Preview: Twins vs. Royals
Alex Rios hoped to prove his disappointing 2014 season merely was a fluke when he signed with the Kansas City Royals, who with Rios’ help have accomplished something no other club has done in 53 years.
It’ll be some time before he’s able to contribute on the field again.
The Royals look to remain unbeaten in their first game without Rios as they face the host Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Rios was bothered by a sprained left ankle with Texas last season and hit .280 with four home runs, his fewest since his 2004 rookie year with Toronto.
He signed a one-year, $11 million deal in the offseason to replace the departed Nori Aoki and hit .321 with a homer and eight RBIs to help the Royals (7-0) become the first club since the 1962 St. Louis Cardinals to win its first seven by at least two runs.
Rios, though, was hit by a pitch on his left hand during Monday’s 12-3 victory over the Twins, and X-rays Tuesday revealed a non-displaced fracture. He’ll be out indefinitely, with Jarrod Dyson expected to be Rios’ primary replacement in the outfield.
Kansas City, which is hitting .329 as a team, hopes to keep its offense rolling despite the setback. Former Twin Kendrys Morales homered and Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar drove in two runs in Monday’s series opener.
Morales, who signed a two-year contract in the offseason, is batting .414 while hitting safely in each contest.
"There’s a great mix here of young and veteran players that feed off each other," Morales said. "The young players got a lot of energy, which helps the experienced players. It’s a real good clubhouse."
The bullpen has picked up where it left off during the Royals’ run to the World Series. Seven relievers have combined for 21 strikeouts in 19 scoreless innings, with Greg Holland converting his three save opportunities.
"It’s a long season," said starter Danny Duffy, who picked up the win Monday. "Obviously you hear that every day, but we’re just kind of keeping it all in front of us."
Minnesota (1-6) is having trouble getting past its inability to get on base. The Twins are hitting .201 and have scored an AL-worst 16 runs.
"We’re trying to find a way to put an offense together that’s a little more consistent," first-year manager Paul Molitor said. "So far it really hasn’t clicked too well."
This contest may be much of the same if Edinson Volquez has another solid outing. Volquez allowed one run and four hits through eight innings of a 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox in his Royals debut on Thursday, getting some help from Cain’s two highlight-reel catches in center field.
"We have the best defense in baseball," said Volquez, whose lone start against the Twins came in 2007. "It gives you a lot of confidence."
Minnesota will counter with Kyle Gibson, who allowed six runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss to Detroit on Thursday. He also walked five to match a career worst.
"I walked so many guys that I didn’t give myself a chance," Gibson said. "You can’t overcome bad luck when you are giving them free baserunners."
The right-hander has been much better against the Royals, winning all three starts while posting a 1.40 ERA. He allowed two hits and struck out seven through seven innings of a 2-1 road win the last time he faced Kansas City on July 29.