Kansas City Royals reliever Josh Staumont managing knee pain after return to bullpen

Kansas City reliever back after stint on IL

By Lynn Worthy
The Kansas City Star (TNS)
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Josh Staumont (63) high fives catcher Cam Gallagher (36) after an April 24 game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit.

ANAHEIM, Calif. —The Kansas City Royals hoped to make a versatile and deep bullpen the strength of their pitching staff this season.

Last season served as an introduction to how manager Mike Matheny planned to use that group with matchups and game situations dictating their usage rather than traditional roles.

Injuries have kept the bullpen from its potential, but Josh Staumont's return from a knee strain certainly helps a unit that has seen Jesse Hahn, Kyle Zimmer and Staumont spend time on the injured list.

Staumont, a right-hander, pushed to get back on the field as quickly as possible. He pitched a scoreless inning to close out Sunday's game against the Minnesota Twins. The Royals had the tying run on base in the ninth inning, but fell 2-1 in the final game of their home stand.

Staumont

"There's nothing like a game and there's nothing like a close game," Staumont said after Sunday's outing. "So, I was just glad to get out there. Again, they trusted me that they could throw me right back in and I could handle it and did my job."

Going into Tuesday night, Staumont had a team-high five saves this season. He'd posted a 2.66 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP, a .176 opponent's batting average, 26 strikeouts, 13 walks (one intentional) in 22 appearances (23 2/3 innings). He gave up a two-run homer to Taylor Ward in the eighth inning of the Royals' 8-1 loss at the Angels on Tuesday night.

Staumont missed eight games with that knee sprain. He sustained the injury while stretching the day of his last outing before going on the injured list, against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, on May 26.

Staumont described it as an "interesting injury" as he explained the unique circumstances surrounding it.

"Pretty much just stretching," Staumont said. "It was super-casual. It felt more like if you popped your knuckle and it hurt. That's about as much as I can explain. The injury itself is kind of an odd one. It's more just pain management at this point.

"So we're going to just move on accordingly as much as it doesn't hurt. The knee itself is stable, so we're going to keep pushing. I wanted to get back as quick as possible. That was my first time on the IL in 27 years, so I'm planning on not going back."

Staumont pitched in the game against Tampa and felt "a little odd," but he got through a scoreless inning with one walk. His velocity was down in that outing — average velocity dipped by 2.5 mph from season average. However, his velocity, near the top of the majors in 2020, has been down this season after a bout with COVID-19 robbed him of muscle on the eve of spring training.

"I didn't feel it," Staumont said of the knee injury in his outing against the Rays. "I didn't feel great. But at the same time, that's baseball.

Staumont felt "pretty severe pain" the next morning. Within 36 hours of alerting the team's training and medical staff, he began feeling better and had the sense it would be a minor injury.

When fully healthy, he has the best overall stuff of any of the Royals relievers. His presence also gives the Royals a much needed additional option late in games.

The Royals have also put a heavy workload on the shoulders of a small group of relievers. Left-hander Jake Brentz, who made his major-league debut this season, went into Tuesday night tied for the most appearances in the majors (29), while right-hander Scott Barlow entered the night with 27 appearances and tied for the eighth-most innings (30) of any reliever in the majors.

"It just shares the wealth and (we're) able to take some of the load off the guys who we've been riding really hard," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "Think of Scott Barlow. Think of Greg Holland. Riding Jake Brentz pretty hard as well. All of them have been responding well, but to be able to give those leverage innings to other guys and know that we're in good hands is always a great feeling."