The wait spanned almost nine years, long enough that Royals prospect Humberto Arteaga candidly wondered if it would ever end. He was 16 when he signed with the Royals, the world in front of him and a dream to play in the bigs.
What confronted him instead was a grind. The labor of minor-league baseball. Consistent struggles at the plate. In-house personnel pondering whether he could develop into enough of a hitter to make it.
But at long last, during a minor-league off day, the call came. On the other end, his Class AAA Omaha manager, Brian Polderg, spoke first.
You’re going to the majors.
“It’s a dream come true,” Arteaga, now 25, said. “I’ve been with the Royals for nine years, and I finally made it to this stage — it’s really exciting.”
The Royals placed shortstop Adalberto Mondesi on the 10-day injured list on Thursday, opening the spot on the roster. And in the lineup. Royals manager Ned Yost immediately wrote Arteaga onto the card, hitting seventh against Twins starter Jake Odorizzi. Artega went 0 for 2 with a sacrifice in the Royals’ 4-1 victory.
Arteaga was hitting .292 with five home runs across 250 at-bats with Omaha this season.
But it’s not that bat that long provided the optimism about his future. Arteaga has been part of the Royals’ spring training the last two years, catching the eye of Yost.
“The defense has always been spectacular no matter where I put him — third, short, second,” Yost said, adding, “When we first saw Arty, in my mind, he was going to be a really good backup infielder at Double-A because he couldn’t hit. He just wasn’t very strong.
“All of a sudden, he just kept working, kept working and got better and better and better.”
Arteaga had little other choice than to improve at the plate. Not if he wanted to make it to the majors. From 2013-17, he never hit better than .258 over a full season.
The consistency finally came in 2018, when he batted .292 with a .708 on-base plus slugging percentage. The numbers are nearly identical this year, though Yost said Arteaga has also developed into more of a situational hitter — a player capable of moving runners.
“That was always the question: ‘Can this guy hit?’” Arteaga said. “My defense was always there, but the bat wasn’t so much.
“I always have really big confidence on defense. ... Hitting-wise, the last two, three years, just about knowing what kind of hitter I am. That’s what it took me to get to that level — knowing that I don’t need to hit four homers in a day; I need to help my team.”