Jakob Junis, one of two front-line starting pitchers for the Kansas City Royals who have yet to appear in a regular-season game because of COVID-19, will make his season debut Sunday in the series wrap-up between the host Royals and the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox will be going for a series sweep after taking Saturday’s game 11-5.
“I’ve got a great answer for you,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said Saturday when asked to name the next day’s starter. “Jake Junis is going to be starting for us tomorrow. We were going to have him throw another live (side session), but everything checked out for him.
“We felt he was a little bit ahead of where we needed him to be, so instead of using those pitches over at our secondary site, he’s ready to go for us.”
Junis was placed on the 10-day injured list July 20 because he had not built up enough strength to be ready for Opening Day. He tested positive for the virus early in training camp and was cleared for baseball activity July 13.
In seven career starts against Chicago, Junis is 3-2 with a 5.10 ERA.
Junis was joined on the IL by Brad Keller, who would have been given strong consideration for starting Opening Day had he not tested positive. Matheny said Keller is likely to be activated soon as well.
“He looked fantastic,” Matheny said about Keller’s side session Saturday. “The ball is coming out great. We saw everything we needed to see, so I think we can expect to see Brad in the next couple of days.”
The Royals are also without right fielder Hunter Dozier because of the virus.
With the number of games being postponed because of positive tests on other teams, Matheny was asked about his level of concern regarding the possible cancellation of the season.
“I’m not letting my head go there,” he said. “And if the guys start talking about it, I shut them down too. We’re going to play ball.
“This has been so much fun. It’s been great to get baseball back. We’ve decided not to focus on the fragile nature that we’re in right now. Let’s go play the game as long as they allow us.”
Chicago manager Rick Renteria feels the same way.
“I know the players talked among themselves about it, and we talked about it together yesterday,” he said. “They’re doing a good job (of taking precautions).
“They’re very cognizant of it, and everybody is trying to do what they can. In the end, everybody was trying to mitigate it to the best of our ability. We’re going to continue to do that and see if we can continue to roll along.”
Renteria will send Dylan Cease (0-1, 15.43 ERA) to the mound for Sunday’s finale. Cease is one of three White Sox starters with a double-digit ERA, although all three have made just one start. Cease gave up four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
“I just wasn’t very sharp today,” Cease said after that outing. “My fastball command (wasn’t there). It just wasn’t a good game. I threw some decent changeups, and there were some curveballs for strikes. But other than that, I wasn’t very sharp.”
Cease lost his only career outing against the Royals, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits in six innings of an 11-0 defeat last July in his second major league start.
–Field Level Media