With Padres in town, Royals rookie Michael Massey finding his spot

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Massey made his major league debut July 15 in Toronto, one of the players the Kansas City Royals had to call up when 10 of their regulars were unavailable for the series because they weren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

He impressed manager Mike Matheny enough, evidently, that after a brief stint back in the minor leagues, Massey is an everyday player.

The second baseman is expected to be in the starting lineup again Saturday when the Royals host the San Diego Padres in the second game of a three-game series.

The Padres will send veteran Yu Darvish (10-7, 3.39 ERA) to the mound, while the Royals will start left-hander Daniel Lynch (4-8, 4.58).

Massey has hit in every position in the lineup except third in his 24 games with the Royals. He started his second straight game in the cleanup spot on Friday with Vinnie Pasquantino placed on the injured list on Tuesday with right shoulder discomfort.

Massey said he doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup, as long as he’s on the field.

“Any spot in the lineup is a good spot to hit,” he said prior to Friday’s game, in which he was 0-for-4 in the Royals’ 13-5 loss to the Padres. “Any time your name is in the lineup, you have a chance to affect the game in a positive way.”

Does Massey think he’s a classic cleanup hitter?

“Probably not a cleanup hitter,” he said, “but definitely as a big leaguer.”

But Massey, who hit 21 home runs in the minors in 2021 and 16 there this season, can hit in the power positions when Matheny needs him to.

“Michael’s got power,” Matheny said. “When it comes down to the end of the game, you’re running out of outs. Who do you want to see up there? Who’s going to take a good at bat?

“It’s a matter of who is taking the best at-bats and getting those at- bats up there quicker. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a prototypical (cleanup hitter). You take a good at-bat in those situations, and those turn into potential runs. He’s been impressive.”

On the season, Massey is batting .253 with one homer and eight RBIs. He was a 2019 fourth-round draft pick.

Lynch was in college, pitching for Virginia, in 2017 — the last time the Royals and Padres met. He has alternated wins and losses in his past four decisions after losing five straight earlier this year.

He’ll look for some help from the offense on Saturday. Getting good at-bats with runners in scoring position is what San Diego manager Bob Melvin is looking for as well. His club is loaded with talent after some trade-deadline deals, including the acquisition of budding superstar Juan Soto. But the Padres are 9-12 since the deadline, and Melvin is running low on patience.

“Offensively we need to be better,” he said prior to Friday’s game. “We’re getting guys on base; we’re just not proficient in getting them in right now. I believe it’s going to happen and happen soon.”

The offense should be helped when Soto returns to the lineup. He’s missed the last three games with back tightness. Soto didn’t play Friday, but Melvin was hopeful Soto would be back soon.

“He’s going to be out here doing a full complement (of preparation),” Melvin said. “We’ll see what happens in-game. There’s a chance (he plays). We’ve got to see how he does swinging. He looks like he’s feeling a lot better. We’ll see how BP goes.”

Darvish has had success against the Royals. He’s 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in six career starts. He’s struck out 41 with just seven walks in 41 2/3 innings.

Darvish has lost three straight starts after picking up wins in his three previous decisions.

–Field Level Media

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