Royals' Mondesi begins season on injured list

By Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Royals' Adalberto Mondesi during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, Ariz. Mondesi will start the season on the injured list. [AP Photo/Matt York]

The injury bug has bitten Kansas City Royals starting shortstop Adalberto Mondesi again, this time it will keep him off the club's Opening Day roster.

The Royals placed Mondesi, 25, on the 10-day injured list and recalled infielder Nicky Lopez to the majors. Lopez, the club's starting second baseman last year, had been slated to start the season at the alternate site, which starts this weekend.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said Lopez will start at shortstop in the season opener on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium.

Matheny also confirmed that outfielder Kyle Isbel will make his MLB debut and start in right field.

Mondesi landed on the IL because of a right oblique strain, and his stint will be retroactive to March 30. The injury occurred while taking a swing during an at-bat in Monday's spring training finale in Surprise, Arizona.

Mondesi did travel with the team to Kansas City.

"That one caught us off guard," Matheny said. "I had no idea, didn't see a thing and we're hypersensitive to watching just about everything. So when I got that call yesterday, that wasn't the one we were looking for.

"But it is what we do. We make adjustments, and it's next man up. We're starting that early. We were very fortunate that we had as successful of a spring as we had health-wise. But to come down to the very last game, that's a shame."

The Royals added infielder Hanser Alberto to the 40-man roster on Monday. Alberto signed a minor-league contract this winter.

Alberto, who has played second base, shortstop and third base, started 181 games for the Orioles in the past two seasons, including 52 games in last year's 60-game season. He batted .299 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .413 slugging percentage from 2019-20.

Despite Alberto's defensive versatility, Matheny said Lopez has been the club's first contingency plan at shortstop. Alberto provides another option.

The Royals decided earlier this spring that top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. would start the season in the minors. Drafted as a shortstop, Witt also played a lot of second base during spring training.

The Royals will stick with the plan to let Witt, who has played just 37 professional games, remain in the minors.

The switch-hitting Mondesi played in 59 of 60 games last season, but he has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Mondesi only played in 102 games in 2019 and still tied for the major league lead with 10 triples, ranked second in the majors with 43 stolen bases, and he became the first American League shortstop to register at least 10 triples, 40 steals and 60 RBIs in a season. He's never played more than 125 games in a year, and that total came in the minors in 2013.

"I hurt for Mondi," Matheny said. "I know how hard he has worked. I know how good he looked."

The Royals optioned Lopez to the minors after he struggled offensively and attempted to make swing changes this spring training. Last season, Lopez led all second baseman with eight defensive runs saved, and ranked second among AL second basemen in putouts (74), assists (135) and double plays turned (34) as well as third in UZR (1.4). He was a finalist for the AL Gold Glove at second base.

In his 159 MLB games, Lopez has slashed .228/.279/.307 with 92 strikeouts and 36 walks.

"What we're telling him is go be you on the field, on that defensive side of the field," Matheny said of Lopez. "We need you to go out there and play a great shortstop for us and then be prepared to do the little things that you can do to help us win a ballgame when you're at the plate."