After a hectic, stop-and-start April, Royals starter Luis Mendoza is hopeful that a more consistent schedule will yield more efficient results.
By RUSTIN DODD and SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Mendoza, who has made just four starts this season, has yet to pitch on a regular five-day rotation. But that will change on Monday, when Mendoza takes the mound in the opening game of a three-game series against Angels in Los Angeles.
The begins a stretch of 19 games in the next 20 days, and it should allow Mendoza, the Royals’ fifth starter, to take on a normal work load. Mendoza allowed five runs (three earned) in six innings in his last start, a 5-3 loss to Baltimore on May 7.
“I think since my last start, I feel much better in my regular days,” Mendoza said. “I now know this is just about just being in the same rhythm and momentum. Right now, I feel pretty good.”
Mendoza earned the last spot in the starting rotation during spring training, beating out Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar with a strong camp. He also impressed over the winter while being selected Most Valuable Player of the Caribbean Series, leading his native Mexico to a surprising championship. But Mendoza has failed to replicate the spring results to this point, posting a 6.38 ERA over 24 innings.
The unimpressive start has, in part, been the result of poor command. Mendoza has issued 13 walks while recording just 16 strikeouts. And the lack of work may have contributed to his ineffectiveness.
“In the bullpens, there’s no hitters,” Mendoza said. “It’s not the same pressure, or rhythm of the game.”
For now, Mendoza should get a run of regular duty to prove himself worthy of a start in the rotation. And Royals manager Ned Yost is confident that Mendoza will benefit from the normal schedule.
“The more you pitch, the sharper you’re gonna be,” Yost said. “You get locked into a five-man rotation, it just helps you. Like a hitter playing everyday, it just (gives) you rhythm.”
Dyson at leadoff
The Royals featured a new name atop the lineup for the second time in four games Sunday.
Jarrod Dyson took his first turn in the leadoff spot, replacing Alcides Escobar, who moved back to the No. 2 spot after three games leading off.
Dyson collected his only hit of the afternoon in his first trip to the plate. He doubled down the right-field line and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly from Alex Gordon to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.
“Dyson is probably our most prototypical leadoff guy,” Yost said. “In the days that he’ll play, he’ll probably move up there. We’ll see. We’ll just take it day to day.”
Gordon occupied the leadoff spot for the first 30 games of the season, but he has hit third the past four games. Since moving there, Gordon has hit .400 (six for 15) with a home run and five RBIs.
Gift for Rivera
The Royals honored Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with a pregame ceremony on Sunday, presenting him with a check for an undisclosed amount to his charity foundation. Rivera has announced that he will retire at the end of the season, and the Royals acknowledged his career with a video tribute.
Rivera, 43, repaid the Royals by recording his 15th save of the season in the Yankees’ 4-2 victory. Rivera, who extended his major-league record saves number to 623, has converted 29 straight saves against the Royals, dating back to 1999.
• Gordon has collected at least two hits in exactly half of the Royals' 34 games this season. His 17th multi-hit game Sunday placed him in a tie for the major-league lead. He was two for three with a sacrifice fly.
• Yankees closer Mariano Rivera converted his 29th consecutive save opportunity against the Royals. His last blown save against the Royals came in 1999. In possibly his last appearance at Kauffman Stadium, Rivera improved to 15 for 15 in save chances this season.
• Ervin Santana has walked only one batter over his past four starts, a streak that stretches over 261/3 innings.