The new Brady Singer has been just what the doctor ordered for the Kansas City Royals’ starting pitching rotation in a lot of ways.
The individual strides he has made have had a significant impact on a major-league club that was wearing out its bullpen due to consistently-short outings from its starters.
After a win on Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, Singer has now allowed just three runs in three starts — 19 2/3 innings — in the majors this season. He has held opponents to 14 hits and just three walks during that span, while he has also struck out 20.
More importantly, Singer may have added stability to a rotation that had sorely needed it. He and his 2018 draft classmate Daniel Lynch, coupled with veteran stalwart Zack Greinke and workhorse Brad Keller, give the Royals a top four that suggests reliability.
“To come and have that kind of length for us, our bullpen is beat up,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “They’ve been worked hard. We need our starters to come in and take us deeper into games. Brady has done a nice job of that all three times now.”
Singer (2-0) allowed three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings on Saturday. He’d given up just one run, on a solo homer, when he left the game. However, he turned it over to reliever Gabe Speier with two men on and Speier allowed both to score.
Singer didn’t walk a batter for the second time in three starts, and he struck out eight. Five of his strikeouts came on called third strikes — four on sinking fastballs. That’s a career-high for called strikes in a game for Singer and the most by a Royals starter since Jorge Lopez on September 2, 2018, against the Baltimore Orioles.
Part of that can likely be attributed to Singer’s increased use of the changeup since his return to the majors.
On Saturday, Singer threw the changeup less frequently than his first two starts (just eight percent of the time compared to 17 percent). But he was also facing the Twins’ lineup for the second consecutive start and had already planted that seed in the minds of the opposition.
“They’ve got more than two (pitches) to think about,” Matheny said.” The changeup is in the back of their mind. It comes down to he was making really good pitches with hard, late, heavy movement. That’s always going to work well. When you can get ahead in the count, which he was, strike one is huge for our club. He did a great job working ahead and getting the finish pitches.”
Asked about the frequency of called third strikes and whether or not the idea of the changeup and him having thrown it in his last outing might have locked some hitters up, Singer didn’t have much doubt.
“I think so for sure,” Singer said. “I think it gets me deeper in ballgames too. Absolutely. It’s helping me a lot. I’m glad with where it’s at.”
Singer entered the day with a career-best 17 2/3 scoreless innings streak after having not allowed a run in his last two relief appearances prior to going down to the minors as well as his first two starts since his return.
Another class of ‘18 draft pick, Jonathan Heasley, has struggled uncharacteristically with command issues since he got promoted to the majors and inserted into the rotation. But Singer’s strides could have a ripple effect on the pitching staff that entered the day with the third-worst starters ERA in the majors (5.08).
Singer being a consistent presence going deep into games and turning in quality starts would be a boon for the Royals staff.
His time in the minors after having started this season in the major-league bullpen has translated well thus far. The hand-placement adjustment he made on his fastball has given him better command, and it has worked well off of his changeup, which he’d thrown more often.
Does this make Singer a different pitcher?
“Absolutely, I think a totally different pitcher,” Singer said. “I think the movement the fastball has helped me tremendously. I think the three pitches is helping a lot. I can just see it, like I’ve talked about. Getting deeper into ballgames, I feel like that’s going to help me get through that lineup a third time.”