The Kansas City Royals called up power-hitting prospect Vinnie Pasquantino from Triple-A Omaha prior to Monday’s game against the Texas Rangers, and he likely will make his first start Tuesday in the second game of the three-game series.
The Royals will send Jonathan Heasley (1-3, 4.14 ERA) to the mound to oppose Texas starter Jon Gray (3-3, 4.18).
The Rangers pulled away from the Royals for a 10-4 victory on Monday night. Every starter except for Marcus Semien had at least one hit, and every starter but Charlie Culberson scored at least one run.
Pasquantino arrived at the stadium about three hours before the first pitch, and Royals manager Mike Matheny said he probably was available to pinch-hit, but Pasquantino did not appear.
The call-up of the first baseman/designated hitter has been highly anticipated by Royals fans all season. He hit .280 (70-for-250) in Triple-A with 18 home runs and more walks (37) than strikeouts (36). Pasquantino ranks among International League leaders in extra-base hits (36, second), runs (51, tied for second), home runs (second), total bases (144, third), slugging percentage (.576, second) and OPS (.948, second).
Pasquantino’s debut is the most anticipated in Kansas City since that of catcher MJ Melendez, who made his debut on May 3. And Melendez’s debut was the most anticipated since that of Bobby Witt Jr., who made the club out of spring training. If Pasquantino is in the starting lineup Tuesday, he probably would be one of four rookies in the lineup, as Emmanuel Rivera has taken over the starting spot at third base.
Matheny wouldn’t say how he would use Pasquantino, but he did believe the rookie would be happy anywhere in the lineup.
“There are times when you jump right in and throw him in the middle of the order because there’s an opening,” he said. “We talked about this as soon as Salvy (Salvador Perez) had the (thumb) surgery. There’s an opening, a big spot in our order. Who can fill it? We know he’s not going to feel out of place in the middle of the order.”
Gray said it’s difficult to pitch to a lineup of players he hasn’t faced before, but it won’t affect his preparation.
“I haven’t really seen much of them,” he said, “but that really simplifies things. I can kind of pitch to my strengths. There’s enough information that I know what to do. That’s something I wish I would have done earlier in my career. Trust what got you here. You’re here for a reason; you’re good. See how far you can take it, and then make adjustments.”
Adjustments have been key for Gray, who has won each of his past two starts, pitching to a 1.42 ERA, after a five-start winless stretch. What’s worked? Finding the strike zone. He fanned a total of 11 and walked just one in 12 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Early on, the struggles came down to walks,” Gray said. “I wasn’t really pitching to contact. But lately we’ve been in the zone more and not relying on one or two pitches. I’ve been able to keep a lot of hitters off-balance lately and not giving them free bases.”
Gray has faced the Royals only once, when he allowed three runs (two earned) in 6 2/3 innings and took a loss on Aug. 22, 2017.
Heasley has only faced the Rangers once, when he yielded one run in 3 1/3 innings during a road loss in his season debut on May 12. He gave up a season-high four runs in his latest outing, when he lasted five-plus innings in a no-decision during the Royals’ 12-11, 11-inning victory over the Los Angeles Angels on June 21.
–Field Level Media