Justin Maxwell sat through a long rain delay and postponement in Omaha on Friday night, and upon being called up by the Royals, pointed his car toward Kansas City at 7:20 a.m. Saturday and hit the accelerator.
Three hours later, he walked into the Royals’ clubhouse to greetings from teammates and didn’t have to stifle a yawn.
“I’m ready to go, and I think the adrenaline will take over when I hear the anthem and see the crowd,” Maxwell said.
Royals manager Ned Yost wasted no time getting Maxwell in the lineup. He started in right field, and delivered a solid single to left in the second of his three plate appearances. Lorenzo Cain got the day off, and so did second baseman Omar Infante until he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth..
Maxwell was with the Royals as a fifth outfielder out of spring training but there wasn’t enough production or action —he was four for 29 in 16 games.
In Omaha, he was the everyday center fielder and made the most of it, hitting .316 with five home runs.
“Waking up every day knowing your name is going to be in the lineup, and then getting into a regular routine as a player, that can only be beneficial,” Maxwell said.
One duty in Omaha was to rediscover the stroke that made Maxwell attractive enough for the Royals to acquire him in a trade with the Astros last July.
Maxwell hit .268 in 35 games for the Royals and delivered perhaps the season’s most memorable swing, a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning that beat the Rangers in the home finale.
“When we sent him out, he didn’t have the opportunity to get consistent at-bats,” Yost said. “He got them there and performed very well.”
To make room for Maxwell, the Royals placed pitcher Bruce Chen on the 60-day DL, but Chen is eligible to return June 24.
Also Saturday, Nori Aoki was played on the 15-day DL after aggravating a groin injury during his pinch-hit appearance on Friday. Aoki was scheduled to have an MRI on Saturday.
There will be more moves in the next few days as Chen and third baseman Danny Valencia, who is on a rehab assignment in Omaha, are expected to rejoin the team early next week.
Moments before the game, Wichita State basketball players were warming up, but this was different.
Tekele Cotton, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, standouts from the Shockers team that opened last season 35-0, tossed baseballs in the hallway near the clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium.
“A little bit,” VanVleet said after throwing out the first pitch before the Royals-Mariners game on the first Wichita State Day on Saturday. “I haven’t played (baseball) since I don’t know how long. It’s been a while, but it was all good.”
The first-pitch lineup: Van Fleet to WUShock, donning a Royals jersey, and Baker to Cotton. VanFleet’s toss got there. Baker buried his pitch.
“Pretty exciting,” Baker said. “That throw could have been a little better.”
His teammate had his back.
“It was a good pitch,” Cotton said. “Both of them had a good pitch. It was just a fun experience to even be out here.”
A rarity for Holland
How unusual was Greg Holland’s outing on Friday, when he surrendered two runs in the ninth and took the loss in Mariners’ 7-5 victory?
It wasn’t just that one of the baseball’s top closers saw his streak of 15 2/3 scoreless innings, over 16 appearances, halted.
“I was trying to think of the last time he gave up more than one run in an inning,” Yost said.
More than a year. It last happened on April 6, 2013, at Philadelphia. It had been 95 appearances between multirun appearances for Holland, the American League’s save leader.