, is 13-10 and in sole possession of second place in the National League Central.
So, Bubic must pitch well today and hope the Royals hit like they did Tuesday, when they banged out 15 hits and equaled their season-high output with seven runs. Edward Olivares had two doubles and a pair of singles, but two rookies stole the show.
Bobby Witt Jr. finally clubbed his first major league home run, this second inning solo shot that gave the Royals a 1-0 lead:
Bobby has left the building! @MLB home run No. 1!@BwittJr // #TogetherRoyal pic.twitter.com/8VJEdPPdCp
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) May 4, 2022
And in the sixth, MJ Melendez, playing in the majors for the first time, collected his first big league hit:
.@mjmelendez7 has career hit No. 1! Congrats, MJ!#TogetherRoyal pic.twitter.com/TgAkvVxyWM
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) May 4, 2022
Bubic can increase his job security if he pitches well today. But if he doesn’t, he may lose his spot in the rotation.
Kris Bubic starts for the Royals today. It’s a pitching test he probably can’t fail.
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