Royals left-handed reliever Brian Flynn came into camp having reshaped his body over the offseason. The emphasis in his exit meetings following the 2018 season was to lose weight and be “more athletic” through his delivery.
So the 6-foot-7 Flynn lost 18 pounds. Then he sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow during spring training. He began the regular season on the injured list.
Any elbow injury comes with trepidation for any pitcher, but Flynn said he felt fully recovered roughly two weeks ago. He finished his 30-day minor-league rehab assignment and rejoined the Royals on Saturday prior to the team’s split doubleheader against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium.
“I would’ve been comfortable the last two outings being up here, health-wise and stuff-wise,” Flynn said. “I really got the ball rolling these last two, so I’m really comfortable with it.”
Flynn pitched 22 innings in six appearances in the minors, including two starts, during his rehab stint. He posted a 2-2 record and a 3.57 ERA. He struck out 18 and walked 11.
Flynn’s last minor-league appearance came on May 19, and he pitched 5 2/3 innings against Oklahoma City.
“I got hurt three innings into spring training,” Flynn said. “(Extended outings in the minors) was the best way, I believe, to build up reps and face as many hitters a possible.
“I think it went according to plan. I got a lot of reps in, threw a lot of pitches, and really had to work on pitching a lot when you’re facing guys three times, no matter what level you’re at.”
Last season, Flynn pitched in 48 games out of the bullpen for the Royals. He recorded a 4.04 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP, 47 strikeouts and 35 walks in 75 2/3 innings. He served largely as a long man out of the bullpen, and pitched two innings or more in 22 of his appearances.
Flynn joins Kevin McCarthy as recent callups who were prominent parts of the bullpen last season. This season, Royals relievers have an ERA of 4.98 through 49 games.
Lineup flip-flop: Second baseman Nicky Lopez will bat first in the opening game of the Royals’ doubleheader on Saturday. Whit Merrifield, who leads the team in hits (59) and runs scored (38), drops down to the second spot in the order. Merrifield has batted in the leadoff spot for 201 of his 202 at-bats this season.
Lopez, batting .303 with a .395 on-base percentage, reached base safely 15 times in his first eight games since being called up. That’s the second-most by a Royals player to start his major-league career (Johnny Damon reached base 16 times).
Lopez batted second in 28 of his 31 games at Triple-A Omaha before being called up to the majors, and he’d batted exclusively in the No. 2 hole since being called up. He’s batted first, second and third throughout his time in the minors. While in Double-A in 2018 (73 games), he batted third more often than any spot into the lineup (44 times).
Lovelady optioned, but stays: Left-handed reliever Richard Lovelady was optioned to Triple-A in order to make room for Flynn. However, Lovelady remained with the club in Kansas City and will serve as the 26th man on the roster for the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Lovelady has a 4.26 ERA with a 11 strikeouts and four walks in 12 2/3 innings. Opponents have batted .292 against him, and he has a 1.42 WHIP.
Saturday’s lineup (Game 1)
1. Nicky Lopez, 2b
2. Whit Merrifield, rf
3. Adalberto Mondesi, ss
4. Alex Gordon, lf
5. Hunter Dozier, 1b
6. Jorge Soler, dh
7. Chris Owings, 3b
8. Martin Maldonado, c
9. Billy Hamilton, cf
Starting pitcher: Jakob Junis (rh, 3-5, 5.69)