Carlos Hernandez might be pitching for his rotation spot, if not his place on the roster, when he starts for the Kansas City Royals on Thursday afternoon in the finale a five-game series against the visiting Chicago White Sox.
The Royals won the past two games after dropping the first two in theseries. Rookies Bobby Witt Jr. and M.J. Melendez homered Wednesday in Kansas City's 6-2 victory.
Hernandez (0-3, 9.11 ERA) will square off Thursday with Chicago's Vince Velasquez (2-3, 5.53) in a battle of right-handers. Velasquez was initially scheduled to pitch Wednesday, but the White Sox activated Lucas Giolito from the COVID injured list, bumping Velasquez back a day.
Hernandez earned Kansas City's fifth starter spot out of spring training, but more because other expected starters Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar didn't.
The Royals have Zack Greinke, Brad Keller and Daniel Lynch all pitching well. Kris Bubic was relegated to the bullpen and later demoted to the minors after compiling a 12.83 ERA in six games (five starts). He was replaced in the rotation by Jonathan Heasley, who is 0-2 but carries a respectable 4.32 ERA through two starts.
However, 2018 first-round selection Singer upped the ante by throwing seven shutout innings while starting the second game of the Tuesday doubleheader. He was called up from Triple-A as the 27th man for the doubleheader, and he was returned to Omaha after the game. However, after the outing, there was little doubt that he would be back soon. Manager Mike Matheny said it could be "one of those days that changes his career."
On the flip side, Hernandez allowed nine runs on eight hits and three walks in four-plus innings during his latest start, Saturday at Colorado. He was surprised that he didn't pitch well.
"The goal was to mix every pitch that I was working with and everything in the bullpen looked good, so I went with all of them," he said. "Everything went wrong. I just have to get back to work and get better."
Maybe the White Sox will cure what ails him, as he is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against them.
Velasquez has been hot and cold over his past four starts. In two of those outings, he allowed a total of one run on seven hits in 10 2/3 innings. But in the other two starts, he allowed 12 runs on 16 hits in 8 1/3 innings. That includes his latest game, when he gave up seven runs on eight hits in five innings during a loss to the New York Yankees on Friday.
"This is very disappointing, especially since (Dylan) Cease had a rough outing (the previous day) as well," Velasquez said after the game. "You kind of want to come back and have an impact and kind of at least be a threat. It just seemed like they were a little bit more comfortable and they kind of zoned me up pretty well, and they capitalized on the pitches I mistakenly threw."
Velasquez has only faced the Royals three times (two starts) in his eight-year career spent largely in the National League. He owns a 1-0 record with a 4.05 ERA vs. Kansas City.
--Field Level Media