Royals manager Ned Yost said Monday that the club’s pitching staff is working to address its struggles in controlling the opponents’ running game during the first month of the season.
Starting catcher Salvador Perez entered Monday having thrown out just one of 16 attempted base stealers during the month of April, while reserve catcher Drew Butera threw out three of six. The numbers come just one season after Perez cut down a career-high 48 percent (37 of 77) of base stealers in 2016. The performance helped secure Perez’s fourth straight Gold Glove Award.
“It’s something that we are constantly addressing and working on to get more proficient at,” Yost said, acknowledging the issue before Monday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox.
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The root causes for the influx of stolen bases have little to do with Perez and Butera, of course. Perez continues to possess one of the strongest and quickest arms in baseball. His skill set has not changed from last season. But two additions to the starting rotation appear to have contributed to the problem. Jason Hammel has allowed six stolen bases, while Nathan Karns has allowed five. Opponents are 11 for 12 on stolen-base attempts against Hammel and Karns.
Both pitchers can be slow to the plate, leaving Perez little chance to cut down a base runner. Hammel, a 6-foot-6 right-hander with a long arm swing, has never been well positioned to control opponents on the bases. He allowed 15 stolen bases last season while starting for the Chicago Cubs, and he has allowed at least 15 steals in six of his 12 career seasons. Karns has also struggled with the task before, but Yost said the Royals’ pitching staff has worked to clean up the issues.
“It’s addressed,” he said.
The issue has also been exacerbated by the absence of right-hander Yordano Ventura, who excelled at controlling the running game. Ventura, who died tragically in January, allowed just seven steals in parts of four major-league seasons. Left-hander Danny Duffy has also become proficient at holding runners, allowing just one stolen base last season and zero this year.
Yost said the entire staff will continue working with pitching coach Dave Eiland to give Perez an opportunity to throw out more runners.
Soler continues rehab in Omaha
Outfielder Jorge Soler finished 2 for 2 with a walk Monday as he continued his rehab assignment at Class AAA Omaha.
Soler, who is recovering from a strained oblique muscle, has posted a four-game hitting streak and is batting .308 with a .419 on-base percentage in eight games. He can remain on his rehab assignment until May 10. General manager Dayton Moore said last week that the team wanted Soler to get comfortable at the plate and in right field before he made his Royals debut.
Acquired in the offseason in a trade that sent closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs, Soler was expected to begin the season as the Royals’ starting right fielder. He injured his left oblique muscle during a minor-league game at spring training on March 26.
Staumont strikes out 12 in minor-league start
Right-hander Josh Staumont, the Royals’ top pitching prospect, recorded another strong outing on Monday, allowing one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings for Omaha in a 2-1 victory over Oklahoma City. Staumont finished with 12 strikeouts, matching his season high.
In five starts, Staumont has struck out 38 batters in 26 innings. He’s also walked 16 batters.