Royals’ infield could have new look in finale vs. Indians


Adalberto Mondesi made his return to the Kansas City Royals’ lineup as the designated hitter Wednesday, hitting a homer while appearing in just his 11th game of the season. He is expected to be back on the field on defense Thursday, but not in his usual position.

Mondesi and the Royals will face the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in the finale of a three-game series. The Indians will be looking for a sweep after a 5-3, 11-inning victory Wednesday. Austin Hedges looped a single just beyond first baseman Carlos Santana with two outs in the 11th for the go-ahead run.

Mondesi, 26, has played shortstop in 240 of the 308 major league games in which he played defense. The other 68 games were as a second baseman. He hasn’t played any other positions, but that is likely to change Thursday.

Just back from a two-month stint on the injured list caused by an oblique ailment, he probably will start Thursday at third base.

Shortstop Nicky Lopez and second baseman Whit Merrifield have formed a fine double-play combinations, and manager Mike Matheny doesn’t want to mess with their chemistry.

“We talked a lot about having Mondi back and what that might look like,” Matheny said. “With what we’re seeing with our middle infield, the conversation was about what was the right thing for these guys as well as Mondi. How can we get Mondi reinitiated into the lineup, because we know when he’s out there we have a chance of seeing some special things.

“But we also want to respect what Nicky and Whit have been able to do.”

Mondesi is hitting .366 with five home runs, 10 RBIs and eight runs. On Wednesday, he went 2-for-5 with a home run and two runs.

The key for Mondesi is staying healthy. He has never played more than 102 games in a season and has logged more than 75 only once. The closest he came to a full season was in 2020, when he played in 59 of the 60 games of the abbreviated season. However, he has been on the shelf multiple times in his career, including twice this season.

In fact, Lopez only made the Opening Day roster because Mondesi began the season on the IL. Now, the Royals are adjusting things to keep Lopez at shortstop.

The Indians (66-64) are set to get a key player back from the IL on Thursday, when right-hander Triston McKenzie (3-5, 4.83 ERA) is due to make the start. McKenzie has been out since Aug. 22 because of right shoulder fatigue, acting manager DeMarlo Hale said McKenzie likely would be on a pitch count.

McKenzie was pitching well before going on the IL. He allowed one earned run and three hits in 15 innings over his last two starts, winning both games. He also struck out 19 and walked just one during that stretch.

Those numbers look like what he’s done in his career against the Royals. Thursday will mark his sixth career appearance vs. Kansas City, the fifth time as a starter. He is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in those contests, having struck out 32 batters in 26 2/3 innings.

“That’s a good question,” Hale said about McKenzie’s success against Kansas City. “I’m not sure I have the answer for it, but hopefully he can continue the success.”

Mike Minor (8-11, 5.80 ERA) will make the start for the Royals (59-73). The left-hander is winless in his past five starts, going 0-3 with a 5.22 ERA in that span. Minor is 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 10 career games (four starts) vs. the Indians, though he is 0-1 with an 8.68 ERA in two starts against Cleveland this year.

–Field Level Media

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