Kansas City manager Mike Matheny played for Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa during La Russa’s first managerial job in the minors and later with the St. Louis Cardinals. He later followed La Russa at the helm of the Cardinals. On Thursday, in the White Sox’s home opener, Matheny will be able to match wits with his mentor for the first time.
The Royals enter the series having won their first series against the Rangers and splitting two games against the Indians. The White Sox are coming off a series victory over the Mariners after losing three of four to the Angels.
Matheny, a catcher in his 13-year player, said La Russa saw him as a future manager, long before Matheny saw it in himself.
“I thought he was out of his mind because I still planned on playing for a long time,” Matheny told the Kansas City Star on Tuesday. “But I always took it as a compliment. I knew he didn’t throw stuff like that around, so it meant a lot to me. And, obviously, little did I know the accuracy he’d have with that.”
Matheny is early in his second stint as a manager. He was 591-474 in seven seasons with the Cardinals. After Matheny took a year away from the dugout, the Royals finished 26-34 under him last year. Optimism abounds around Kansas City.
Matheny will send Brad Keller to the mound for his second start. Keller lasted 1 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Opening Day. Keller allowed six runs on nine hits, but he didn’t get the decision because the Royals came back twice and eventually won 14-10.
“I stacked up hits on them pretty quickly,” Keller said of his first outing. “I felt like we executed the game plan, which is kind of crazy to say. But they put balls in play where we weren’t. It kind of snowballed on me.”
But he was smiling as he made those comments because of the offensive support.
“It was amazing to see,” he said. “I fell in a hole early, down five runs after the first inning. But they came out swinging. Five runs right back on the board, and it was a new ballgame going back out for the second.”
La Russa will hand the ball to Lance Lynn, who pitched for Matheny with the Cardinals from 2012-17. He was 71-46 in those six seasons. The White Sox are his fourth team since leaving St. Louis.
He pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs (none earned) on six hits in his first start for Chicago on Saturday. He struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in the 5-3 loss to the Angels.
The White Sox are still carrying a hot bat in Yermin Mercedes, who set a major league record with hits in his first eight career at-bats.
“There isn’t anything that comes close,” La Russa said of Mercedes’ hot start. “I think he was upset when he made the out. And it’s clutch. That’s the thing, it’s not just for show. He’s putting us in a great position to win. Take my hat off to him, pat him on the back, whatever it takes.”
With the matchup with Matheny on the close horizon, La Russa once again is looking into the future.
“I’ll be glad when the three games are over,” La Russa said.
–Field Level Media