CLEVELAND — Truth be told, Royals right-hander Kyle Zimmer couldn’t wait to get back on the mound and erase a bad memory from two weeks ago.
On Friday night at Progressive Field, Zimmer did just that, throwing two scoreless innings — one of the few bright spots in a 4-1 loss to the Indians in the Players’ Weekend opener.
Zimmer last pitched for the Royals on Aug. 8 at Detroit. He admittedly was all over the place mechanically and with his command, walking three and giving up two hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings.
He was demoted to Triple-A Omaha shortly thereafter, but was called up earlier this week. Zimmer’s chance for redemption came in the fifth inning after starter Jakob Junis wobbled through four innings, giving up four runs while laboring with 94 pitches.
Zimmer had a plan when he came in, something he had worked on at Omaha — he ditched his windup and went stretch only.
“It was OK, using the windup, when I was the opener in games,” Zimmer said. “But out of the bullpen, I tried too hard to sit on my back leg and load it, and I wound up flying open. Now it’s more simple out of the stretch.”
Zimmer got in trouble in his first inning of work, allowing a single to Carlos Santana before walking Yasiel Puig. But Zimmer got a fielder’s choice, then he induced a double-play ball from Jason Kipnis.
Zimmer then fired off a 1-2-3 sixth inning that included two strikeouts.
“It’s great,” Zimmer said. “Getting here and being able to flush that last one in Detroit that I’ve been sitting on for two weeks, is really good. I went down to Omaha and worked with pitching coach Andy Hawkins there and tried to simplify everything.”
One other change Zimmer reported: He has also ditched his curveball for now. He used a hard slider that ranged from 85-87 and that sank considerably against the Tribe.
“The curve is more of a feel pitch,” Zimmer said. “And coming out of the bullpen, you don’t have time for that. Now I’m going with a hard slider that breaks down a little and then a tight slider that is more of a cutter, goes more horizontal. It just feels good.”
Royals manager Ned Yost was a believer. Yost also had high praise for Josh Staumont, who threw two scoreless innings as well.
Zimmer and Staumont are, hopefully in the Royals’ minds, part of the bullpen solutions going forward.
“I was really pleased with Zimmer and Staumont,” Yost said. “That’s a tough lineup they faced. Both of those young guys came in banging strikes and pitching with conviction. That’s what you want to see.”
There wasn’t much else for Yost to like. The Royals came into the series opener having not scored in 27 straight innings of Players’ Weekends here. They finally ended the scoreless streak at 32 innings when Hunter “Bulldoz” Dozier tripled in Nicky “Shorts” Lopez in the sixth to snap the streak.