Ian Kennedy and Hunter Dozier garner monthly honors from Royals

Royals relief pitcher Ian Kennedy and third baseman Hunter Dozier were chosen the team’s pitcher and hitter of the month for March and April, the team announced on Wednesday prior to the doubleheader at Kauffman Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The monthly awards were decided by a vote of local media.

Kennedy, who made the transition from starting pitcher to full-time reliever this spring, entered the day with 19 strikeouts (12.51 K/9), to put him four behind the American League lead among relievers. He’s pitched 10 scoreless outings in 12 appearances and posted a 1.32 ERA (two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings).

After an up and down season in 2018, Dozier has been one of the hottest hitters in the American League to start the 2019 season despite having been hampered recently by back stiffness/tightness that has kept him from playing in the field.

Dozier entered Wednesday leading the AL in slugging percentage (.686) and OPS (1.133), and he also ranked among the league leaders in OBP (second, .447) and batting average (fifth, .349). He and Jorge Soler are tied for the team lead in home runs (seven).

Billy is back: Center fielder Billy Hamilton was back in the starting lineup for the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. He was scheduled to be in the lineup on Tuesday night prior to the game’s postponement.

Hamilton had not played the previous two games because of hamstring tightness that forced him out of Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. Hamilton has gone 13-for-37 with a double and a triple in day games this season.

Sparky goes second: Since a 26th player gets added to the roster for the second game of a doubleheader, Glenn Sparkman will officially join the Royals and start the second game, his first start of the season.

In three appearances out of the bullpen (6 2/3 innings) for the Royals, Sparkman has allowed six runs on 13 hits and two walks.

Game 1 lineup

1. Whit Merrifield, 2b

2. Adalberto Mondesi, ss

3. Alex Gordon, lf

4. Hunter Dozier, 1b

5. Jorge Soler, dh

6. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3b

7. Chris Owings, rf

8. Martin Maldonado, c

9. Billy Hamilton, cf

Starting pitcher: Jakob Junis (rh, 2-2, 5.57)

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.