KANSAS CITY — The Royals’ lineup, having already seen bumps and bruises through the first two months of the season, will now be without one of their hottest hitters in Andrew Benintendi. The left fielder was placed on the 10-day injured list Monday with a right rib fracture, the club announced before the series opener against Detroit.
In a corresponding move, Edward Olivares was recalled from Triple-A Omaha and played left field Monday night.
Benintendi had been bothered by his right side for awhile, manager Mike Matheny said, but it intensified after a throw from left field on Sunday in Oakland. When Benintendi woke up Monday morning, he felt enough pain to need imaging done, which showed a hairline fracture.
As the Royals have dealt with injuries to Adalberto Mondesi (left hamstring strain) and slow starts to the season for Jorge Soler (batting .178 entering Monday) and Hunter Dozier (.160), Benintendi had been a consistent bat. He’s slashing .283/.340/.429 with eight home runs, six doubles, 31 RBIs and 19 walks in 60 games, and he won the Royals’ player of the month award in May after leading the team in hits (33) and batting .340 in 27 games.
“Not ideal,” Matheny said. “One of the bright spots we’ve had on the offense. He’s been taking as good of at-bats as anybody. But it just creates another opportunity for somebody to step up and start getting some production.”
Benintendi has dealt with a rib injury before; he played in only 14 games with the Red Sox in 2020 because of a right ribcage strain, and after he was traded to the Royals last offseason, he said he had actually suffered from broken ribs. Matheny didn’t know if the current injury was in the same spot as last year’s.
The Royals will play the Red Sox this weekend in Kansas City for the first time this season. While Benintendi is out, the Royals will need other bats to step up and fill his production. Over the past nine games — in which the club is 1-8 — it scored three runs or fewer in seven of them, hitting .211 overall and just .172 (10-for-58) with runners in scoring position.
“[The team isn’t] going to be happy that one of the guys who’s been in the lineup every day, and a big part of the lineup, isn’t going to be in there,” Matheny said. “But the message happens multiple times every year for every team: Here’s an opportunity for somebody to step up. Somebody’s got to take over. He’ll get back here. However long it is, it’ll be an opportunity for someone else to take advantage of it. Let’s go.”
Getting Soler and Dozier going will be key to that. Benintendi’s absence also opens up consistent playing time for Olivares, who was hitting .370 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 24 games with Triple-A Omaha this year, and who had five hits in five games with the Royals earlier this year. Matheny mentioned Jarrod Dyson might see more consistent playing time, too.
“It’ll be a good opportunity for Edward, good opportunity at times too for Dice to get some more time in there,” Matheny said. “It could be somebody that’s already in the lineup, an opportunity for them to start producing a little more in those big spots. There’s two different conversations — one, the personnel, and two, this guy’s been a big piece of this offense, so who’s going to step in and be that piece to replace him?”
Major League Baseball released the first round of All-Star voting on Monday, and Salvador Perez is leading all American League catchers with 694,710 votes, 550,000 more than White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal. If Perez makes the All-Star Game next month, it would be his seventh Midsummer Classic.
Whit Merrifield ranks fifth among AL second basemen with 100,239 votes, and Benintendi ranks 11th among outfielders with 122,643 votes (the top nine vote-getters in the outfield make the final round).
• Infielder/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn was named the Triple-A East Player of the Week on Monday after he hit .429 (9-for-21) with five home runs and nine RBIs in five games with Omaha last week, including a pair of multihomer games. Since he was optioned on May 28, O’Hearn leads all Minor League players with 10 homers in 13 games.