The visiting Kansas City Royals, who are without 10 players, will try Friday night to take command of their four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The eight replacement players called up proved to be enough when the Royals won the series opener 3-1 on Thursday night.
The Royals were short-handed because 10 players who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 could not enter Canada.
“It’s a tough scenario. It’s a tough situation,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “It has been from the very beginning. There are some very capable people who have made decisions and continue to make decisions for states and countries. We just abide by the rules that are given to us.
“The rules that we have now have left some of our players back, and we’ve got new players (receiving) their opportunities. It’s different, it’s not how we’d design it, but it is where we are and now we move forward.”
One of those who took advantage of his chance Thursday was center fielder Nate Eaton, who homered in the ninth inning — his first major league hit in his major league debut. Rookie shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. hit his 13th homer for the Royals.
Angel Zerpa pitched five strong innings in his second career start to earn the win.
“The message is that every single one of them deserves to be here,” Matheny said. “They were right on the doorstep. We’ve talked about them. We’ve been watching them all season long. Don’t let the unique nature of it take away all they’ve done to make this a reality.”
Toronto All-Star right-hander Alek Manoah (9-4, 2.34 ERA) will start Friday. He pitched six scoreless innings against the Royals on June 7, making him 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two career outings against Kansas City.
He will face Zack Greinke (3-5, 4.52 ERA), who in 12 career starts against Toronto is 5-4 with a 3.94 ERA.
The loss on Thursday made Toronto 1-1 under interim manager John Schneider, who took over when Charlie Montoyo was fired Wednesday with the team at 46-42.
Schneider made a lineup adjustment for Thursday, moving Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from third to second in the order with Alejandro Kirk moving into the third spot and Bo Bichette sliding from second to fourth. The trio went a combined 2-for-10, with Kirk collecting both hits and Bichette walking twice.
Schneider said he had been talking to both Guerrero and Bichette about the idea.
“I’ve always kind of liked it,” Schneider said. “You get George (Springer) and Vlad and Kirk in a row, on-base and damage potential. It’s a good setup for Bo, hopefully with guys on base. The more we can get Bo up with guys on base, the better off we are. So kind of just seeing how it rolls, but comfortable and happy that everyone’s happy with it.”
The 10 Royals put on the restricted list were pitchers Brad Keller, Dylan Coleman and Brady Singer; catchers Cam Gallagher and MJ Melendez; infielders Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield; and outfielders Andrew Benintendi, Kyle Isbel and Michael A. Taylor.
The eight added players were Zerpa, catchers Sebastian Rivero and Freddy Fermin; infielders Maikel Garcia, Nick Pratto and Michael Massey; and outfielders Eaton and Brewer Hicklen.
Three Royals staff members also could not make the trip: pitching coach Cal Eldred, assistant hitting coach Keoni De Renne and strategist/bullpen catcher Parker Morin. Triple-A manager Scott Thorman was added to the staff for the series in Toronto.
–Field Level Media