Scott Alexander knew something was wrong. This wasn’t a sixth sense sort of thing, because the signs were impossible to miss.
Alexander felt them.
There was a time last summer when Alexander would have to use the bathroom seven or eight times a night. He would wake up thirsty and drink about a gallon of water. It was compounded by constant fatigue.
These things are abnormal for anyone, let alone a professional baseball player in his mid-20s.
Alexander got the answer in July when he was pitching for the Royals’ Class AAA affiliate in Omaha. While on a road trip in Des Moines, Iowa, Alexander felt so bad that the team suggested that he go back to Nebraska and get checked out.
He fasted for a blood-sugar blood test, and while an average person should have 100 milligrams per deciliter, Alexander was at 375. He had diabetes.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Alexander admitted. “I didn’t know anything about diabetes and I didn’t even think that was an option, so I was kind of relieved to finally know how I can fix it now.”
That required a change in Alexander’s eating habits, which can be a daunting task. Often times, things that seem to be healthy foods can be loaded with sugar.
Fortunately for Alexander, he has a nutritionist he can talk with at any time — his fiancee, Kristin.
“On the home front, I can just be like, ‘Is this good?’ Or she’ll say, ‘You should try this, it’s good for you,’ ” Alexander said. “She took all these diabetic classes in college. She knows all about this stuff. She’s been a huge help.
“I had to basically eliminate a lot of carbs and sugars and stuff like that. It’s not really crazy things that I eat — it’s just more balanced meals and less processed.”
Some of the worst foods for a diabetic include candy, white bread and french fries. Giving up those things may seem like a big sacrifice, right?
“No, because the way I was feeling when I was eating it made me feel so bad, it wasn’t even like it was worth it,” Alexander said. “It’s easy to give something up like that. All the temptations I have for chocolate and things like that, just knowing that if I eat that how bad I’ll feel afterward. It makes it not that big a deal.”
Alexander’s performance improved almost immediately. In his next six appearances for Omaha, he allowed four hits and just one run over 7 1/3 innings. A left-hander, Alexander was recalled by the Royals on Aug. 31 and finished the season with eight scoreless appearances.
This spring, Alexander, 27, has allowed just one unearned run and four hits with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in six games. Manager Ned Yost said Alexander is one of the most fit players in camp, and he’s right in the mix for a bullpen spot.
“The thing about Scott is he neutralizes right-handed hitting with that heavy sinker,” Yost said. “He does a great job of it. Again, we’ve got three weeks to figure it out, but he’s been impressive.”
While he’s appeared in 21 big-league games over the previous two seasons, Alexander said this is the first time he’s been at spring training with a chance to open the season with the Royals.
He is eager to make the most of his opportunity, even if the competition is stiff.
“So far, I’m just trying to go out there and throw strikes and compete,” Alexander said. “I can’t really control anything else that happens. That’s all I’m really focused on. I’ve got a lot to worry about, I’ve got myself to get ready, so that’s plenty enough to worry about.”