Tigers, Royals put young pitchers in the spotlight

MLB Kansas City

If the Kansas City Royals are going to have success with their historic 2018 draft class, they need to figure out what they have.

The Royals selected four college starting pitchers in the first 40 picks of that draft, and all four have reached the majors. Two made their debut last season — Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. The other two — Daniel Lynch, who will get the start for the Royals on Sunday, and Jackson Kowar — debuted this season and struggled.

On Saturday, another pitcher from that 2018 class — Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall selection by the Detroit Tigers — will take center stage when he starts against the Royals in Kansas City. Mize (5-5, 3.44 ERA) will square off against the Royals’ Carlos Hernandez (1-1, 4.91).

It was Bubic in the starring role on Friday as the Royals defeated the Tigers 5-3. As manager Mike Matheny works to figure out how to use his young pitchers, he’s put Bubic in the rotation and in the bullpen.

Against the Tigers, he allowed one run over six innings with four strikeouts. In his past 12 innings — six as a reliever and six as a starter — he has allowed just two runs.

Matheny has been trying to get his young pitchers to trust their ability, so Bubic’s outing was very rewarding.

“The breaking ball is something he needs to realize he can use to get out hitters,” Matheny said after the game. “He got some swings that should reinforce how good of a weapon that can be.

“I really think he has to experience (success). When he gets into a bind, he needs to keep the mindset of not trying to get them to chase. Just make good quality pitches and trust their guys to make plays.”

That’s something Matheny hopes all his young pitchers can do, including Hernandez, who may have the best “stuff” on the staff.

The Tigers saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, but they’re still just five games under .500 after being 13 games below on June 19. Mize, the Tigers’ most prized pitcher, has been limited to fewer than 60 pitches in his past three starts, and likely will be again. He’s not injured, but the Tigers just want him available late in the season.

“(Manager AJ Hinch) has been transparent throughout the whole process of what this season was going to look like,” Mize said after a start earlier this month. “It’s not something that was dropped on me this morning. This has been part of the plan. I’m hoping to make every start and finish the season instead of having a shutdown in September.”

Mize will be opposing the Royals for the fifth time this season. He gave up six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his lone loss on April 23, but he’s combined to allow six runs in 19 innings in his other three starts (two wins). He did not pitch against the Royals in 2020.

Hernandez doesn’t get the attention that the 2018 edition of the Fab Four get, but he has the same opportunity to be part of the future rotation. He got his first start of the season last Sunday against Baltimore and allowed two earned runs in four innings in the 5-0 loss. With two starters (Singer and Danny Duffy) on the injured list, Hernandez will have a chance to impress.

Hernandez has faced the Tigers twice in his career (one start) and is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in 4 2/3 innings.

–Field Level Media

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